Hairspray (2007)

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Hairspray (2007) Movie Poster Image
Infectiously fun musical with a message.
  • PG
  • 2007
  • 120 minutes
Popular with kidsParents recommend

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 51 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 117 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The movie's major theme is seeing beyond people's looks or skin color.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Tracy marches in favor of integration.

Violence

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

Sex

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.

Language

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."

Consumerism

Just hairspray...

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

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

What 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.

User Reviews

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.... Continue reading
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 wo... Continue reading
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... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bykc123 January 4, 2015

Amazing

Such a great movie! I have watched it so many times.

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 captures both the essence of the Broadway show's magic and the original film's timeless camp value to create a memorable movie musical. Shankman is best known for formulaic romantic and family comedies, but he successfully achieved here what 2005's The Producers utterly failed to do. (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.

Talk to your kids 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.

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