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54 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A campy, feel-good film carrying an important message
I think it's safe to say that Hairspray is a unique motion picture. The film, while providing nonstop fun and laughs throughout, also manages to not only confront but to roll right over prejudice in several of its nefarious guises. I was a teenager when this film came out, and sadly, it was the death of Divine (just before the movie was released) that made me aware of...
Published on November 27, 2003 by Daniel Jolley

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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A True Picture of Baltimore
I grew up in Baltimore in the 60's and had appeared on occasion on the real dance show this movie was based on (The Buddy Dean Show). Also the real Buddy Dean makes a cameo appearence in the movie as a tv reporter at the goveror's mansion. You can still walk the streets of East Baltimore and see women like Divine still shopping in their scuffies, their hair in curlers,...
Published on January 10, 2001 by Judith Sylvester-Boschert


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54 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A campy, feel-good film carrying an important message, November 27, 2003
This review is from: Hairspray (DVD)
I think it's safe to say that Hairspray is a unique motion picture. The film, while providing nonstop fun and laughs throughout, also manages to not only confront but to roll right over prejudice in several of its nefarious guises. I was a teenager when this film came out, and sadly, it was the death of Divine (just before the movie was released) that made me aware of this film. I don't know if that publicity helped or hurt ticket sales - Divine, for those who have never heard of him, was famous for playing female roles, and Hairspray had begun to rejuvenate his whole career. As for the film, it's extremely campy in the best of ways, overflowing with great singing and dancing from the early 1960s, and it is the type of film that makes you feel good after you watch it.
Ricki Lake plays Tracy Turnblad, a big, bold, and beautiful teenager who dreams of dancing on the exceedingly popular Corny Collins dance show. Her mother, played by Divine, isn't too crazy about modern music and dancing - until Tracy auditions and gets a spot on the show. Strutting her stuff in front of the cameras, she quickly becomes Baltimore's newest sensation. This does not sit well with Amber von Tussle (Colleen Fitzpatrick), as Tracy steals her man and then threatens to win the coveted title of Miss Auto Show 1963. Tracy is overweight, but she likes herself just as she is and easily dismisses the fat jokes thrown her way early on. The big issue in this film, though, is segregation. Tracy and her best friend Penny Pingleton (Joann Havrilla) soon become friends with some of the black kids in town and begin working toward integrating the Corny Collins show. Collins is all for the idea himself, as currently the Negro show runs only once each month under the controls of sassy Motormouth Mabel (Ruth Brown). The station manager will not hear of integration, though, and Penny's mother is aghast to find out that her daughter is in love with an African-American. This is 1962, of course. The whole segregation issue becomes the basic foundation of the movie as it dances its way to the end, making Hairspray a wonderfully entertaining film with a serious message behind it.
The film is blessed with many interesting cast members. Divine plays not only Mrs. Turnblad but also the station manager, Jerry Stiller plays Mr. Turnblad, Sonny Bono and Debbie Harry (and Debbie Harry's increasingly interesting hair) come together to play Amber von Tussle's parents, and Ric Ocasek and Pia Zadora show up as Beatniks in a strange little cameo appearance. Of course, Ricki Lake pretty much steals the show as the big girl with big dreams, although I found Joann Havrilla's performance as Penny Pingleton quite captivating in a weird sort of way.
It is very difficult to describe Hairspray; you pretty much have to watch it to get a true feel for its entertainment assets and social commentary underpinnings. It does have its silly moments, but this is not entertainment for the sake of entertainment, nor is this a film you will soon forget after watching it.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hairdo detention, integration angst, TV dancing competitions, kids who really knew how to tease and one great big campy YES !!!, June 13, 2007
By 
Matthew G. Sherwin (last seen screaming at Amazon customer service) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Hairspray (DVD)
Hairspray is one of John Waters' more mainstream movies in that it deals with the themes of racial tensions leading up to an integrated Baltimore, teen angst and first true loves, and those incredible dances and dance shows on TV from the late 1950s into the 1960s. Of course, with Hairspray being a John Waters movie, characters become grossly exaggerated for a humorous effect; you get a very funny, playful and harmless cast of both young and older people in Baltimore facing changing times as they try to live their lives as best they can.

