Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Remake Comparison Project - A Time to Shake Things Up


Cody and Priscilla shake their tail feathers while watching Hairspray 1988 and its 2007 musical remake.


Cody and I have been toying with the idea of doing something different for a few months now, but for one reason or another we didn't get the chance to do it until now. The timing was perfect to welcome 2015 with open arms, doing something we had never done before, something lighter... it just seemed like the way to go. Two facts played a heavy part in it: one was a certain question* Cody asked me, that had to do with Dell on Movie's "In with the New Blogathon", and the other came from a conversation I had with the blog's newest collaborator Greg R. about favorite musicals where he reminded me of Hairspray. So, it was meant to be.

*The question is kind of spoilerific but not really, so I'm placing it at the end of the article anyway. If you can't wait to find out what it is, scroll all the way down!

HAIRSPRAY (1988)

When writer/director John Waters and his frequent collaborator/muse drag queen Divine first started out making movies, the results were gross-out exploitation comedies, some X-rated, that appalled many and appealed to others; oddball movies that focused on trash, filth, and grotesqueries.

Priscilla didn't even appreciate being told what Divine does in the final scene of Pink Flamingos.

I really didn't. It was the very definition of "too much information".

Several of Waters' movies were distributed by New Line Cinema, and about twenty years into his directorial career the filmmaker teamed with the studio to make what is probably his most widely accessible film, one which was inspired by a music/dance television show he watched while growing up in Baltimore in the late '50s - early '60s. Originally written under the title White Lipstick, the film reached theatres in February 1988 with a PG rating and the title Hairspray.

The film opens with a title sequence set to an original song that was written and recorded for it, "Hairspray" performed by Rachel Sweet.

That song is great. I wish they'd have recorded more songs for the movie and kept the style of "Hairspray", it's a very nice and funny song.

These opening shots establish the show that's at the center of everything to follow: The Corny Collins Show, which airs on WZZT in Baltimore. Host Corny Collins introduces the top hits of the day, which are then boogied to by the program's troupe of teenage dancers, who are called the Council. And those Council kids use a lot of hairspray.

The story is set during the first half of 1962, in the build-up to an auto show where the new cars of 1963 will be unveiled. The female members of the Council are vying to be elected Miss Auto Show 1963, and so far a majority of the viewers have been voting for Amber Von Tussle, played by Colleen Fitzpatrick, who would go on to be known as pop star Vitamin C.


When the credits end and "Hairspray" fades from the soundtrack, we're introduced to future talk show host Ricki Lake as the main character, teenager Tracy Turnblad, as she rushes home from school so she can watch The Corny Collins Show and dance in front of the TV with her friend Penny Pingleton (Leslie Ann Powers). They love the show, but are definitely not fans of Amber.

Tracy and Amber are presented as opposites in nearly every way.

Tracy is the daughter of working class parents; her father Wilbur (Jerry Stiller) runs the Hardy Har Joke Shop, her mother Edna (Divine) is a stay-at-home mom. Edna can only tolerate so much of The Corny Collins Show, which she considers a screeching racket, and doesn't approve of the stylish "flamboyant flip" Tracy has "ratted" into her hair. The Turnblads want Tracy to focus on work and chores instead of dancing.

As Edna, Divine was cast not to do anything disgusting, but simply to act like a '60s housewife. And you know, for a 6'2", 400 pound drag queen, I think he actually pulls it off pretty well.

I have to disagree, it doesn't work at all for me. Divine is way too masculine, and he wasn't able to make me forget - not even for a second - that he's a drag queen. He's either kind of too pissed off or too indifferent, and the painted on eyebrows are very distracting.


Amber is the daughter the wealthy owners of the Tilted Acres amusement park, Sonny Bono and Debbie Harry as Franklin and Velma Von Tussle. Tracy takes the bus, Amber drives a convertible. Velma pushes Amber hard in her dancing and the building of her public image, very determined to make sure her daughter will appear to be as perfect as possible so she can follow in Velma's former beauty queen footsteps.

I don't really know how to feel about Debbie Harry's performance. I guess it's alright, but kind of bland, not very significant in any way, we don't get to know much about Velma other than the fact that she's racist and a pushy mother. And Franklin was a waste of character, he was there just to be there. Completely irrelevant.

The moment in which Velma pops a pimple on Amber's chin is one of the few where Waters' old gross-out sensibilities shine through.


Tracy and Penny both hold the belief that Tracy should be on the Corny Collins Council, and in an attempt to make it happen they sneak out to a Record Hop Collins is hosting at the local VFW. Tracy dances among the Council members and holds her own.

At the same time, an issue that will become a very important part of the film is being established. The civil rights movement to end segregation in the United States was a huge issue at this time, and much of the film is built around it. The Von Tussles are worried that they might have to integrate Tilted Acres. An African American couple is turned away from the Record Hop because it's being held in "a white establishment."

The only black person who gets into the VFW on this night is Motormouth Maybelle (Ruth Brown), who hosts The Corny Collins Show's "Negro Day" on the last Thursday of every month. Motormouth and Corny co-host a dance contest which an "Applause-O-Meter" indicates was won by Tracy. This win earns Tracy an invite to audition for the Council, as well as the contempt of Amber.

