John Travolta in a dress and the “bad” Michelle Pfeiffer — it’s Hairspray

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It’s impossible to spend an Irish summer without a rainy film.


hair spray

is on Netflix now and it’s the best movie I’ve ever watched.
at least you
until the rain came last weekend and my wife
put it on because she counted it
the kids couldn’t play video games all day. (I didn’t mind anyway.)

This is the 2007 version of the film, based on the 1988 original, directed by John Waters, which starred Ricki Lake, Debbie Harry, Divine and the guy who plays Jerry Seinfeld’s old man, Jerry Stiller.

This 2007 take stars Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Queen Latifah, Zac Efron and John Travolta. Ricki Lake and Jerry Stiller are out there again –
Apparently,
you can’t have one

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without them.

The plot reads a little twee. A girl enters a talent contest in 1960s Baltimore to appear on a teen daytime television show. There are many songs and dances. All but one of the villains become good in the end.

But the plot is not the issue. It’s that the immense pleasure they obviously had in doing this show comes through in the final cut and I guarantee it will brighten up your rainy Irish summer Saturday.

Pfeiffer is an outrageously good villain. Christopher Walken is so huge as a goodie they should make it illegal. Zac Efron is very funny.

But in the end, it’s all about John Travolta. He plays Edna Turnblad, the mother of Tracy, the girl who enters the talent show. The first time I see Edna, I think “there’s John Travolta in a dress”. Five minutes later, John Travolta
faded away
and that’s just Edna, doing some ironing because I’d say there’s not a whole lot of money coming from her husband Wilbur’s (Christopher Walken) joke shop.

The backdrop is racism in 1960s America. But rather than focusing on the bleak void of discrimination against African Americans,

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jumps on board with the forces of change, and they all have the best tunes, not to mention the clothes.

It’s a riot of bright colors, better tunes and amazing dance scenes. I never thought I would write the phrase “incredible dance scenes” – I hate dancing in movies. But the routines are so sharp and witty in

hair spray,

with something happening in every corner of the screen, you never want to take your eyes off it.

It reaches a crescendo in a song-and-dance marathon that lasts longer than the American Civil War. My two kids got up and started dancing – I would have joined them except I’m old and afraid the neighbors will spot me.


hair spray

is full of good energy and optimism, which is more than you can say about modern America. It escalates the wickedness and stupidity of segregation, with outrageously ironic bits like allowing what they call “niggers” on the show once a week.

If you’ve never seen this before, watch it. If so, watch it again. That’s strong enough to beat a rainy day in July.

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