Adam Shankman's new film version of Marc Shaiman's 2002 musical Hairspray starts by quoting Robert Wise's West Side Story. The opening shot, coming out of the clouds (a nod to The Sound of Music?) is an arial view of Baltimore, the city where Hairspray is set. The opening number, which is called "Good Morning Baltimore" also contains a cameo by John Waters himself and a clear nod to yet another famous movie musical: William Wyler's Funny Girl.
The camp doesn't really let up in this film, and I didn't much mind. Hairspray is ridiculous, silly nonsense. It's fun and cute and has a good heart. It doesn't push the envelope at all, but it boasts some sweet performances and at it's best it had me grinning broadly.
John Travolta is miscast if you ask me. Watching him in a dress was a little like watching a wrecking ball hit a house. He's just looks so, well, awkward in this film. Queen Latifah (in some kind of weird twist) rather phones in her performance. You know I love the Queen and I feel like she usually tears through films and steals scenes like crazy, but in Hairspray she's seriously de-clawed. I liked everyone else in the movie: James Marsden is gorgeous and steely, Christopher Walken is his usual unusual self. Elijah Kelley is superb as Seaweed (that boy can siiing). And I loved Nikki Blonsky, the new Tracy Turnblad.
One question, though: Who is this Zac Efron person? Am I supposed to recognize him? IMDb tells me this is his second feature and that he's done a lot of television. He's strange looking.
Also, I heard Adam Shankman being interviewed on Fresh Air and he sounds really amazing. He started dancing late (like eighteen) and then he auditioned for all of the top dance programs in the country and got into all of them including Juilliard! He started dancing for Paula Abdul and then choreographing and has been working choreographing for movies for about ten years. This guy has had a heck of a career!