MOVIE REVIEW: Hairspray


I loved Hairspray. I loved the antiestablishment panache that colors the film. I love the music. I love the acting energy of Ricki Lake, Jerry Stiller and Divine, especially those cameos by Pia Zadora and Ric Ocasek.

Oh, wait: you think I’m talking about that NEW Hairspray? Haven’t seen it yet; I will, I will. But it’s only been a couple months since I borrowed someone’s VHS tape – how 20th century – and watched the original 1988 film one Sunday afternoon.

Somehow, I had missed it when it appeared in theaters, which surprised me, because I had seen other John Waters films, such as the bizarre Pink Flamingos (1972) and the comparatively sedate Polyester (1981), complete with an Odorama card; that smell-o-vision card that the My Name Is Earl folks put in that week’s TV Guide was an homage to Polyester. In fact, I went to a Polyester party after the movie, where everyone wore non-breathable fabric and ate non-foods such as Cheese Wiz and Marshmallow Fluff.

I’m a touchy wary that the new Hairspray won’t bring me the unbridled joy of the original, based on some reviews like this one. The personality of Baltimore was so much a part of Waters’ movies; when I saw the story about Waters cited here, the interview took place in locales that I recognized from the 1988 film, especially the record shop. Will the “musical” (and the original Hairspray had a lot of music) be able to keep that flavor?

My biggest concern is John Travolta. In the previews, his eyes seem tiny, beady, disproportionate to the rest of his face and fat-suited body. My wife, in fact, HAS seen the new movie (but not the original), and points to Travolta’s faux woman’s voice as a weakness, but loved the movie lead.

In any case, go rent Hairspray. THEN see Hairspray. As my old English teacher used to say: compare and contrast, and please let me know what you think of them. (Or either of them,, if you’ve only seen one.)