I also get the masculine vibe from Ruth Brown. She looks and acts like a drag queen just like Divine. I wonder if that was on purpose.


Tracy, who has dyed her hair blonde for the occasion, auditions alongside Penny and a young black girl named Nadine Carver. The girls show off their dance moves, are judged based on their skin color (although Nadine believes The Corny Collins Show should be integrated every day, the best she can hope for is to get on the monthly Negro Day) and how many sweaters they own, and the Council "debates their personality flaws".

During the interview segment, Amber is very rude to Tracy, making several jabs at her weight. Amber's behavior doesn't hinder Tracy's chances, it actually earns her enough demerit points from Corny Collins himself to be suspended from the show for a day.

Tracy is accepted onto the Council and is featured on the show that's shot live on that very day, with Penny rushing to the Turnblad residence to make sure Tracy's parents catch her television debut.

To me the funniest line delivery in the movie comes from Divine during this segment, when an excited Penny yells "Hi, Tracy!" to her friend when she sees Tracy on TV and Edna tells her, "She can't hear you." It's very low-key, which makes the ridiculous exchange more humorous.

Although Edna has harsh critiques of her daughter's appearance and Amber is mortified to see this girl taking her place, Tracy is instantly popular with viewers. She gets to lead Ladies Choice for a slow dance, and for her partner she chooses the Council member she has a crush on - Link Larkin (Michael St. Gerard), Amber's sort-of boyfriend. Amber freaks even more when she sees Link accept the dance, as he's "violating the oath of the friendship ring!"

Edna doesn't sound like a very good mom, she only seems to be happy when she realizes there's money to be made off of Tracy's newfound popularity, and she doesn't have nice things to say about her daughter... shame on her.


By the end of the show, Tracy has even gotten an offer for a sponsorship deal, which Edna quickly accepts as Tracy's "agent"/"business manager". The deal is with Hefty Hideaway, a clothing store for plus sized women that even has a table holding free cakes and pastries among its clothing displays. Tracy gets the job, and a stylish new wardrobe, under the condition that she not go on a diet.

Things are going well for Tracy in her personal life, but that doesn't keep her out of trouble at school. She has gotten in trouble for her big hair before, and when a classmate complains that he can't see past her head in geometry class, she gets sent to the principal's office.

Why didn't they just move her seat to the back row?

Amber's hair was pretty high, too. How come she got to stay in class normally?

Simply because of this offense, Tracy ends up being put into a special education class alongside students who have genuine learning disabilities and some African American students who are being held back maliciously. Among those students is Seaweed (Clayton Prince), son of Motormouth Maybelle.


During a game of dodgeball played between the special ed class and a regular class that includes Amber (who has been spreading rumors that Tracy is a whore, and adopted), Link, and Penny -

The gym teacher's delivery of "Let's play dodgeball!" is another of my favorites in the movie, and this one is far from low-key.

What were they wearing? Those were truly bizarre gym outfits.

- Penny and Seaweed instantly fall for each other and Link asks Tracy to go steady with him.


Tracy and Link continue dancing on The Corny Collins Show, the rivalry between Tracy and Amber continues, and Tracy does commercials for Hefty Hideaway on air, taking bites from snacks while modeling clothes.

In their downtime, Tracy and Link, accompanied by Penny, take a bus into the black neighborhood to listen to music and dance at Motormouth Maybelle's record shop. Unfortunately, the good times are interrupted when Penny's over-reactive mother Prudence, who followed the teens, shows up and drags her daughter out of there.

When Penny and Seaweed bring a young black girl to the WZZT studio hoping to participate in The Corny Collins Show's Preteen Day, the security guard at the door refuses to allow in anyone who's not white. This causes a bit of a kerfuffle and a small, impromptu anti-segregation protest outside the WZZT building.


To his credit, when Corny Collins is told that "there's a little black girl who wants to be on the show", his response is, "Well, let her in, for God sakes." But integrating the crowd isn't up to Corny, WZZT's strict anti-integration stance is held by station manager Arvin Hodgepile, who's played by Divine out of drag. "Baltimore is not ready for integrated dancing!" Corny can't do anything about it without losing his job/his show.

I buy Divine as Arvin. Much better performance than as Edna.

Played by Shawn Thompson, Corny Collins is actually a decent guy. He's pro-integration and pushes that idea as far as he can while staying employed, he busts Amber for picking on Tracy, and he doesn't want to subject his audience to Pat Boone.

It's another character that feels a little off and empty to me. Sure, he stands up for Tracy and he's pro-integration, but he's lacking something, actually most of the characters feel that way to me. I don't even know if it's supposed to be that way or if direction wasn't as good as it could've been.


That night, Tracy, Link, Penny, and Seaweed go to a dance in the black neighborhood that's hosted by Motormouth, followed by a make-out session in a filthy alley where the couples exchange some unusual, over-the-top romantic dialogue.

Characters making out in a garbage-strewn alley with rats scurrying around their feet, that is some pure John Waters.

Very sleazy.


The teens go on the run when the Turnblads show up looking for their daughter, leading to a brief, bizarre interlude with a pair of beatniks, played by Broadway performer/singer Pia Zadora and Ric Ocasek of The Cars. When the idea of getting naked and smoking some reefer comes up, the teens get out of there.

