Who would have thought that an aerosol can of hair control solution could inspire a musical? "Hairspray," directed by Adam Shankman, uses the product for more than just style. Sixties dance moves are kept stiff with a few healthy spritz. The main character keeps in shape with a can in her hand and a song in her heart.
Musicals are often a little sparse on story, and "Hairspray" is no exception. The flesh of the piece was certainly in the characters. However, the basic line moves with Tracy Turnblad, a teen generous in flesh and optimism, played by Nikki Blonsky. As might be hoped, she has a terrific voice, but is something of an outcast at school. She and her friend, Penny, (Amanda Bynes) dedicate themselves to dancing with the Corny Collins groovy TV show. When she sees a chance to dance on screen, Tracy seizes it against the advice of her mother, Edna (John Travolta).
In spite of the staunch disapproval of the show manager, Velma Von Tussle, (Michelle Pfeiffer) Tracy dances her way into the hearts of the citizens of Baltimore, both black and white. When African-Americans are removed from the show, Tracy decides to protest segregation by marching against the show with her friends. She becomes a fugitive and goes on the run for defending her beliefs.
In the climactic ending, she hatches a daring plan to integrate television and become Miss Hairspray on live camera! It actually seems a little less off-the-wall when accompanied by toe-tapping music, swirling skirts, solo numbers, and daring dance moves. Either way, "Hairspray" will not be sensible, philosophical, moral, or educational. After all, it is a sixties movie!
I am not sure who cast John Travolta, a man, as Tracy's mother, Edna, but it seems to have worked for this movie. Apart from a rather low voice, he plays a caring and boisterous maternal figure with superb enthusiasm. Really, everyone from Queen Latifah as Motormouth Maybelle to Christopher Walken as Wilbur Turnblad was fun and talented, possibly from too much exposure to hairspray. Teens and up who want fun and dancing should apply "hairspray" carefully.