Hairspray, Blu-ray (2007) 2-Disc Shake & Shimmy Edition

by | Nov 25, 2007 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Hairspray, Blu-ray (2007) 2-Disc Shake & Shimmy Edition

Starring: John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Queen Latifah, Nicki Blonsky
Director & Choreographer: Adam Shankman
Studio: New Line N11103
Video: 2.35:1 anamorphic/enhanced for 16:9, 1080p HD
Audio: English DTS HD Master Audio 7.1, DTS 2.0 (on extras)
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Extras: (in 1080p or 1080i HD) “Behind the Beat” PIP feature, Lyric track for sing-along, Step-by-Step dance instructions, 5 deleted scenes, Documentary: “The Long Journey of Hairspray,” “Hairspray Extensions,”  Breaking down the dance scenes, “The Roots of Hairspray,” “From Buddy Deane to Broadway,” more…
Length: 117 minutes
Rating: *****

The team of producers Zadan and Meron has contributed strongly to the resurgence of successful big Hollywood musicals.  For this one they refurbished the successful current Broadway musical based on John Waters’ 1988 film – which had been the final one for his large cross-dressing star Divine. Casting wise the big surprises were the use of the very first young overweight girl to show up for the auditions as the lead, and John Travolta – in his first musical since Saturday Night Fever and Grease – in a huge fat suit, as Tracy’s mother Edna.

Though shot in Toronto, the story takes place in Baltimore in 1962, around a local teenage dance TV series on which Tracy and her best friend would love to appear. In spite of initial coolness from the other kids and especially from the villain of the movie – Michelle Pfeiffer as the program’s stage manager – Tracy’s chance comes and she dances her way into quick local stardom with her amazing shimmies and shakes. The hairspray theme is played up continuously – the show’s sponsor is a hairspray and beehive hairdos proliferate. Even the guys dance around zapping their heads with the spray cans.

Water’s frequent theme of the struggles of those who are different in some way from the norm is carried out strongly not only in the oversized mother and daughter having their dreams come true, but also with the theme of the integration struggle of the period. The dance show features a “Negro Day” once a month when the show is given over to the more impressive dancing of the black kids, led by record store owner Maybelle (Queen Latifah).  When asked by the host Corny Collins what her wish would be if she was chosen as Miss Hairspray, Tracy replies to the horror of many, “That every day [on the show] be Negro Day.”  The Pfeiffer character cancels Negro Day entirely, and Tracy and Maybelle organize a protest march on the TV station on the day the show goes live for the Miss Hairspray Award.

Christopher Walken, a longtime song-and-dance man, is terrific as Tracy’s joke-store-owning father and especially in his dance number with Travolta/Edna.  Travolta is quite amazing as Edna – in this one endeavor he’s more than made up for Battlefield Earth! Everyone is perfectly cast and the hugely energetic dancing is at the heart of the musical’s success.  The advantage of the director being also the choreographer is apparent in the seamless integration of the dances into the story, action and songs. The end result is a heartwarming story of how a bit of hip-shakin’ and guts can make one’s fondest dreams come true.

The DTS HD surround is very good, but I still feel uncompressed 5.1 PCM would be even better. Occasionally the lyrics were difficult to hear over the orchestra, even though I’d carefully set the proper level of the center channel speaker beforehand. (I struggled for some time trying to access the actual movie before I realized I was playing the separate bonus extras disc and the movie itself was on a different DVD.) The transfer looked perfect, and fast-moving camera pans didn’t go all flickery as on many standard-def DVDs. My one criticism about the musical is that the music itself doesn’t come up to the achievement of the scores of Chicago, Cabaret, or even Cats – just to stay in the Cs…

– John Sunier

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