As they exit the beatniks' apartment, the teens are confronted by both the Turnblads and the Pingletons, who have brought along with them John Waters himself as psychiatrist Dr. Fredrickson. Penny is put in a straitjacket as Fredrickson holds a spinning hypnodisc in front of her, trying to use hypnotic suggestion to make her lose interest in Seaweed and want to date white boys.

I think this scene was unnecessary. I see that they get the new hair style craze from it, but still... strange vibe.

Yeah, Tracy finding out that she can straighten her hair by ironing it is really the only thing worthwhile that comes out of the beatnik scene.

The next episode of The Corny Collins Show is shot at the Von Tussle's whites-only amusement park Tilted Acres, where a group of African Americans stand outside the gate, protesting. Again, Corny and his assistant Tammy (Waters regular Mink Stole) argue in favor of integrating the show, but Arvin Hodgepile says the show will be taken off the air if even one black person gets in front of the camera.

During the episode, it's revealed that Tracy has pulled ahead of Amber in the Miss Auto Show 1963 votes. If she wins, she plans to represent "all of Baltimore", and she dedicates her featured dance to her friends who can't be there because of "small-minded people". Amber tries to sabotage her rival by claiming that Tracy has roaches in her hair, but it goes nowhere.

Apparently there was a deleted scene where Amber actually managed to stick roaches in Tracy's hair. That's why Amber continues to reference roaches for the rest of the movie.

As Tracy does her dance, called the Waddle, the protesters gain entrance into the park and chaos breaks out, with people fighting each other for no reason. Hodgepile makes sure the Corny Collins camera is only pointed at white people, Link is injured in both legs, and Tracy is dragged off by the police.


Penny has been made a prisoner in her own bedroom, with bars in the doorway and on her window. Fredrickson comes by to administer such treatments as shocking the girl with a fluorescent prod, trying to zap her back to the "whites only" side.

That scene is there for laughs, but it didn't bring me any. Most of the parts that are supposed to be comic just aren't somehow.

A visit from Seaweed becomes a breakout for Penny, but Tracy is made a prisoner officially, getting locked up in a reform school.

That's the situation our heroine is still in when the film reaches the event this has all been building up to, Auto Show 1963. With Tracy out of the picture, Amber is set to triumph... and if she doesn't, her parents have an insane backup plan involving a bomb hidden in a beehive hairdo.

Pro-integration protesters demanding the release of Tracy, both black and white and seemingly led by Motormouth, take the fight straight to the Governor's house, but will it be enough? Will Tracy get released in time to reach the Auto Show and stop the Von Tussles? Will The Corny Collins Show, and Baltimore at large, ever be integrated?

My favorite dancer at the Auto Show is Alan Wendl as Mr. Pinky, the owner of Hefty Hideaway.

Mr. Pinky is really cool. I mean... he offers his customers treats at his store, that's as neat as it gets. I don't know about his dance moves though.


Hairspray is a fun musical with a nice social conscience to it. I think the title song was the only one recorded specifically for the film, but it's full of good tunes from the late '50s and early '60s. One of my personal favorites is in there, Gene Pitney's "Town Without Pity".

I love the soundtrack, that's probably my favorite aspect of the movie.

The moments I find to be the funniest are Penny's mom in the black neighborhood - especially her encounter with the drunk man and the black policeman - and the result of the hidden bomb. The bug dress is amusing, too.

The dancing is enjoyable to watch, and the actors do well bringing their roles to life within the film's heightened reality.

I think they focus too much on the show and dancing, and it gets a bit tired and slow for me after a while.


The tone is entertaining and humorous, although it gets campier and campier as the movie goes on, and the level it's at by the end wasn't really for me. Things like Dr. Fredrickson with his hypnodisc and electric prod seemed beyond what had come before, and the movie has really gone over the edge when the beehive bomb is introduced. That was a bit much.

Everything feels way too over-the-top to me. The crazy hairdos, the two female characters that sound and act too manly, the pimple scene. I don't really think it has the right tone or atmosphere.

The movie is too crude overall with all the name calling, the puking and rioting at the amusement park, the heavy make-out scenes, the beatniks, the drinking (even Corny Collins does it!). It's a lot of distraction that takes away from the nice social/political angle.


I wasn't very familiar with the movie before starting to work on this article. I had only seen it once before and that was quite a few years ago, but I watched it through multiple times while doing this write-up, and I find myself getting into it every time. I respect John Waters, but his movies don't generally appeal to me. If I were going to pick one to watch at any given time, Hairspray would be the winner. The silliness goes a little further than I would have liked, but the music and dancing overcome.

I think that some of my opinions on Hairspray '88 might be biased, because by the time I watched it for the first time, I was already a big fan of the remake, and they're so different. This was only my second time watching the original, and I suppose I could start enjoying it more with repeated viewings, but right now, I'd say it's an okay musical with a couple of funny moments but not a very appealing tone. Even though there are some interesting casting choices, I still feel like acting as a whole could've been better.



HAIRSPRAY (2007)

One day in 1998, theatre producer Margo Lion caught a television broadcast of the 1988 film Hairspray and was inspired to begin developing a stage musical based on it. With the rights secured from New Line Cinema, Lion brought on writers Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan to adapt John Waters' story for the stage, while Marc Shaiman composed the music and wrote the lyrics for the songs with Scott Wittman.

