Poor Baltimore. It’s always getting picked on for being too humid or having a perennially bad baseball team but thanks to the remodeled for the big screen version of “Hairspray” the city of Edgar Allan Poe may get some rekindled mojo.
It’s the sparkly bright new 60s hits Baltimore through the black and white TV tubes of the Corny Collins (James Marsden) hit TV dance show smartly known as the Corny Collins show. Chunky, vivacious, energetic Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky) and her lollipop sucking partner in crime Penny Pingleton (Amanda Bynes) fantasize of being apart of the show. But each have their obstacles. For Turnblad her weight, keeping her feet planted on planet earth instead of in TV Land. For Pingleton, her religious fanatic mother keeps her chained away from any notion of “reality.”
Besides their own personal battles, the TV show represents a microcosm of the racial inequality suffered by blacks during the period. It just so happens that the Corny Collins show only offers white dancers while the black teens get strut their stuff once a month for “Negro Day”. It’s going to remain that way if bigoted Velma Von Tussle (Michelle Pfeiffer) the TV station’s General Manager and her snobby princess of daughter Amber Von Tussle (Brittany Snow) get their way.
Cutting through and around the racial lines director Adam Shankman (Cheaper by the Dozen 2) glides through a slew of love lines with wacky interludes, romances, situations and sly parody without getting bogging down the sometimes you got to go what’s right mentality, especially if it doesn’t mess up your do.
Los Angelinos know about messed up dos and they also unofficially adopted the Randy Newman “I love LA” ditty. If Baltimoreans are smart then they should surely catch the wave with Tracy Turnblad’s energizing “Good Morning Baltimore” as she hits right the pavement and the notes and glides flowingly through the Baltimore streets. Never would one feel so joyous about Charm City. The film with the myriad songs glides effortlessly around the comically infused racial, music, dance picture.
The film offers cleverness both in the lyrics and choreography. The choreography moves about from dump trucks to school, buses around street corners and into TV studios. The film tosses black, white, fat, bitchy or just plain strange people together like a Chesapeake crab salad. Who better to represent the oddness than Tracy’s mom Edna Turnblad (John Travolta)? Travolta, who in fat drag looks, sings, dresses and eats much like Miss Piggy. His chunky legs dancing may be worth half the box office ducket. Edna’s hubby Wilbur (Christopher Walken) of course does his best Christopher Walken, which can be odd asset in any film.
The film may not have the overall strangeness of the original but this musical offers its own style. You can blame Hollywood for the dearth of remakes and the creative void but here that might be excused with a film that in stealing a line from the film “is so afrotastic.”