Since yesterday was cloudy and muggy, it seemed like a good afternoon to go to the movies. Julie and I decided to head to a matinee showing of Hairspray. (Well, I decided. She nicely went along with me.) I'm not much of a moviegoer, but I do like to be entertained once in a while, and from the reviews I had read, this seemed like a movie that, at the very least, would entertain us for a couple of hours. It was about 50% successful at that. Julie was entertained; I was mostly disappointed.
That difference may be due to the fact that Julie has never seen John Waters' Hairspray, starring Divine and Ricki Lake. I liked that movie alot, and I loved Divine as Edna Turnblad. I thought he was an understanding, sympathetic, and strangely believable mom. He brought a certain world-weariness, but never pessimism, to the role that rang very true to me. Ricki Lake was an absolute revelation as Tracy. She was adorable and irrepressible and carried the day (as well as the movie) with her non-stop energy and enthusiasm. Of course Link fell for her. Who wouldn't?
I have to grudgingly admit, I do like John Travolta, and I do love to watch him dance. The reviews had mentioned he was re-interpreting the Edna character, and I was interested to see if he could pull that off. Several reviewers did warn, however, about a strange and uneven Baltimore accent he adopted. I could deal with that, I thought. I was intrigued, as well, by the idea of Christopher Walken dancing. (Although Jules told me she already knew he was an excellent dancer, and to check out the video on YouTube of him dancing. I did. He is awesome.)
What the heck - it sounded like fun. It wasn't that much fun. I will say, however, that Christopher Walken did not disappoint. The scene on the rooftop where he dances with (and romances!) Travolta's character is worth the price of admission. He moves like a tall, derelict, slightly deranged Fred Astaire. Unfortunately, however, I never forgot for a second that Edna Turnblad was John Travolta with bad makeup and a fat suit. The accent, which seemed more like a speech impediment to me, was inconsistent and distracting. I couldn't understand where Edna's fears and phobias were coming from - I couldn't understand her at all, in fact, and can only think that Travolta didn't understand her either. That was the biggest disappointment of the movie for me: his failure to make his character come alive at any point during the film.
The supporting characters were fine; some better than others, certainly. Elijah Kelley is already being touted as the breakout star of this movie, and he should be. I couldn't take my eyes off him when he was on the screen. I certainly wasn't humming the music as I left the theater, and, in fact, it is gone from my mind already. The dance numbers might have been beautifully choreographed, but since the camera angle switched roughly every ten seconds, I never had a chance to focus on any of the dancers. That is how excitement is manufactured in movies today, however, and not the fault of this film alone.
Hairspray delivers its very ham-fisted message (segregation is bad, m'kay?) in a saccharine-sweet style with none of the sly, edgy humor of the original film. It makes me want to see the John Waters version again as soon as possible. Anyone have a copy?