Hairspray: The Musical made its Broadway debut on August 15, 2002, with Marissa Janet Winokur as Tracy Turnblad and, staying true to legacy of Divine, Harvey Fierstein in drag as her mother Edna. Rob Marshall had been set to direct the show in its early stages, but had to depart to work on the cinematic adaptation of Chicago, being replaced by theatre veteran Jack O'Brien. Marshall's Chicago went on to be a big deal at the 2003 Academy Awards (and won Best Picture), while O'Brien's Hairspray was nominated for thirteen Tony Awards and won eight of them, including Best Musical.

In the midst of Hairspray's very successful six and half year run on Broadway, the idea arose for New Line Cinema to turn it into a movie. Leslie Dixon, screenwriter of such films as Mrs. Doubtfire and Pay It Forward, was hired to adapt O'Donnell and Meehan's adaptation of Waters' screenplay back into a screenplay, while choreographer-turned-director Adam Shankman (who would go on to helm the stage-to-screen adaptation of Rock of Ages as well) was set to direct the film and choreograph the dances.


The musical remake of Hairspray is the type of movie where characters are liable to break out in song at any given moment, and it kicks off with a musical performance by Nikki Blonsky as Tracy Turnblad.

Nikki Blonsky is Tracy to me. I like Ricki Lake, but she sounds old and even angry as Tracy a few times, and when she tries to act happy, she sort of looks mentally challenged, it's too forced. Now Blonsky does it naturally, you believe she's a happy teenager, a dreamer.

As the teen gets up and heads out to school, she greets the day (which happens to be May 3, 1962) with the song "Good Morning Baltimore."

I hadn't seen Hairspray '07 since it first came out before watching it for this article, and for some reason "Good Morning Baltimore" is the only song I still remembered.

The song is great, and it's the best opening scene. The focus is on her, we only briefly see the TV dance show's backstage, and it works much better than the opening scene in the original.

Tracy's world isn't all sunshine and rainbows, but she doesn't let harsh reality dampen her spirits. She happily greets the flasher who lives next door (John Waters making a cameo), she waves to a drunk who's still drinking from the night before, she feeds the rats who scurry on the sidewalk. When she misses the school bus, she just catches a ride to school on top of a garbage truck, still singing and smiling.

During the first musical number alone we learn more about Tracy than we do during the whole '88 movie. And her sunny disposition is contagious. 

Once within the confines of school, it's a different story. There, Tracy gets in trouble from teachers because of "inappropriate hair height"; her hairdo blocks the view of other students. She just sits and watches the clock, tapping her feet, waiting for the bell to ring.


As soon as the bell rings, Tracy rushes back home with her friend Penny Pingleton (Amanda Bynes) in tow to catch WYZT's 4pm broadcast of The Corny Collins Show, brought to you by Ultra Clutch hairspray.

James Marsden portrays this film's iteration of Corny Collins, host of the popular music and dance show. Backed up by a troupe of teenage singers and dancers called the Council, he establishes what his show is all about with the song "The Nicest Kids in Town."

I love James Marsden and he's perfect as Corny Collins. 

Dancing is such a mystery to me, even the simple little arm and leg twist thing Marsden does is enough to impress. I want to do that move! And not look like a doofus doing it.

I find it that much more impressive when guys can really dance. Women who can really dance are also great to look at, but men dancing well without looking womanly, it's quite a skill.

The song also establishes that, like the original film, this one will be dealing with the era's issue of integration, as Corny points out that the Council is made up of a bunch of white kids, but once a month there is a "Negro Day" episode.


The female members of the Council are vying for the title of Miss Teenage Hairspray '62, and although Amber Von Tussle (played by Brittany Snow of the Prom Night remake) is a prominent member of the group, she doesn't appear to have the most viewer votes the first time the chart is visible on screen. A girl named Brenda has a slight lead.

I like Brittany Snow and feel like there couldn't have been a better Amber. She does nastier things to Tracy than the original Amber.

Also on the Council is a teenage girl named Tammy, which was the name of Corny's adult assistant in the original film.

Tracy's parents are the same in this version. Her father Wilbur (Christopher Walken) owns and runs the joke shop the Hardy Har Hut, while her mom Edna - John Travolta in drag, four hours of padding and prosthetics, and putting on a Baltimore accent - is a stay-at-home mom who complains about the racket of The Corny Collins Show while she does her ironing.

Walken brings so much soul to the role, it warms my heart, and he's really funny, too. I love Wilbur's relationship with Tracy.

I absolutely adore Travolta as Edna - accent included. Divine just doesn't work as a woman, but with Travolta it's the other way around, I actually had to remind myself it was him the first few times I watched the remake. He's so feminine, caring and classy. 

Travolta does a great job playing a housewife overall. I can buy him as a woman, but that accent takes some getting used to for me.


Some alterations have been done to the Von Tussles. Amber's father is not in the picture, there is no Tilted Acres amusement park, and her mother Velma (Michelle Pfeiffer) is sort of an amalgamation of the character of Velma from the '88 movie with the characters of Tammy and Arvin Hodgepile. Like Tammy, she monitors what's going on during the taping of The Corny Collins Show, and like Hodgepile she's the racist, anti-integration station manager.