Tracy Turnblad (Ricki Lake) is an overweight teenage girl who can shake off jokes about her weight with a type of self-confidence that is truly remarkable. Tracy and her friend Penny Pingleton (Joann Havrilla) enjoy watching and dancing along to The Corny Collins TV Show in Tracy's living room at home; and one day Tracy sets her mind to trying out for the show with some support from her friend Penny. When Tracy does try out on the Corny Collins TV dance show for dancing teenagers, she wins a spot on the council almost immediately! This upsets the stuck up, racist reigning queen Amber von Tussle and her parents (Sonny Bono and Debbie Harry) who make their living running Tilted Acres, a segregated theme park in Baltimore. As Tracy's star rises she also charms the heart of Amber's boyfriend, Link Larkin (Michael St. Gerard). Of course, this means war. Amber and her parents must--I mean, must--find a way to disgrace Tracy so that Amber can remain the star of the show and ultimately win the highly coveted 1963 Miss Auto Show award. Of course, as this all happens, Hairspray pokes fun at the obsession some people had with getting their hair to be as high and as perfect looking as they thought it could or should be.

The movie moves along at an even pace and the action keeps your attention. Look for John Waters himself as the psychiatrist hired by Penny's parents when they find out she has a black boyfriend named Seaweed. Divine turns in quite a performance as both Tracy Turnblad's mother and Arvin Hodgepile, the TV studio owner who could can The Corny Collins Show if it becomes integrated against his will. As if that weren't enough, Ruth Brown plays the role of Motormouth Maybelle, a female record store owner who is a prominent integrationist in Baltimore and who also sometimes judges on The Corny Collins Show.

Overall, the acting exceeds my expectations for a John Waters flick; and the choreography shines in great scenes where large crowds must move about. I won't give away the plot; but if you want to see excellent choreography look not at just the complicated dance scenes they had to manage but also the race riot scene near the Tilted Acres segregated amusement park.

The cinematography works well; and each character is developed nicely as the movie goes along. The casting is flawless, too.

Hairspray earns its keep quite well; it will hold your undivided attention as you howl with laughter all the way through! The DVD also features commentary by John Waters and Ricki Lake.

When it comes down to it, Hairspray manages to do be funny, hold your attention and explore rather serious issues concerning racial tensions, segregation, integration and the first true love each teen inevitably experiences--all at the same time and all in the same movie. That's quite a feat; and I recommend this film for fans of John Waters movies but also for people who enjoy comedies that involve social commentary. Great!
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A really funny comedy bursting with talent. I loved it!, October 14, 2003
This review is from: Hairspray (DVD)
I saw this film when it first came out in 1988. I loved it then. I recently saw it on the small screen. I loved it even more. Maybe its because I've followed the career of its star, Ricki Lake, and have seen her transformed from a chubby teenager into a slim talk show host. Maybe its because I can appreciate the comic genius of director John Waters who is willing to push the envelope over the top on every scene. Maybe its because I really enjoyed watching the double role played by the transvestite called Divine. Maybe its because of the outrageous clothes worn by all the characters. Most of all though, I know its because this film made me laugh out loud.
Hairspray is set in the early sixties, when teen age dance programs were all the rage. And its about a fat girl who doesn't fit in, but yet is a terrific dancer. She becomes a teenage idol though and the whole city loves her. She's smart and sassy and also wants to force the dance show to racially integrate. And she manages to do this with just the right degree of gumption, comedy and romance. The casting includes Sonny Bono and Deborah Harry as the parents of a teenager who is Ricki's competition, Colleen Fitzpatrick. And the singer Ruth Brown not only has a role of the mother of a teenager who is trying to integrate the show, she sings too. Divine plays the role of Ricki's mother as well as the male owner of the TV show. And Jerry Stiller is cast as Ricki's father.
All in all, the film is bursting with talent. I sat there, relaxed, and laughed my head off. This is truly a funny comedy. Highly recommended.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Get Back to your roots!!!, August 17, 2004
This review is from: Hairspray (DVD)
After seeing Hairspray: The Muscical at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles, I was tempted to watch the original feature film again, not having seen it for a few years. It is as good as I remember it, maybe even better.

