Saturday, July 28, 2007

a movie review

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?

7 comments:

Kristy said...

Woah! Someone rent Julie a copy of the *real* Hairspray! Quick!

anne mancine said...

Andrew - How about adding that to your Netflix queue?

Julie said...

it all depends what sort of expectations you go in with, for most movies. since i didn't expect much out of "hairspray," i wasn't disappointed! it managed to hold my attention for its entire length, without making me squirm in my seat too much with its badness (as, for example, "league of extraordinary gentlemen" did when i was taken to that). for a summer fluff movie, that's enough for me.

john travolta's accent was awful, and i've never heard anyone in or from baltimore talk like that! i really don't know how funny the original and divine would be to me, though, since i don't think cross-dressing is automatically funny...

Ben said...

I know what you mean Jules - cross-dressing just isn't always funny. But Divine is such a force, you know? He has so much fun with the role - it's irresistable. You should try watching the original soon (to make a good comparison).

Bryan said...

It's nice to read such an honest and even-handed review from someone who isn't paid to do it. :)

I haven't seen the movie yet, and it will probably end up on my Netflix list once it's on DVD. In general I'm worried about this sudden influx of musicals becoming movies ever since Chicago won the Oscar, because I fear we'll end up with a glut of so-so movie musicals like they did in the '60s and we'll have to wait another 40 years before we have another Chicago on our hands. I just heard they're making a movie of Nine. Are you kidding me? Nine?? Who outside of musical theatre has even heard of that? Or even inside theatre for that matter.

Unfortunately, I think market appeal is why we ended up with Travolta as Edna rather than Broadway's Harvey Fierstein. Or it could just be that a gay man in drag is icky, but a straight* sex symbol in drag is hi-larious.

*insert obvious Travolta joke

{{still waiting for the film version of Ragtime}}

Bryan said...

That'll teach me to post without previewing first. :) I didn't mean to say that Nine shouldn't be a movie because it's not well-known, although its success on the big screen is questionable for that reason; I simply didn't like the stage show either.

The reverse has been happening as well: movies becoming stage shows. Done properly, this isn't necessarily a bad thing; it's just been done a lot this decade. Now the latest trend is to cast the leads using American Idol-esque reality shows!

anne mancine said...

Yeah, I wish blogger had an "edit your comments" option.

Um, I'm not familiar with Nine. That would be your point, I guess.