Velma is much more mean-spirited in the remake. You can see the evil in her eyes. Still, she has some funny moments when talking about Lassie and with how her jewelry is always making banging noises.

Like the original Velma, this one has an intense focus on making sure her daughter comes off as a rising star on the show and that she appear to be as perfect as possible to the viewing audience. When her boyfriend/fellow Council member Link Larkin (Zac Efron) offers Amber a ring, Velma tells her to "Save your personal life for the cameras." Cameras which she demands the operators point at Amber as much as possible.

Tracy and Penny aren't buying the way Velma is selling her daughter. They're not fans, complaining that Amber can't even dance. Tracy wishes Link would notice her at school and see that she's a much better dancer than Amber is. At the end of the episode, Tracy sees her chance to show off her dancing skills. Brenda is going to have to take a leave of absence from The Corny Collins Show, a nine month leave of absence, which leaves an open spot on the Council. Wannabe Council members are invited to cut school the next day and audition.

It's not pointed out in the movie, but Brenda leaving doesn't just provide Tracy with her chance, it also puts Amber in the lead for Miss Teenage Hairspray. Deleted scene?

Edna attempts to dead end Tracy's dream by refusing to allow her to go to the audition. She confides in Wilbur that she's not doing this to be mean, but because she's afraid that Tracy will get her feelings hurt. TV people don't choose girls like her.

Wilbur doesn't share his wife's concern. When he goes to console the upset Tracy, he asks her if being on The Corny Collins Show is really what she wants, and when she replies "With all my heart," he encourages her to go for it.

In the original, it's clear that Tracy's parents aren't the best parents out there. In the remake, Edna is worried about Tracy getting hurt, and her reaction to Tracy accomplishing her dream is so sweet and sincere. Wilbur supports and helps Tracy throughout the movie. I love her relationship with her parents in Hairspray '07.

Tracy and her parents have a much better relationship in this version of the story than they had in the '88 movie, and each of them is a more complex character. The parents have more to do here.


Edna's fears come true at the audition, where Velma and Amber look down on and bash the auditioners, who don't get to do much while Velma sings about her glory days as "Miss Baltimore Crabs." Tracy is rejected for both her size (Amber saying The Corny Collins show isn't in Cinemascope is a nod to a line from the original) and for answering that she would swim in an integrated pool. Tracy believes that integration is the new frontier. Velma says it's not for Baltimore.

Dejected, Tracy goes to school, where she's sent to detention for arriving late. Every other student in detention is African American, and the kids have turned the punishment into a dance party of sorts. Tracy recognizes one of them, a guy called Seaweed (Elijah Kelley), from his appearances on Corny Collins' Negro Day. Negro Day is the best, Tracy wishes every day was Negro Day. Seaweed assures her that it is at his house.

Accepted by her peers in detention, Tracy joins in the dancing and doing groovy moves. Passing by in the hall, Link notices her through the window in the door. He enters the room to tell her that if Corny saw her dancing like that, he'd put her on the show for sure. She'll have a chance to catch Corny's eye at a Hop he'll be hosting.

The class bell rings and Tracy and Link move to go in opposite directions, bumping into each other.

One my favorite lines in the movie: "Sorry, little darlin'. I hope I didn't dent your 'do."

It is a great line, and Link has this sweet look about him while delivering it.

Tracy has always had a crush on Link, but now that they've touched, sort of, she's completely head over heels for him. She launches into the song "I Can Hear the Bells", about her daydreams of dating and marrying Link. While singing, she continues on with her day of school, which includes a game of dodgeball.


The next day, Tracy attends the Corny Collins Record Hop that's held in the school gymnasium. A rope cuts the room in half - black teens dance on one side, white teens on the other side. Amber is disgusted when she sees Tracy hug Seaweed across the rope, but as Tracy goes on to perform the dance Seaweed taught her in detention, the Peyton Place After Midnight, Link looks on with pride while singing the song "Ladies Choice." When Corny takes notice of her, he makes it very obvious that he is impressed.

Corny gets Tracy onto the Council and Penny rushes to the Turnblad apartment to make sure her friend's parents will see their daughter's television debut.  Her hair streaked with blonde highlights, Tracy dances with the Council members during a reprise of "The Nicest Kids in Town" and is interviewed by Corny. Tracy would like to become the first female President of the United States someday, and if/when she does she would make every day Negro Day.

In stark contrast to the initial reactions Divine's Edna had to seeing Tracy on TV, Travolta's Edna is instantly supportive and happy that her daughter has achieved her dream.

Not happy about Tracy's presence, style of dancing, or pro-integration comments are Velma and Ultra Clutch owner Mr. Spritzer. Spritzer wants "that chubby Communist girl" off the air. However, when they confront Corny about it they find that he's pro-integration as well; he'd like to see the end of Negro Day and just have its troupe of black dancers join the regular Council. Integration is where it's all headed anyway, you can either fight it or rock out to it. Velma threatens to have Corny fired, saying he's as replaceable as the dog who plays Lassie.

