“Hairspray” is one of those movies that you can watch anytime, and it will always make you smile ear to ear. From the first few shots, you know you’re in for a candy-colored musical extravaganza: The colors are bright, the pace is snappy, and the songs are both airy and toe-tappingly catchy. Additionally, the movie benefits enormously from Nikki Blonsky’s natural charm and screen presence, not to mention her extraordinary pipes (in particular on “Good Morning Baltimore” and “I Can Hear the Bells”), and she brings life to every scene in a way that suggests superstar charisma. The supporting cast is also totally charming, from Zac Efron’s cherubic appeal to Michelle Pfeiffer’s campy vamping to James Marsden’s pitch-perfect Corny Collins (in particular his casually confident rendition of “The Nicest Kids in Town”), there’s always someone to enjoy onscreen, but none as much as John Travolta: Slipping into the role of Blonsky’s mother after beloved cult figure Divine originated the role in the 1988 original movie like nothing could be more fun, Travolta’s accent is painfully bad but it only adds to the overall spectacle of watching the A-lister gleefully throw himself into the role of an overweight middle-aged woman discovering her own self-worth. The original movie’s heavy themes of racial segregation and flagrant white privilege survive (albeit a little diluted by the constraints of the movie’s format), and while there’s a regrettable “white savior” undercurrent to the plot, it’s at least well-intentioned and relatively forward-thinking from a major Hollywood production aimed at teenagers.
Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)