Thursday, August 09, 2007

Maths Teacher Goes to the Movies: Hairspray

OK, I know it's remiss of me not to have seen this one earlier, but it's amazing how busy one can be on holiday. Anyhoo, finally managed to see this the other night and was surprised by how good business was - not quite a full house, but not bad for a movie three weeks or so after opening.

It's always interesting catching up with a film later on, because by then you've heard quite a few reviews and comments from friends, all of which can work for the film or indeed the other way. Going in, I knew the following: (a) it's a film of the musical based on the earlier Hairspray movie; and (b) it's got John Travolta in a fat suit playing a woman. (At least, I hope it's a fat suit... you don't think he did a Rene Zellwegger, do you? I mean, Mr Travolta's a man who likes a meat pie at the best of times but... no, surely not.) Oh, and just to clarify: I have not seen the original John Waters movie, though I know enough to be able both to bluff about it and to spot Mr Water's (very appropriate) cameo appearance in the new film.

How's the movie?
Well, it's not at all bad, so long as you don't mind musicals of course. It is loud (very loud) and colourful, but like so many musicals there isn't much variation in tone. Hard to know what you can do about this, to be honest. Musical theatre needs to play to row Z, so subtlety's not really an option. But I came out pretty happy, having "gone" with the movie. A few days later and I can only vaguely recall a couple of tunes, but it all seemed passable enough at the time. Newcomer Nikki Blonsky is very good indeed, Christopher Walken does his usual schtick (though not enough dancing, if you ask me), Queen Latifah gives it big laldy... and it's certainly nice to see Michelle Pfeiffer in a movie again.

However... let it be said the really wrong note in the film is the afore-mentioned Mr Travolta himself. Oh dear. First up, his accent is absolutely all over the place, though no matter where it wanders I can't help but think he is channeling Dr Evil from the Austin Powers franchise. Nor can he sing particularly well. And I'm sorry, but in a film which is at least in part (it seems) about challenging society's views of (ahem) fat people, what the hell's the point in then simply inviting us to laugh at JT padded up and out as a fatty? In the original film this part was played by the cross-dressing transexual Divine - who was that size - which perhaps also allowed the movie to touch on even wider societal hang-ups, but no such allusion is possible here. A case of Hollywood (if not JT) wanting to have their cake and eat it, I suppose.

How's the maths?
Zip, zilch, nada. Nothing to see here. Move it along folks.

Can I teach with it?
Well, if you teach History or Modern studies, this movie could lead into a discussion regarding issues of race in 1960's America, but you'd be brave to try it, because apparently all we need to do is to get down and boogie. Or something.


Reel Fanatic said...

I don't think I can bring myself to watch this one, and the blame for that goes purely to Mr. Travolta .. In everything I've seen, he just looks like (with apologies to mentally challenged people and burn victims everywhere), a retarded burn victim ... If you haven't seen John Waters' original movie, I highly recommend it as a bit of light, twisted fun

maths teacher said...

Yup, I must get round to seeing it at some point... though a problem I have is that I really can't get excited about watching movies on DVD.

Great website by the way, reel fanatic. I'm in agreement with "Hot Fuzz" being the movie of the year so far, and as for "Owen Meany" as a favourite novel... I salute you, sir!