If today’s column title gets Rachel Sweet’s Hairspray stuck in your head for the rest of the day, good! Because then we’ll have made our point that the version of Hairspray hitting this weekend isn’t as good as the John Waters original. Though the music not being as good is only part of it. There’s also the inherent irony about making a musical in which one of the central themes is integration through a shared love of largely-African American music that features only music written by a couple of white dudes. Hell, the irony of just making a musical about that. Musicals are basically the whitest form of entertainment we can imagine.
Irony aside, Hairspray suffers most that while the original was the 60s as seen through one man’s eyes, this version looks like the 60s as seen through a studio’s eyes. It’s too glossy, too perfect—too forced. Something which bleeds through into the storyline and dialogue, too.
Having said all that, though, it’s not completely terrible. As musicals go, it’s fun, if ultimately disposable. Christopher Walken is in it and he gets to dance—that’s always nice. Special mention goes to John Travolta for choosing to do a Lorne Michaels impression in the film. What on earth possessed him? Was it some sort of strange tribute to Toronto, the very obvious location of filming? Perhaps.
Also released this week: Sunshine, Danny Boyle and Alex Garland’s attempt at serious science fiction; Interview, Steve Buscemi’s take on Theo van Gogh’s 2003 work of the same name; The Cemetery Club; and Manufacturing Dissent, which is a documentary about Michael Moore and his (easy to be irritated by) filmmaking style, created by the Toronto team of Debbie Melnyk and Rick Caine.
Oh, and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. As someone who has enjoyed, yes, actually enjoyed Adam Sandler films such as Mr. Deeds (Hey! It’s alright compared to the original, really!), this still looks like the most offensive thing ever. Oh, well.
In festival news, the First Take Student Film Festival is running this week at the Brunswick Theatre, and the Dim Sum Chinese Festival at the Harbourfront Centre is showing free films all Saturday, including Running On Karma, directed by Johnnie To and starring Andy Lau at 1 p.m., and Wait ‘Til You’re Older, a sort of Hong Kong take on Big, also starring Andy Lau at 7:30 p.m.