• Review Date: September 10, 2005
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1988
  • Running Time: 92 minutes

Common Sense Media says

A kitschy teen fantasy you can dance to.
  • Review Date: September 10, 2005
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1988
  • Running Time: 92 minutes





What parents need to know

Positive messages

Tracy is a great female role model, especially for larger teens (though she does lie to her mother on occasion); despite a constant barrage of racism and homophobia from other characters, the teens fight for what's right -- desegregation.


A fistfight leaves Tracy's boyfriend in a wheelchair, but there's nothing graphic and no blood.


Some heavy petting, and Penny tells Seaweed to "go to second." A beatnick encourages the gang to "take off our clothes and smoke reefer."


Lots of racial and homophobic epithets and general cursing.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

The kids are offered drinks, but they don't take them. Corny Collins drinks from a bottle of liquor.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Tracy, the main character, lies to her parents and sneaks off to make out with her boyfriend. She breaks the law by participating in a sit-in for civil rights, and ends up in reform school. A peer spreads lies and rumors about Tracy, including that she's a "whore," was naked in a car, and that she has cockroaches in her hair. Set in the early 1960s, the movie also depicts acts of racism and homophobia. People are called "queer" and "faggots," and a white woman calls Motormouth Maybelle a "native woman," even though she's from Baltimore, too. There is some fighting; Tracy's boyfriend has his legs broken, and another character gets a concussion.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Tracy Turnblad (Ricki Lake) is a Baltimore high school student who wants nothing more than to dance on Corny Collins' TV show. She practices the mashed potato, the twist, and other current dance crazes (the film is set in 1962) in her living room while her mother (Divine) irons an endless supply of shirts and slacks. When the show holds a hop in her neighborhood, Tracy and her dim-witted best friend Penny Pingleton (Leslie Ann Powers) rush over, big hair and all, to join the fun. But Tracy is more than just another girl at the hop -- she's also one of the best dancers. Soon she finds herself a member of the Corny Collins Council of regular dancers, dating the cutest boy on the show and favored to win Miss Auto Show 1963. But will mean girl Amber (Colleen Fitzpatrick) and her parents (Sonny Bono and Debbie Harry, vamping it up) undermine her chances with their vicious rumors and subterfuge? And will Tracy be able to help her friends Seaweed and Motormouth Maybelle dance on the still-segregated show?

Is it any good?


Like other similarly themed movies, Hairspray encourages viewers to dream of dating the cutest boy, becoming the most popular girl, and having the biggest hair. But it also creates a world more realistic than its counterparts. The hero is a fat girl, and the dancing is segregated. That Tracy deals with all of this with childlike enthusiasm and class speaks well of a movie about a white trash girl who dreams big.

Rickie Lake is easily the best thing about this film. Drag queen Divine is extra fun as Tracy's mother, but it's Lake who grabs and keeps your attention. She imbues Tracy dignity and confidence that you rarely see in celluloid fat girls. Because this is a John Waters movie, there's some gross-out humor, and much name-calling and cursing. The director isn't one for subtlety -- he makes his points with a sledge hammer. Lucky for viewers, Waters also has a campy and silly side, and at least this once, he's overcome with infectious optimism.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Tracy's confidence and determination. How does Tracy react to name-calling and rumors about her? What does she think of her body, and how does it affect her popularity? How do other people react to her body? Why do some of the white characters seem to fear the black characters? Can you think of any examples where the same fear exists today? How have race-relations changed from the time in which the movie is set?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:February 26, 1988
DVD release date:September 26, 1995
Cast:Divine, Ricki Lake, Sonny Bono
Director:John Waters
Studio:New Line
Run time:92 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:language, thematic elements and sexuality.

This review of Hairspray was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 17 years old Written byhamstergurl09 June 5, 2011

WAY better than the musical version

I noticed a lot of people on this page gave "Hairspray" a really scathing review and called it "inappropriate" and stuff. Heck, Common Sense Media gave it an "iffy" for 13. Are you kidding me?!?!? You obviously don't know John Waters very well. Compared to other John Waters movies, this is EXTREMELY tame. Look up "Pink Flamingos" on the internet if you want to see an inappropriate movie by John Waters. Anyway, I think "Hairspray" is a classic! Every kid should see it. It has a really good message. It is in no way inappropriate for little kids (other than the beatnik scene, but even that isn't so bad). This movie is WAY better than the musical version.
Kid, 12 years old April 13, 2011

Ok for tweens. Good for teens!

There is quite alot of Violence, Penny is put in a Mental Institution for dating a Black man. There is a Riot and Link is left in a Wheelchair. There is also some kissing and Flirting. Not as much Music and Fun as the New Version but a Cute movie that shows you to follow your dreams but do whats right(:
What other families should know
Too much violence
Great messages
Great role models
Kid, 10 years old August 22, 2010


I really like this movie. It's very touching but kinda weird and offensive when Penny's mom shocked her with a stick because she's dating a black guy. But I think otherwise it's cool.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Great messages
Great role models


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