Sunday, August 26, 2007
Life is a Musical
At least, my life is a musical. I know many people find musicals ridiculous, with the characters bursting into song and dance about every day occurrences, but that it what it is like in the Nikiverse. There is a constant soundtrack playing in my head and many of you know that i often -and unfortunately for you- allow it to spill out of my mouth. There is a fair amount of dancing as well, when no one is around. For that reason i LOVE musicals – they seem closer to reality to me than the mundane real world. (let's not psychoanalyze that statement too much, 'mkay?) However, despite my love of the musical, i have had no real desire to see the movie Hairspray. I don't know i was reluctant to go see this movie based on a play based on a movie. Erin has been extolling its virtues for weeks and played the soundtrack for me in the car Friday. She was going to see it for the third time with her mom and sister Saturday morning. Movies before noon on Friday, Saturday and Sunday are only $5 at Owings Mills, so i relented. This movie is toe-tapping, hip-shaking, make-your-soul-smile awesome! Thank you, Erin for convincing me to go. How good is this movie? I went to see it again by myself at a different theater later in the day and bought the soundtrack in between showings. Before i deconstruct all of the reasons you should go see Hairspray, there are some things i need to acknowledge: - obviously i will be biased towards anything where the first song is “Good Morning, Baltimore” that talks about dancing rats (awwwww... look at the pretty city kitties) and has the line “I love you, Baltimore” - if you are looking for the quirky eccentricity of the John Waters original you will be disappointed at the complete lack of cockroach dresses (though John Waters himself makes a hilarious cameo as a flasher) - if you don't like music from the early 60s; that is, you mourn the inception of the Motown sound and doo-wop makes you wish you were deaf, you will not like this movie no matter how good it is otherwise Taking a Broadway play and filming it is always a tricky proposition; music on the stage is very different from music on the screen. But since this story started life as a movie, it works. The story of the overweight Tracy Turblad who dreams of dancing on TV with the beyond beautiful crooner, Link and who doesn't understand the enforced segregation of the 60s stands intact from the original, but this version is all about the music. The director shot it beautifully with vibracolors and nice edits (check out the singing billboards and Link's duet with a picture) and he uses the lyrics of the songs to move the plot along. Often in musicals there are numbers that kill the action and bring the story to a screaming halt. Hairspray luckily doesn't suffer from this fate. The lovely, but deathly slow “It Takes Two” is only included for about 10 seconds; instead, Link is given the new up-tempo “Ladies Choice” to showcase why he is the coolest of the cool kids. Tracy's lovesick “I Can Hear the Bells” could have been overwrought, but was played with such great physical comedy that you have to laugh. The only really slow song appears about two-thirds of the way through the movie. “I Know Where I've Been” does stop the action dead in its tracks, but not in a detrimental way; it is the emotional center of the film. Anything originally born of John Waters is about outsiders from the establishment and this number brings home that Hairspray is less about dancing than it is about equality in society. This incredible song of hope performed by the equally incredible Queen Latifah moves me tears every time i hear it. I was jaw-dropped astounded the first time i saw it. Speaking of Queen Latifah, did i mention that she is incredible? I love her, but continue to wonder how she can make crap like Bringing Down the House when she proves that she can act as well as anyone around her and sings better than most of them. (mayhaps i should pen a strongly worded e-mail to Hollywood). The real strength of this movie is in the superlative cast – they are all-around great singers, dancers, actors and could be the most ridiculously good-looking group of people put on film. James Marsden is a surprise – who knew Cyclops could sing? (short intermission while i fantasize about him and Hugh Jackman in a singing competition while wearing those leather costumes - okay, i'm okay) The other adults – Christopher Walken, Michelle Pffeiffer and Queen Latifah – are each amazing in roles they are obviously enjoying. Watch for the fabulous Allison Janney and a wink-n-nod cameo from the original Tracy, Ricki Lake. The kids are sensational. Discovered singing in a Coldstone Creamery, Nikki Blonsky has the raw enthusiasm of Tracy, brown eyes the size of your fist and a voice to die for. Especially watch for Elijah Kelley's dancing as Seaweed (man, i hope that boy is legal cause he makes me tingle) and Taylor Parks as Little Inez with a voice that is way bigger then her body. I wish she was in more songs. Everyone is amazing, except perhaps John Travolta, whose Edna is less homage to Divine than it is caricature. His blue-collar Baltimore accent is distractingly painful; every fourth word is perfect, but the other three are like fuzzy marbles in his mouth. He looks unbelievable in his fat-suit, and i don't mean in the way Amanda Bynes is unbelievably adorable as Penny. I will give you that Travolta still has his voice and certainly can dance – there is a great moment when he drops character for the briefest second and acknowledges that he is Travolta about to dance. And even I have to admit that you really haven't lived until you've seen Christoper Walken tango with Travolta in drag. The costume are excellent and there are nice little touches like Penny's last dress being made from her bedroom curtains. Ohh, and as a vintage jewelry collector, there are several felonies i would consider committing to get a hold of the jewelry Michelle Pffeiffer wears through out the film. Overall, this movie made me happy. It will make you happy, too, if you give it a chance.