As female Council members and Negro Day singers the Dynamites perform "The New Girl in Town", a montage shows Tracy's rapid rise of popularity. Wilbur sells Tracy merchandise in the Hardy Har Hut, Tracy starts catching up to Amber in the Miss Teenage Hairspray '62 election race, Ultra Clutch sales go through the roof, other girls start copying Tracy's hair style and coloring. She continues getting detention in school, but that's no problem. Kids want to go to detention just to hang out with her, and it leads to Penny meeting Seaweed. The attraction between them is instant and obvious.


Angry that Negro Day host Motormouth Maybelle (Queen Latifah) allowed her singers to perform the same song Amber sang on the regular show, despite the fact that Motormouth's singers are the ones who wrote "The New Girl in Town", Velma threatens to fire Motormouth, making racist comments in the process.

Queen Latifah brings class and attitude to Motormouth Maybelle. She has great presence, she's perfect for the role. I love her flashy outfits (Edna's too).

Ultra Clutch isn't the only business with an interest in Tracy. Edna fields a call from a man named Mr. Pinky, who wants Tracy to be the spokeswoman of his clothing store Hefty Hideaway. Mr. Pinky is played by Jerry Stiller, who was Wilbur in the '88 movie.

Having Jerry Stiller come back as Mr. Pinky for the remake was brilliant. The character is a little more grumpy and greedy than the one in the original, but he's still very cool and funny. I'd even say he's better than '88's Wilbur.

Unfortunately, Stiller's Mr. Pinky never gets a chance to dance.


Unlike her predecessor, Edna doesn't immediately make herself Tracy's agent. It's a job Tracy gives to her, and Edna isn't quick to accept it. She hasn't left the apartment since 1951, embarrassed by her weight. The neighbors haven't seen her since she was a size 10. Wilbur can be Tracy's agent and handle negotiations for now, maybe Edna will do it after her next diet. Breaking into the song "Welcome to the '60s", Tracy convinces her mother that she can leave the house without shame.

"Welcome to the '60s" is my favorite dancing and singing number. It's one of my favorite songs, but the performance as a whole is the one I always look forward to the most. Travolta and Blonsky have this bond, and they're unbelievably awesome during the whole scene. I love how it mixes their singing and dancing with the Dynamites. Perfectly rehearsed, choreographed and filmed scene.

There is so much more emotion to every moment in this version of the story. It's very unusual for a remake.

Tracy and Edna head down to Mr. Pinky's Hefty Hideway, where free pastries are available to snack on amid the clothing. Edna makes negotiations, the deal is sealed, and then the girls get some new, complimentary clothes.

Having a post-makeover snack in a diner, Tracy and Edna encounter Amber and Velma. There's a quick exchange between the two pairs, during which the Von Tussle girls can barely mask their contempt for the Turnblad girls, dropping insults disguised as compliments.

Amber's ugliness continues at school, where she makes up bad rumors about Tracy while pretending to be defending her "friend". Link actually does defend Tracy against Amber's nonsense, which causes friction between the couple. When Amber gets Tracy sent to detention with a lie, Link gets himself sent to detention with her.

Link attempts to join the detention dance party, but his moves aren't cool enough for what they've got going on in there. Still, he gets invited, along with Tracy and Penny, to attend a platter party that Motormouth, who is Seaweed's mom, is hosting in the black neighborhood.


As Seaweed and his little sister Inez sing "Run and Tell That", the three white kids follow them into a part of Baltimore they have never set foot in before.

Just with this song, Taylor Parks is already given more to do as Little Inez than Cyrkle Milbourne was as the character in the original. The most she got to do then was get barred from the Preteen Dance.

She's lovely, a great singer and dancer. I'm glad they gave the character way more to do this time around.

Motormouth sings "Big Blonde and Beautiful" at her platter party, Seaweed introduces his mom to his white friends, they listen to music and dance. While they're having fun and the two young couples are falling further for each other, the Von Tussles are plotting against them.

Pretending to be a guy named Mike, Amber calls the Turnblad residence and warns them that their daughter has entered a "hotbed of moral turpentine", directing Edna to Motormouth's party.
Edna arrives at the platter party to take Tracy home, but is won over by Motormouth and the food she has set out. Motormouth then reveals why she's having this party. It's a send-off for Negro Day, which has officially been cancelled by Velma. Because of this, Little Inez won't be getting her chance to perform on the show.

In reaction to the news, Tracy comes up with an idea that Motormouth is all for: a pro-integration march that will take them through Baltimore and right up to WYZT. Less enthusiastic are Edna, who worries that marching would get Tracy put on watch lists, and Link, who can't jeopardize his singing career. Velma is going to let him sing at the Miss Teenage Hairspray show and has invited agents to be in the audience, he can't be upsetting her. By saying this, he upsets Tracy and ruins their relationship.

Even though Link falters for a little while in the remake, the character still has more substance than the one in the original movie.


Meanwhile, Velma is on a mission to ruin Edna and Wilbur's relationship. She goes to the Hardy Har Hut and tries her best to seduce Wilbur, but he's completely obtuse, too wrapped up in his toys to realize what she's doing. She kicks it up a notch by singing a version of "Big Blonde and Beautiful", which Edna also sings after Tracy goes to bed and she heads down to the store on her own mission to seduce her husband.

The way Pfeiffer sings "Miss Baltimore Crabs" reminds me of her performance as Catwoman in Batman Returns, and now here we have a Batman Returns reunion between Pfeiffer and Walken. The last time she was all over him, she was sticking a stun gun in his mouth.

