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USA 1988
Directed by
John Waters
90 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

Hairspray (1988)

The best thing about John Waters’ homage to the early 1960s pop culture is its title but just about everything it has to say is over with the opening credits.

Ricki Lake plays Tracy Turnblad, a chubby teenage in 1962 Baltimore, whose dream is to enter a dance contest on "The Corny Collins Show", an American Bandstand-type program so popular in the day. She achieves her dream and thanks to her superior dance skills alienates Amber von Tussle (Colleen Fitzpatrick) the show's girl-most-likely, and wins the admiration of the black kids who are not allowed to appear on the show with whites even though much of the music the latter dance to is by black artists. 

As a depiction of early 60s fashion in clothes, hair, make-up and music Hairspray is a lot of tacky fun well helped out by Jerry Stiller and Divine as Tracy’s loving parents (Sonny Bono and Debbie Harry play nasty Amber’s nasty parents) but there is not enough here to sustain the story of Tracy’s adventures which Waters pads out with catchy dance and music segments, leaving the film as strictly a no-brainer.

FYI:  The film was re-made to much greater effect in 2007.




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