This version of Hairspray disarms you from the very beginning notes of “Good Morning, Baltimore” and builds to one of the most joyful finales of any movie in recent memory. The musical numbers are all superbly choreographed and staged by director Adam Shankman, but it’s the last half-hour of this movie that really seals the deal for me. The climactic performance of “You Can’t Stop the Beat” is a bona-fide showstopper that combines the movie’s irreverent sense of humor with an inspirational, microcosmic view of the turbulent civil rights movement.
There’s not one false note in the colorful cast, all of whom look to be having the time of their lives. John Travolta is surprisingly charming in his drag performance of Edna Turnblad, and it’s fun to watch Michelle Pfeiffer cut loose as the bigoted villain of the piece. Both get the opportunity to show off their singing and dancing abilities, too. The rest of the cast includes a goofy Christopher Walken, a smiley James Marsden, and a nasty Allison Janney, who delivers my personal favorite moment in the movie when she throws holy water on her daughter (Amanda Bynes) and yells, “Devil child, Devil child!” Also with Queen Latifah, Zac Efron, Jerry Stiller, and introducing Nikki Blonsky in the lead role of Tracey Turnblad.