I swear I can see Pfeiffer almost breaking down in laughter for a few moments there. I wonder if they're friends and had fun filming this particular scene.

Velma is not successful in seducing Wilbur, but is successful in making it look like she has when Edna walks in. The Turnblad marriage crumbles... briefly.


Edna goes home to eat away her sorrows while Wilbur is left to sleep on a bed of whoopee cushions in his store, but Tracy, knowing that this was just Velma striking out at her, repays her father for what he did for her earlier when he encouraged her to go after her dream. By talking to him about people having to stand up and fight for what's right, she also gets him to get off his whoopee cushions and go win his wife back.

With the song "You're Timeless to Me", Edna and Wilbur fix their relationship.

Wilbur isn't the most romantic guy, but his interaction with Edna is very sweet.

They make a truly adorable couple and their scenes usually make me forget Edna is John Travolta.


The next day, Tracy participates in the pro-integration march on WYZT. As the people assembled make their way across the city, Motormouth sings the song "I Know Where I've Been." The crowd gets larger as they go, with even a scared Edna joining the march by accident. She shows up to take Tracy home and ends up marching arm-in-arm.

"I Know Where I've Been" is the most serious song in the film, and it may be my favorite.

I feel like "I Know Where I've Been" was the best way to send the social/political message. The march doesn't drag or feel too heavy because it occurs during this song, and Queen Latifah did a great job.

When the march reaches WYZT, they find their path blocked by police officers. In response to the lead cop being rude to Motormouth, Tracy smacks him with the paper sign she's carrying. That's enough to get the whole crowd arrested (Wilbur will later bail twenty people out)... Except Tracy, who goes on the run to avoid being charged with assault.

The media hypes up the brutality of Tracy's "attack" on the cop as she seeks shelter at Penny's place. Before long, they're saying this heroic cop was nearly killed by her blunt instrument.

Penny offers to let Tracy live in the bomb shelter in her basement, but her mom Prudy (Allison Janney) catches them talking. Prudy locks Tracy in the bomb shelter to wait for the police to arrive while she ties Penny up with a jump rope to make sure she won't be going anywhere. Penny is in for a punishment of gospel music and a diet of Saltines and Tang.

Seeing all the trouble Tracy got in while doing what he wimped out of doing, Link is regretting his decisions and realizing how much he loves the girl. As he sits in his bedroom singing "Without Love" to a picture of Tracy, she joins in, as do Penny and Seaweed, who arrives at her house to cut her free of the jump rope.

"Without Love" is probably my second favorite performance. The song is so cute and fun.


Penny, Seaweed, and Tracy escape the Pingleton house and hide away in Motormouth's place. Seeing how into each other Penny and Seaweed are, Motormouth gives their interracial relationship her blessing, but warns them to be ready to receive "a whole lot of ugly" from stupid people.

The film has now reached the event it has all been building up to. The Miss Teenage Hairspray '62 pageant, which is being held at the WYZT studio, on the Corny Collins set, and is the station's first live broadcast.

With cops standing guard outside to make sure Tracy doesn't gain entrance and the agents Velma invited from the William Morris Agency (one of them is Ricki Lake) sitting in the audience, the pageant kicks off with a performance of the song "It's Hairspray."

That's followed by the Councilettes having a dance off while viewers call in their votes. Incognito in the audience, Edna notices that the pageant is fixed - Velma dumps the real votes and replaces them with ones she has made up, ones that will make sure three time champ Amber will be winning the crown for the fourth time.

The Remake Comparison Project has covered a movie featuring John Travolta and fixed paper ballots before...

It's a pattern, isn't it? That's all the two movies have in common though.


To make sure the Von Tussles will not triumph, Tracy and her cohorts pull off a caper that involves Wilbur (in drag to look to like Tracy), confused cops, and giant decorative cans of hairspray and culminates in the performance of the song "You Can't Stop the Beat."

Another one of my favorite songs.

By crashing the show, Tracy reunites with Link, causes a major breakthrough for integration and television, defeats the villains, and makes more dreams come true.

Those final scenes get my heart overflowing with joy and emotions. What a great way to end an amazing movie!

And I'm sure that seeing Zac Efron kiss Nikki Blonsky showed plus sized girls from all over the world that you don't have to be a size 0 to be beautiful. I love that message.

Tracy is wearing a checkerboard dress, which is more meaningful to the overall story than the original's roach dress.

We don't get to know where the inspiration for the straight hair came from in the remake, but that hardly matters, because her reason for not wearing it up high anymore is given, and it's one with meaning, too.

The songs continue on through the end credits, starting off with "Come So Far (Got So Far to Go)", which is followed by a couple songs from the stage show that didn't make it into the film itself - "Cooties", an Amber song which is performed not by Brittany Snow but by recording artist Aimee Allen, and "Mama, I'm a Big Girl Now", which is sung by original film Tracy Ricki Lake, original stage Tracy Marissa Janet Winokur, and this film's Tracy Nikki Blonsky.


For Hairspray, it sort of seems to me like the third time was the charm. The '88 one was an entertaining movie, and I haven't seen the stage musical, but from reading the synopsis on Wikipedia, it sounds like Leslie Dixon took what O'Donnell and Meehan had built upon the foundation Waters provided and finally brought the story and structure to its perfect state.

