Dance Dance Revolution: Hairspray 

click to enlarge Hairsprays characters believe that the higher the hair, - the closer to God.
  • Hairsprays characters believe that the higher the hair, the closer to God.

*Hairspray (PG)

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Perhaps it's not such a bad thing that we're seeing a spate of movie-to-Broadway-to-movie adaptations.

(Well, if we can call three a "spate.")

So far, though, they've been really quite good. Chicago was the 2002 Best Picture at the Oscars, and not undeservedly so. The Producers was a delightful lark, and the staginess of its presentation near re-created the experience of seeing it on the Great White Way. And now there's Hairspray, which couldn't be more charming and joyous, more get-up-and-dance toe-tapping or, simply enough, more agreeable.

This probably means we're in for a lightning-fast double-turnaround for Legally Blonde: The Musical. That's the tourist trap of the moment currently infuriating New York theatergoers. I guess we'll deal with that as it comes.

But the fact of the matter is that these shows on stage are tourist traps, no matter how enjoyable and sing-along snappy they may be. Onscreen, their bright, bubbly, please-don't-force-me-to-think-too-much attitude actually works much better.

Not that Hairspray is completely thoughtless. There's satire galore in this film about the wages of conformity and the price of small-mindedness but it's couched in bouffant cotton-candy songs.

And it's all perfectly wonderful. It's as good as entertainment for the masses gets, and it's actually in a medium better suited for it than the Broadway stage.

It's a nice indication of how far we've come as a culture to see that there is no hedging in the send-up here of the idiocy of racial segregation and that's where we find Baltimore teen Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky) experiencing her coming of age in 1962. She's hooked on a local TV dance program, The Corny Collins Show, but her dreams of dancing on the show are dashed by the fact that, well, she's a short, round little thing, and no matter how cute or vivacious she is, she is never going to be one of the tall, willowy creatures the show favors for its girl dancers.

Well, that is, until her dream shockingly comes true after her bustin' a groove catches the eye of Corny Collins himself (James Marsden), and Tracy lands a part on his show's dance floor. Of course, that's not enough for Tracy. Now she wants to integrate Corny's show by getting her black friends out of the show's once-a-month "Negro Day" and in front of the cameras on a daily basis.

Tracy isn't so much a rabble-rouser as she is merely naive enough to not really grasp the implications of what she's starting by wanting to dance with her black friends (who, by the way, are fantastic dancers). The touches of '60s cluelessness on display the smoky teachers' lounge at Tracy's high school, the unused seat belts hanging out of a car add sprigs of bitter irony, but, mostly, Hairspray wears its tender, sweet heart on its sleeve, singing itself hoarse on chipper tunes about being nice, being in love, and being yourself no matter what anyone else thinks.

That all makes it very easy to love. It's utterly unchallenging and utterly unobjectionable with it. Even John Travolta in his drag fat suit as Edna, Tracy's mom, is cuddly and adorable.

If you want the John Waters original which is more redolent of his snide, acid humor that one still exists. But if you want the fluffy, featherweight-but-enchanting Broadway version, here ya go. This one works pretty well. scene@csindy.com

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