Hairspray: The Movie premiered this weekend after more than a year long hype to rival any hype for any movie musical in recent history. The 1988 movie starring Ricki Lake and Divine, and the 2003 Tony Award winning Broadway musical starring Marissa Jaret Winoker, Harvey Fierstein, Matthew Morrison, Kerry Butler, and Dick Latessa were huge successes. If the reviews are to be believed, this Hairspray will be a giant hit too.
Joe Dziemianowicz in the New York Daily News takes a swipe at the movie and John Travlolta:
Worse is Tracy’s plus-size mother, Edna. The role is played by a man, which isn’t so surprising since the always provocative John Waters wrote the original film. Harvey Fierstein – like his successors – wore some padding, a wig and a frumpy housecoat. After 10 minutes you don’t think about Edna being a man, because she’s all heart.
In the new movie musical, John Travolta plays Tracy’s mother. She’s not all heart – she’s all fat suit. Edna is buried under so much rubber, prosthetics and makeup that she’s barely human. Edna has the face of a squint-eyed puffer fish and the figure of an Aero mattress. Queen size. Inflated. Paging Sleepy’s.
In time, that overblown image – and the whole film musical – will fade from my mind. Unlike Broadway’s “Hairspray,” which never loses its hold.
Lou Lumenick of the New York Post loved it: Travolta’s triumphant return to screen musicals after nearly three decades is perfectly partnered by Christopher Walken, who puts his background as a dancer to use as Edna’s oblivious husband Wilbur (a part created by Jerry Stiller, who has a cameo here, as does Waters).
Likewise, the character of Motormouth Maybelle has been toned down from the stage to provide Queen Latifah’s most ingratiating performance. As the blond-haired owner of a black record shop, she gets swept up, along with the unwitting Edna, in Tracy’s snowballing integration campaign. Latifah delivers arguably the best number of the buoyant score, the anthem “I Know Where I’ve Been.”
Claudia Puig of the USA Today says that Hairspray is full of joy: It’s hard to keep a smile off your face and your toes from tapping during this unpretentious and spirited adaptation of the stage musical by director/choreographer Adam Shankman. Though it bears little resemblance to the original 1988 John Waters cult film, it is still energetic and goofy. It may present a rather defanged version of Waters’ nostalgic satire, lacking the sense of anarchy, but it does have some social conscience in its focus on the outcast and its admittedly lightweight exploration of racial issues.