Hairspray (2007)



Infectiously fun musical with a message.
Popular with kidsParents recommend
  • Review Date: November 19, 2007
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Musical
  • Release Year: 2007
  • Running Time: 120 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Tracy marches in favor of integration. The movie's major theme is seeing beyond people's looks or skin color.


The Baltimore police push and shove African-American demonstrators marching for integration. Mrs. Pingleton ties Penny to her bed.


Link and Tracy kiss; Tracy sings about how she won't "go all the way/but I'll go pretty far" and "French kissing" her crush. Seaweed and Penny kiss and dance together, as do Amber and Link and Tracy and Link. Mrs. Von Tussle throws herself on Mr. Turnblad; Mr. & Mrs. Turnblad embrace.


Insults about Tracy's weight: "chubby communist," "whale," "fattie," etc. Use of the term "lawn jockeys" in reference to African Americans, as well as the formerly common (and, at the time, accepted) word "Negro." Other racially charged terms include "cracker boy," "race mixing," etc. Penny's mom says "whore" and "devil child."


Just hairspray...

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Teens smoke in the girls' bathroom; adults smoke in the teachers' lounge.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this musical adaptation of the Broadway hit will appeal to tweens thanks to stars like Amanda Bynes and High School Musical's Zac Efron. It's a bit tamer than the John Waters original -- there's less cursing and fighting -- but the themes are the same: accepting people's differences, whether because of their looks or their skin color. Kids younger than 11 will miss much of the meaning while still being entertained by the characters and the production. Some of the song lyrics are a tad sexually suggestive: "I won't go all the way/but I'll go pretty far" and "The darker the berry/the sweeter the juice" are just two examples. Since it's set in the early '60s, African Americans are called "Negroes" (and, in one case, "lawn jockeys"). There are a lot of weight-based insults and one case of parental abuse: Mrs. Pingleton literally ties Penny to her bed and calls her a "devil child." In one scene, three "bad girls" are shown smoking in the school bathroom, while adults sit in a smoke-filled teachers' lounge.

What's the story?

HAIRSPRAY starts with an infectious song -- "Good Morning Baltimore" -- that sets the cheery tone of Adam Shankman's feature-film adaptation of the Broadway adaptation of John Waters' campy 1988 comedy. The update, also set in 1962 Baltimore, has slightly less kitsch than the original -- but, thanks to the fabulous soundtrack and adorable cast, even more charm. Newcomer Nikki Blonsky makes heroine Tracy Turnblad zaftig and adorable. Tracy doesn't let her plus-sized body keep her from dancing like a pro, trying out for the local TV station's American Bandstand copycat The Corny Collins Show, and crushing on the show's dreamy hunk Link Larkin (High School Musical star Zac Efron). Her favorite episodes aren't the lily-white ones hosted by Corny (James Marsden) but the "Negro Day" specials hosted by Motormouth Maybelle (a big and blonde Queen Latifah). When Tracy finally lands a spot on the show -- much to the chagrin of skeletal station manager/racist ice queen Velma Von Tussle (Michelle Pfeiffer) -- the first thing she tells Corny is that she wishes "every day could be Negro Day." Tracy develops such a faithful following that she convinces her oversized mom, Edna (John Travolta in layers of drag), to leave the house for the first time and be her manager.

Is it any good?


Director (and choreographer) Shankman, who's best known for formulaic romantic and family comedies, has done what 2005's The Producers utterly failed to do: capture both the essence of the Broadway show's magic and the original film's timeless camp value to create a memorable movie musical. (Oh, and that cutie pie Efron definitely helps, too.)

Travolta should consider his role a gift, since he's more enchanting as Mrs. Turnblad than he's been on screen in more than a decade. And as Mrs. Turnblad's husband, Wilbur, Christopher Walken again perfects his mastery of slow talking and soft shoeing. Waters himself couldn't have cast a better mom and pop odd couple. Some of the best songs and moves belong to the "Negro Day" dancers, like smooth-talking Seaweed (Elijah Kelly, who deserves an Efron-esque following of his own after this stand-out performance). And Queen Latifah's ballad "I Know Where I've Been" touchingly accompanies a civil-rights march calling for on-air desegregation.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about prejudice and racism. Mrs. Von Tussle assumes that Tracy isn't talented because of her size, but Tracy proves her wrong. Tracy's determination and self esteem are strong despite her weight. How are overweight kids discriminated against today? What about minorities? Even though there's no more segregation, do kids of color get picked on for being different? Kids: What does Tracy teach us about judging people (and their abilities) by their looks? Families who've seen the original (or the Broadway show) can also talk about how this movie is similar to -- and different from -- the other incarnations.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:July 19, 2007
DVD release date:November 20, 2007
Cast:John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Nikki Blonsky
Director:Adam Shankman
Studio:New Line
Topics:Music and sing-along
Run time:120 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:language, some suggestive content and momentary teen smoking.

This review of Hairspray (2007) was written by

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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; OK 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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What parents and kids say

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Parent of a 7 and 11 year old Written bydmlashultlz June 13, 2009
I was concerned about the sexual sugesstiveness of many of the dance moves, the difficultly of explaining to my daughter why a male actor was dressed up as a women. I went with an open mind to this movie, based on feedback from another adult. I found myself cringing through many moments, hoping that most of the innapropriate material was going over my kids heads. In spite of some positive messages, I would not let my kids see this again.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Parent of a 7 year old Written byTrebuchet August 3, 2011

Watch it first and decide if your kids are ready

I just watched this with my 7-year-old daughter. She says "It was very very good. The music was great. I loved her dance and that she beat the villain." I wasn't sure this was for little kids, and we watched it together. The part about the civil rights movement was strong stuff, and kind of hard for a child to grasp. But it is important, and a good opportunity to discuss it. The language was mostly fine, words like d**n and a**, but I did have to explain why "Negro" isn't appropriate language today and why it was correct to use it in the movie. There were teens smoking in the bathroom, but again, she knows smoking isn't a good idea. At one point, Pfeiffer's character tries to break up the heroine's parents' marriage, which is not a kid-friendly scene, even if it isn't very graphic. There are some suggestive moments but mostly it is kissing or confined to dance moves. There are police portrayed as bad guys obstructing constitutional rights, but since that is historically accurate I didn't mind it. On the whole, though, it is a lovely, upbeat movie about courage and dancing.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 16 years old Written byhamstergurl09 December 26, 2010

This is the Worst Musical I Have Ever Seen

Oh my goodness. Hairspray. Where do I begin? I strongly dislike this movie for multiple reasons. For one thing, the songs are just bad. They're all super corny and kind of make me cringe when I listen to them. That's not to say I don't like musicals, I very much like musicals. I'm in 2 musicals right now. My favorite things to do are singing and acting. I just don't like "Hairspray." Another thing I don't like about this is that they made it tamer than the original. There was absolutely no reason to change anything about the original movie. The original movie was extremely tame compared to other movies by John Waters. Another problem I have with this is when I'm watching it, it doesn't feel like a John Waters movie. I'm a huge John Waters fan, and I feel like they took all of his quirky style out of the story. This feels like just any other boring old movie, whereas in the original, it felt unique. If you want to see "Hairspray," you should definitely watch the original one directed by John Waters. HOWEVER, there was one thing I did like about this movie: John Travolta. But John Travolta doesn't beat Divine (the original Edna Turnblad).


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