It’s 1962, and Traci just wants to dance on the Corny Collins show, until she finds out that they don’t allow black kids to join in.
I loved the original John Waters movie, I have to say. It’s low budget, silly and charming. So when Mr. Otter brought this home (he had already seen it in the theater) I was willing to give it a try. Even though
I REALLY HATE THIS TREND TO TURN EVERYTHING INTO A MUSICAL, USUALLY BADLY.
Seems like every has-been rock group or cult movie or Disney cartoon is being made into a big-budget Broadway musical. Why? are people so bereft of imagination that they can’t come up with something new? I know, it’s a trend, it’ll pass…but I long for the days when musicals were actually written from scratch (or rewritten from Shakespeare…) and not adapted from some OTHER piece of pop culture.
Okay. So yes, there was already some music in this movie, since it’s about a TV dance show. It was already about racism, and being who you are, and all that stuff.
They added more songs, and big dance numbers, and John Travolta as Traci’s mother (in the role Divine played in ’88)*, Michelle Pfeiffer, Queen Latifah and Christopher Walken, among others. And they found a really dynamite singer/dancer who is short and round and perfect to play the role of Traci Turnblad (instead of getting someone who’s a size fourteen and calling her ‘fat’). So I really liked that.
And yet…two things I didn’t like about this movie.
Firstly, the songs and dance numbers are fine, but they don’t really add much to the movie itself. I mean, they’re fun to watch, some of the lyrics are really good…but they’re not necessary, as they are in many musicals; they don’t feel like an integral part of the plot.
Secondly, while in both the movie and the musical, Traci is combatting racism, I really felt like I was being hit over the head with it in the musical, and my memory of the show is that it was there and an important part of the plot, but that the viewer’s face wasn’t pushed into it every five seconds.
I’ll have to watch Waters’ Hairspray again, but for the moment, as much as Mr. Otter loved the musical (he loves almost all musicals), my vote is with the original movie. Stay tuned. And watch both, y’hear? you may not agree with me.
*The night we saw this, I dreamed I was watching the movie again except this time my cat Saffron was wearing John Travolta’s fat-lady suit and dresses and singing the songs…now THAT was a wierd dream…