Wednesday, October 28, 2009

#444: Hairspray (1988)

Director: John Waters
Cast: Ricki Lake, Leslie Ann Powers, Michael St. Gerard, Colleen Fitzpatrick & Divine

The film that inspired not only a Broadway and West End hit, but also a film version of the musical, Hairspray is the story of the bubbly and 'pleasantly plump' Tracy Turnblad whose dream comes true in 1963 Baltimore when she is voted to be the newest dancer on a local TV show "The Corny Collins Show". Despite her being the only overweight girl on the show, she manages to steal the skinny, bitchy, blonde girl's boyfriend, and eventually lead Baltimore to integrate with the black community.

There is just so much to like about this movie. Even twenty years after the civil rights movement, this film made race issues not only relevant, but something that you can make fun of. The white supremacists in the film are depicted as absolutely bonkers, but somehow not completely that far off from what some of these crazies in our country can act.

The acting is brilliant. Every character is a caricature, leading to a strange mix between the townspeople of Edward Scissorhands and the Whos of Whoville. Everyone is wearing ridiculously bright colors, and their dance moves are so base, but at the same time you can so easily be sucked in to believing that this is the coolest of cool.

Oh, and I can't go without mentioning some famous faces in the cast: Debbie Harry, Sonny Bono, Jerry Stiller and Ruth Brown. Honestly, how can you have a cast like this and not end up with a fantastic flick?

If you don't like this film, you're wrong. If you judge it because of its remake, you're wronger. I've actually never seen the remake, but I've always been a bit repulsed by it, possibly because I grew up with the original.

Fun Trivia (Stolen from IMDB):

  • "Tilted Acres" was based on "Gwynn Oak Amusement Park" in Baltimore County, MD, where racial problems occurred.
  • Ricki Lake began rapidly losing weight due to the intense dance lessons she had to take for the film. She reportedly had to "eat like crazy" in order to stay plump.
  • There was a scene filmed where Tracey finds cockroaches in her hair (which was based on the urban legend about a girl whose brain is eaten by cockroaches that were living in her beehive hairdo). While it never made it into the final cut it does explain all the references to roaches in the latter part of the film.

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