It's like they took a piece of coal and turned it into a diamond. The remake has heart and soul for miles. I can't think of a single thing I dislike or would change. The movie is one of those rare occasions where everything fits together.

The type of remake Hairspray '07 is so rare, it's incredible. It's one where the characters have more depth to them, are given more to do, and the movie as a whole has a lot more heart to it. It doesn't feel like a cash-in because it's more emotional than what came before, and that never happens.

The characters in the original feel lifeless and uninspired for the most part. 99% of the characters were better in the remake, even the TV dance show's cameraman in the '07 movie had more personality than most of the characters in the original, and I atribute that to two factors; first directing, which was amazing, and second is about how much screen time they all get. Every one of the 10 main characters has their own singing and dancing act. The running time is spent getting to know each and every one of them instead of putting the Corny Collins show in the limelight for so long. Even Little Inez has musical numbers and I think that's grand.

The songs are a lot of fun and are well performed. The movie has a point and a message, but it doesn't get dragged down by that, the way it's put across puts you in a good, lively mood.

Even with that big of a message being passed on, the movie is never just about that. It tells the characters' story and what they're all about in such an upbeat yet emotional way. It's very unique.

The songs are perfect for the movie, and I love so many of them, I could never pick a favorite.

Shankman directed the material and choreographed the dances well, and the actors do great work in their roles. Travolta and Walken in particular are very heartwarming to watch.

I can't imagine a better cast. It was simply perfect. It's usually pretty easy for me to pick one or two favorite aspects in a movie, but with the remake, it's impossible. The songs, the dancing, casting, directing, pace, tone, choreography, cinematography, set decoration, costume design. Everything is simply flawless.

As Penny, Amanda Bynes does seem to be a little off-kilter, but that perception might be influenced by knowing the personal issues she has had in recent years. Bynes may also be the weakest singer of the bunch, but that's just to my amateur ears.

The one character that had more of a voice in the original was definitely Penny. We don't really get to know much about remake Penny until the second half of the '07 movie. That being said, I like Bynes in the role. I've never thought of her as an actress with a lot of depth, but she does "silly/cute funny" pretty well and I have no complaints about her performance. I can't even begin to imagine how she was able to dance at all wearing that really tight blue dress at the end, she was more jumping around than dancing.

It does sound like her vocals were messed with a bit more than the others, but still... nothing that bad or distracting.


I enjoy both cinematic versions of Hairspray, but the tone is quite different between the two, and if I were to pick one to crown the best, I'd have to go with '07 because it has more emotional substance.

I think the original is too over-the-top, too sexual, and its not so subtle tone doesn't do much for me. Some of the teenage characters look too old, and a few characters are pretty much useless.

Other than that, I'd say it's an okay movie, but when compared to the remake, it'll always come second to me. Like I said before, I might be biased, because I watched the remake a bunch of times before I had a chance to watch the original. Not only that, but the remake is one of my favorite musicals ever. It's also special to me in a personal way because it helped me through some dark times back in '09. It was the one movie I could count on to take my mind off of things and just make me smile and sing along. So, whenever someone says "Hairspray", it's the remake that comes to mind, and it's always the one that's going to be picked between the two of them.



*The question was: "What remake do you like better than its original?"


6 comments:

  1. Great pick, ladies. I was very near to choosing this one myself. I wholeheartedly agree the remake is far and away better than the original. Thanks so much for participating!

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  2. The remake is a delight to watch. Glad you liked it, Dell! Cody is sitting in the corner crying a little since you called him lady. :p

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    1. So sorry. Not sure what I was thinking. Still, great work by both of you.

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    2. No problem, I take compliments regardless of gender. I'm glad you liked the article. Thanks for hosting the blogathon!

      - Cody

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  3. I'd agree that the remake is superior in most ways but then John Waters whole style is always grungier and on the cheap. The remake is big budget glossy all the way which helps the material.

    The thing is the remake was cast coming off a hit Broadway show so big names like Pfeffier, Walken & Travolta came aboard easily whereas Waters was fringe and this was actually far more mainstream for him up to that time. For him Sonny Bono, Debbie Harry and Jerry Stiller were big gets at that point so the roughness is actually smooth for him.

    I knew Walken had a song and dance history so wasn't surprised he was good but James Marsden even if he didn't do a lot of complicated dancing was more of a surprise. I was also impressed with Efron who I knew next to nothing about when I saw this in the theatre. Of the two big names I thought Michelle was a riot, completely understanding what the role required. Travolta however was a miss for me, you both prefer him to Divine but I'm of the opposite view. Still aside from him the remake is much better.

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    1. I see where you're coming from, and it makes sense that it was easier to get mainstream names for the remake at that point. But you know what? I feel like Sonny Bono, Debbie Harry and even Jerry Stiller were underused. So much more could've been done with their characters, and still it just feels like a waste. To me anyway.

      As far as Divine/Travolta...I had an easier time buying Travolta as a woman. With Divine, I just couldn't stop thinking "Tracy's mom is a drag queen" the whole time he was there. But it all comes down to personal taste, of course. And we really appreciate the comments and the feedback. Thanks! :)

      ps. Marsden was on the top of my "surprised" list as well.

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