Back in the first episode of the podcast Brett and I talked about our favourite movies. Hairspray (2007) is in my top five, albeit in the 5th position. I’ve watched it countless times, it’s some feel-good family fun that immediately lifts my spirits while the underlying message of acceptance and following your dreams winds it way deeper into my being. It wasn’t until I watched it for the Patreon bonus episode of our podcast that I realised that it’s probably the horniest family musical out there.
You could be forgiven for thinking this is a musical about being proud of who you are set against the background of the civil rights movement of the USA in the 1960s. But it’s about Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky), a body-positive teen who wants to hook up with the best-looking boy in her high school, Link Larkin (Zac Efron). The best way to do that is to join the cast of the Corny Collins Show and dance her way into his heart and his pants.
Her competition is Amber von Tussle (Brittany Snow) daughter of Velma (Michelle Pfeiffer) the TV station manager. They meet at an open audition for the show where we learn that Velma is just as horny as the teens in town, she slept her way to the title of Miss Baltimore Crabs as explained in the best song we’ve ever heard about an STI.
Tracy is, not surprisingly unsuccessful but armed with some new sexy moves that she learnt from the hot black guy in detention, Seaweed (Elijah Kelley), she is determined to impress Corny Collins himself (James Marsden). Peyton Place After Midnight is the song that features the new sexy moves and what a 16-year-old is doing with those moves after dark is definitely something I’d be concerned about as his teacher.
Even the song Ladies’ Choice, written for Efron’s character is not without sexual connotations and it’s during this song that Tracy’s near-erotic dancing makes it easy for the two males with the power (Link and Corny) to make their decision to cast Tracy.
Now that Tracy has won over Link the movie takes a break from its teen hormones to make some comments about race and this section of the musical features some of its best songs. Run and Tell That features Seaweed explaining to his new ‘cracker’ friends that being black has ‘sweeter juice’ and a ‘richer taste’ on their way to his Mum’s ‘platter party’.
But while Tracy has been distracted by Link’s blue eyes and Seaweed distracted by Penny Pingleton (Amanda Bynes) and the constant attention she gives her lollipop, Velma has decided to end the Corny Collin’s Show’s token ‘Negro Day’. Maybelle (Queen Latifah) announces it to the cast and they plan a protest. Latifah shines from here on. I Know Where I’m Going is a powerful song with an undeniable message about the struggles faced by African Americans. Their organised protest doesn’t go the way they had hoped but with Tracy’s teen creativity they plan a very complicated protest to take place on the show’s live Miss Teen Hairspray show coming up.
Through a complicated dance number and a great song You Can’t Stop The Beat, the teens show that white and black kids can dance together on TV. Velma is powerless to stop the ‘black and tan cocktail’ that’s ‘breaking out’ in front of her cameras. Every character gets their moment to shine in this final song which makes it both the climax of the story and the music. Not only that but while Amber is quickly distracted by one of her new castmates, Tracy finally gets to kiss Link and we all get our happy ending.
Despite the clearly horny undertones of the movie, it’s still a great family show. They’re actually undertones and most of what I’ve just mentioned is going to go over kids’ heads. The bright colours and the upbeat soundtrack make it great for family viewing despite that.
The messaging is also strong, with clear points about accepting and embracing who you are.
A huge part of what makes it such a great movie, and one of my favourites is the cast. There isn’t an actor that doesn’t fit their character almost perfectly.
The casting of Pfeiffer and Snow as mother and daughter is almost perfect as it is with Tracy and her mother Edna. John Travolta takes that role, traditionally played by a man, and while we all know of his singing and dancing skills he displays both as Edna Turnblad. Christopher Walken is at his awkward-dad best as Wilbur Turnblad, Allison Janney hits every mark as Prudy Pingleton, not shying away from the fact that it’s a relatively minor role for her. The cameo by Jerry Stiller as the Hefty Hideaway bra salesman is quirky while also being a tribute to the John Waters’ original. Zac Efron as Link is almost perfect casting and despite her unknown status before this Nikki Blonsky takes on the lead as Tracy and carries the entire movie.
While the horniness isn’t the reason for this movie being in my top 5, it can’t be denied. But it’s a great feel-good flick with a lasting message that the whole family can enjoy. But I bet the adults watching won’t look at it the same after reading this review.
The full podcast discussion is available to our Patreon patrons as a bonus episode.