Wednesday, November 21, 2007

HAIRSPRAY: Blu-ray (New Line Cinema/Alliance 2007) Alliance Home Entertainment

Adam Shankman’s Hairspray (2007) is an irreverent clash-back to the exuberant late fifties that never were. Based on John Waters’ 1988 film and, more directly, the Broadway musical it spawned, this film is a high octane, ultra-star powered frenetic feel good blast of toe-tapping electricity. Bursting with one infectious tune after the next (Good Morning Baltimore, I Can Hear The Bells, There’s A Light in the Darkness), Hairspray owes much more to the pop operas of Andrew Lloyd Webber than the classic Hollywood film musical. Indeed, there is very little exposition sandwiched between the songs – a circumstance that can get just a tad oppressive mid-way through one’s viewing experience.

The story begins with Nikki Blonsky (in her film debut) as irrepressibly optimistic, Tracy Turnblad – a hefty chunk of a girl who doesn’t let what others think dictate her life. Tracy’s mad obsession with the local Corny Collins Show (an obvious rip-off of American Bandstand) leads to her auditioning as a replacement after one of the dancers becomes pregnant. The show’s host (James Marsden) keeps an open mind. But its’ producer, libidinous racist Velma Von Tussle (Michelle Pfeiffer) is determined to keep ‘fat’ girls off the air – especially when Tracy proves to be a real threat to her own daughter, Amber (Brittany Snow) winning the local 'Ultra Clutch' high hair competition.

Initially, Tracy’s mother, Edna (John Travolta), a weighty gal herself and somewhat embittered cynic, is all too quick to discount Tracy’s dream. But then, the unexpected happens. Tracy wins the role as a replacement dancer – no small thanks to her instructor and friend, Seaweed (Elijah Kelley) – a non-Caucasian who is only allowed to dance on The Corny Collins Show on Negro Day.

Overnight, Tracy becomes a local celebrity – a status that infuriates Velma and sponsor, Mr. Spritzer (Paul Dooley), neither of which supports integration between blacks and whites on the show. In the meantime, Mr. Pinky (Jerry Stiller) the proprietor of the Hefty Hideaway fashion emporium, transforms both Edna and Tracy into glittery paragons for his own ‘fat is beautiful’ marketing campaign. But Tracy’s popularity throws a real crimp into Amber’s lust for heartthrob and fellow dancer, Link Larkin (Zac Efron), who very quickly realizes that there is so much more to Tracy than meets the eye.

Beneath its mindless froth and hit tunes, Hairspray attempts to be a message movie about racial intolerance. But this really isn’t a message movie; more of a quaint and quaffed look back at that junction in American history when the status quo was tested and the times began to change.

Christopher Walken makes the most from his minor role as Tracy’s eternally optimistic father, Wilbur – despite being trapped in a dead end job and almost accused of marital infidelity under false pretenses after Velma tries to wreck Tracy’s home life by seducing him. Queen Latifah sells her wares as Motormouth Maybelle - the Corny Collin's co-host on Negro Day. Director/writer of the original film, John Waters also makes a cameo appearance early on as a flasher. 

The cast is imbued with a sparkling zest for the material – particularly Blonsky who – with a simple wave of her chubby fingers - actually makes ‘fat’ all that. There may be better musicals out there, but Hairspray wins its audience on the merit that it’s having a darn good time being outspokenly funny. That exuberance easily translates to taking the rest of the audience along for the ride.

Alliance Home Video's Blu-ray is definitely a step up from their DVD. The image exhibits exemplary quality. Colors are bold, rich and fully saturated. Flesh tones are very natural. Contrast levels are bang on; blacks are deep and solid; whites pristine. Details pop as they ought in 1080p. The audio is 5.1 DTS and is a real powerhouse.

Extras include several featurettes on the making of the movie, outtakes, interviews and an audio commentary track. Bottom line: highly recommended!

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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