Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
Usually, equating a film to a dental visit has negative connotations. But Hairspray used precision-tool force not to fill cavities, but cause them with truckloads of sugar. In this case, you didn’t mind having the sucrose shoveled down your throat.
Song for sickly sweet song, Adam Shankman’s 2007 adaptation of the musical evoked the toe-tapping jump, jive and shout vibe of 1960s pop, drew great performances from John Travolta and Christopher Walken and proved no one’s writing better contemporary showtunes than Marc Shaiman.
After a wobbly, constricted beginning, Hairspray bursts with clouds of extra volume and hold, doing much more with the movie than stage-left, stage-right enhancement. Newcomer Nikki Blonsky is Tracey Turnblad, a heavy-set, happy teen whose casting on a Baltimore dance show winds up sparking racial awareness.
Among the many memorable numbers are “Welcome to the ’60s,” “Without Love,” “You Can’t Stop the Beat” and “Run and Tell That.” However, it’s the “Timeless to Me” husband-and-wife duet between Walken and Travolta that’s the song-and-dance equivalent of Al Pacino and Robert De Niro sharing a screen.
Dressed in drag and fat padding, Travolta plays Edna Turnblad (Tracey’s mom) with full feminine zeal — darting eyes, pursed lips, furtive hands — for his best work since Primary Colors.
Yes, Hairspray took the fire of Baltimore’s racial-relations history and reduced it to torched crème brulee. But while more subversive elements of John Waters’ original film were buried, Shankman unearthed the Zeroes’ bounciest, bubbliest movie musical.