Hairspray is a light entry for John Waters, the king of "Shock Cinema." After totally out there films like Polyester and Pink Flamingos, Waters made his first PG Hollywood film, which quickly had a cult classic on his hands.

The film made Ricki Lake a star, when she played Traci Turnblad, a 'pleasantly plump' teenager who teaches 1962 Baltimore a thing or two about integration after landing a spot on a local TV dance show.

Hairspray is a clever and witty satire of 60's life. It's supposed to be tacky and pro-America. It does have some deeper moments and some points to make about discrimination. But essentially it's a warm hearted, campy, funny flick. You only have to see who the director is to know that you aren't going to get another run-of-the-mill Hollywood story of overcoming adversity. It's a trashy take on pop culture of the 60's and the performances are great.

The film oozes John Waters even though it is very toned down compared to his earlier films. I love the storyline because it has to do with very realistic themes that were happening in those times. It's sad to know that this was Divine's last movie, but at least he went all out in it.

Obviously, the film must have some charm to have a stage musical made out of it. I did like the musical better, because the songs are just terrific, and I think this should be remade as feature film version of the stage musical. It would be a terrific companion to this, especially since many fans won't have the chance to see the spectacular musical on stage.

The terrific cast also includes Sony Bono, Ruth Brown, Deborah Harry, Vitamin C (Colleen Fitzpatrick), Jerry Stiller (Ben's dad), Leslie Ann Powers, Mink Stole, Ric Ocasek, and Pia Zadora, who all seem to be having fun with their roles. This is a great film that provides a rolicking good time for its audience. Fans of the stage show should definitely see where it all began.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Civil Rights was never this much fun!, December 6, 2006
By 
Andre M. "brnn64" (Mt. Pleasant, SC United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Hairspray (DVD)
A lot of people don't know that this film was based on a true story. In 1962 Baltimore, The Buddy Deane Show was Baltimore's answer to Dick Clark, but unlike Clark's show, the Deane show was segregated, and attempts were made to integrate the show.

Director John Waters was a teeanger in Baltimore at the time, and the film is an amusing but loving tribute to the local culture of early 1960s Baltimore (Deane himself appears as a reporter trying to interview the Governor). A pre-talkshow Rikki Lake is the heroine who leads the effort to integrate the show. She was quite heavy at the time and infects the movie with her uplifitng spirit, representing for the "women of size" in the same way Queen Latifah would a few years later.

Lots of good scenes. The black nightclub scene, unlike similar scenes in other popular comedies, succeeds in capturing the atmosphere rather than mocking it with stereotypes. The dance segments are also quite interesting. Based on surviving films of the original Deane show (called the "Corny Collins Show" in this treatment), the kids do a dance called "The Madison Time" that is clearly the older brother of the Electric Slide of recent times. A comical dance called "The Roach" also stops the show (my older cousins told me about this song and dance and for years I thought they were making this up).

The soundtrack also strives for 1962 Baltimore accuracy, filled with regional R&B hits popular in Baltimore at the time (such as the classic and infectious "Hide and Go Seek" by Bunker Hill) as opposed to the usual Stax and Motown tunes often used to represent the era.

Get ready to slap your knees in hysterical laughter when one girl's hysterical mother seeks to "rescue" her daughter from a visit to the Baltimore ghetto, especially when she tells R&B legend Ruth Brown (RIP), "Don't put any of your voodoo on me you-you-NATIVE WOMAN!"

The DVD also has one of the most informative commentaries around (with Waters and Rikki Lake some 15 years later). Really helps clear up a few things for those unfamiliar with the actual events that inspired this dance and laugh fest.

