Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Whether it bores you or you fall in love really depends on how amenable you are to camp."

Classic Waters, after his gross-out period but before he settled comfortably into the mainstream, Hairspray is a musical with volume and control. Ricki Lake, back when she was still fun, stars as 'pleasantly plump' teenager Tracy Turnblad, a keen dancer whose dream comes true when she wins a spot on The Corny Collins Show.

However, this results in instant rivalry with the ambitious Amber Von Tussle and her obsessive parents; and what's more, Tracy soon discovers that showbiz isn't all she hoped for as she sees her black friends turned away from the studio. Soon she's fighting for change in an affectionate and cheerfully naive examination of how rock n' roll shaped the political landscape of the Sixties. With lurid colours, irreverent humour, and some great tunes.

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As with all Waters' work, Hairspray is a film which a lot of people hate, but don't let that put you off. Whether it bores you or you fall in love really depends on how amenable you are to camp, how willing to settle for a light story and flimsy production values in exchange for great performances and a fantastic sense of fun.

All the usual Waters slapstick is present here, along with the casual cruelty of minor characters and a portrait of Baltimore idolised out of all proportion. The stellar cast includes Divine at her very best as Tracy's mum (a part originally written for Christine Jorgensen) and top-notch bitchiness from Deborah Harry as the rival's mother, plus Waters himself in a gleeful cameo as the psychiatrist trying to cure Tracy's friend of her attraction to a black boy. It's well paced and tremendously energetic, successfully capturing the spirit both of youth and of an idealistic time.

Give Hairspray a try. It might leave you feeling sticky, but in the meantime you can bet it'll give you a lift.

Reviewed on: 20 Mar 2007
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A tempestuous teenager becomes a dancing queen and determines to teach Baltimore the importance of racial integration.
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Director: John Waters

Writer: John Waters

Starring: Ricki Lake, Divine, Leslie Ann Powers, Colleen Fitzpatrick, Deborah Harry, Sonny Bono, Ruth Brown, Michael St. Gerard, Clayton Prince, Mink Stole, Pia Zadora

Year: 1988

Runtime: 92 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US


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