Yeah, the civil rights movement wasn't this entertaining, but it does give some insight into the mores of the era, as well as making you howl in laughter and shake a tail feather.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious Classic!!!, June 6, 2003
This review is from: Hairspray (DVD)
"Hairspray" is a hilarious musical by one of the funniest directors of our time, John Waters! "Hairspray" revolves around the lives of Baltimore teenagers in the 1960s and how they deal with relationships, race relations, status, and the Corny Collins Show! The Corny Collins Show is a ficticious American Bandstand. All of the cool kids are dancers on the show. Ricki Lake's character, Tracy, has big dreams about being on the show. After an audition, she is given a coveted spot as one of the dancers. This begins a rivalry between her and a snobby young lady (played by Vitamin C).
Ricki Lake and Divine give excellent performances as mother and daughter. There are also great performances by Sonny Bono, Debbie Harry, and Jerry Stiller. The music and dance sequences will definitely have you tapping your feet. Even through all of the fun and hilarity, there is also an important message you can learn from.
I would highly recommend this film to people who would like to see a good, well-acted, and very funny film!!! You won't be disappointed!
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A True Picture of Baltimore, January 10, 2001
By 
Judith Sylvester-Boschert (Westminster, Maryland United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Hairspray [VHS] (VHS Tape)
I grew up in Baltimore in the 60's and had appeared on occasion on the real dance show this movie was based on (The Buddy Dean Show). Also the real Buddy Dean makes a cameo appearence in the movie as a tv reporter at the goveror's mansion. You can still walk the streets of East Baltimore and see women like Divine still shopping in their scuffies, their hair in curlers, and cat's eye sunglasses. These are known as Baltimore "Hons". This movie and indeed all John Water's movies are a true depiction of Baltimore life past and present. Everything you see in the movies can still be seen on the streets of "Bawlmer". I must admit I am surprised that there is such a following as us "Baltimorons" thought no one else would understand the truly local humor and culture. I highly recommend all his movies and I know you will enjoy them. Hope this bit of local trivia helps you understand the movie a little better. Enjoy!!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars HAIRSPRAY IS THE BOMB YO!, April 10, 2003
This review is from: Hairspray (DVD)
John Waters is a brilliant director, in Hairspray we see the final apperance of a much beloved Cult Icon. Divine was just about to hit mainstream, just when Hairspray hit the Top 5 Box Office. Divine passed away, none the less, Divine gave one last wonderful gem in Hairspray.
Deboarh Harry, yet another "POP CULTURE ICON" gives a great performance, as does Pia Zadora, Ric Ocasek and Mink Stole. The movie is set in Baltimore, where TV Dance Shows and Theme Parks are segregated along Racial lines. Hairspray is light hearted and just jam packed with great music. This is also Ricki Lake's
debute, and she is just fantastic as "Tracey the Hair Hopper"
Buy, Buy, Buy........This movie is great for all ages, it's the other "Grease" that never caught on fire.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What Great Fun, July 14, 2006
This review is from: Hairspray (DVD)
What great fun I had watching this movie. I really enjoyed the music, and the characters in the movie were just like the kids were back then. I was taken back to the days of American Bandstand and other dance shows of that era. Really fun to watch and fun to remember........
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bonafide Cult Classic!, June 26, 2000
By 
Luis Hernandez (New York, New York, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Hairspray [VHS] (VHS Tape)
"Hairspray," marks the mainstream feature film debut of Baltimore, Maryland's most eccentric film director, John Waters. Incorporating his hometown and his love of sixties tunes, "Hairspray" chronicles the rise of a chubby Baltimore teenager (Ricki Lake in her film debut) as she rises to the top of a local dance show. Being the underdog in this movie, Lake's performance as Tracy Turnblad is classic and her rise to the top makes this one of the feel-good movies in recent years.
On the way to the top, Tracy faces fierce competition from snobbish Amber Von Tussel and her racist, conservative parents (played by Deborah Harry and the late Sonny Bono). Faced with a growing demand to intergrate the show, the movie takes place in a major era in American history as the Civil Rights movement is starting to take form.
In comparison with his other films, I feel this is Water's best work. He truly has made Tracy Turnblad somewhat of an antihero due to the fact of her weight and social background, but it works perfectly. At the end of this movie everyone will be screaming the words "Free Tracy Turnblad!" over and over again (surprsingly, that line has become a major pop-culture line on many college campuses throughout the United State).
Supporting actors such as Divine, Jerry Stiller, Ruth Brown, Pia Zadora, Rick Ocasek, and Michael St. Gerard (Doesn't he look like Elvis?) bring life to this film and the film's style, costumes, and soundtrack will give many a feeling for 1960's nolstagia.
In conclusion, this film should become an addition to anyone's video library. I can't wait for the DVD version to come out. Until then, buy it! You won't be disappointed.
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Hairspray
Hairspray by John Waters (DVD - 2002)
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