Diary of an old cheeser

Hi there! Like other blogs, this is my chance to wax lyrical (some might say talk utter cr*p) about a) what's happening in my life b) all of my pet obsessions in particular music, tv, movies, books and other generally connected things, quite often of the retro, old and "cheesy" variety. Hence the title of my blog. Feel free to leave a comment if the mood takes you. There's nothing like a good chinwag about one's favourite topics and besides I love to meet new people! Cheers, Simon

Thursday, August 16, 2007


I finally went to see this the other night. And after my initial misgivings I actually thought it was pretty damn good!

It’s different to the original, mind. Mainly cos it’s based on the musical rather than the John Waters’ version. There’s loud musical numbers practically every five minutes which – fab though they are - do get a little wearing and in your face. Consequently there’s less time devoted to dialogue and character development which is a shame. Some of the choicest lines from the original have vanished without trace, such as Edna’s “The times they are a changing, Tracy!” and Amber’s constant references to Tracy Turnblad’s hair having roaches. No sign of “The Roach” dance either - boo-hoo! – which was one of the highlights of the original. And the plan by Amber’s mother to sabotage the dance contest at the end by planting a bomb in her towering coiffure is totally rewritten. The film as a whole has a a rather more respectable and conventional veneer to it than John Water’s twisted version.

However despite the shortcomings I still found much to enjoy. The period recreation is excellent and seems much more “big scale” than the Waters film e.g. the opening vista shot of the streets of Baltimore with Tracy dancing amongst the citizens and all the comings and goings (including a very brief but funny cameo from John Waters as a flasher!) Maybe cos they had a bigger budget to play with. The dance sequences are excellently choreographed and most of the songs memorable and in keeping with the mood and atmosphere. I loved Velma’s “(The Legend of) Miss Baltimore Crabs”, brilliant. And although toned down in comparison to John Waters' sometimes perverted world-view, there's still lots of humour, both verbal and visual. There's an energy and exuberance to the film as a whole that's hard not to like.

And the performances? The biggest amount of hype surrounded the casting was of course John Travolta as Edna Turnblad. A far cry from Danny Zucco and Tony Romero! I thought Mr Travolta was okay as Edna though not entirely convincing and certainly not a patch on Divine’s iconic performance. But then the late, great Divvie made a career out of female impersonation so it’s little wonder. I thought JT was too subdued and as Alan has already observed, his/her voice sounded like Dr Evil from Austin Powers – all mannered and silly. His/her prosthetic make-up looked weird too – like Edna was permanently squinting.

The rest of the cast were great though. Newcomer Nikki Blonsky makes a strong impression as Tracy and was very reminiscent of Ricki Lake – not just in terms of looks but also the verve and energy that she brought to the role - a bubbly, likable young lady! Talking of Ms Lake, she even got a brief cameo at the end as a dance show judge. Christopher Walken was fun as Mr Turnblad, an actor who’s specialized in playing weirdos, this part being no exception. It was also good to see the character of Penny Pingleton, Tracy’s best friend, given a larger part in proceedings.

In fact some of the other characters like Motormouth Maybelle got far more screen time too- Ms Maybelle being played by a sassy and serene Queen Latifah, a lady with a great voice! Brittany Snow’s turn as Amber Von Tussell, Tracy’s bitchy dance rival on the Corny Collins Show, was fair, but I felt the original Amber was nastier. Zac Effron and Elijah Kelley provided some nice male eye candy as the boyfriends of Tracy and Penny.

Best of all for me though was Michelle Pfeiffer as Amber’s mum, Velma and producer of The Corny Collins Show. By turns scheming, manipulative, bigoted and sexy, Ms Pfeiffer put in a fabulous performance. She also had some great outfits and hairstyles – tucked-in-the-waist numbers that showed off her great figure. She's a true diva – looking great all these years after “The Witches of Eastwick” and “Dangerous Liaisons” - she needs more roles like this!

One of the aspects of “Hairspray” that I really like is its criticism of racism and bigotry through its clever storyline about racial segregation on "The Corny Collins Show". Tracy is the spokesperson for racial integration and I love the fight she puts up. The underlying message of the film is an inspirational one, making it more than just a throwaway piece of fluff.

So while more of a "mainstream" take on the original, "Hairspray" was still much better than I'd hoped for and highly entertaining!


  • At 3:30 am , Blogger Deemer said...

    Great review. Everyone that I know went into this movie with little expectations and came out really enjoying it. I think I might check it out.

  • At 3:27 pm , Blogger Minge said...

    My favourite aspect was that Mr Pinky was played by the guy who played Edna's husband in the first film.

  • At 3:27 pm , Blogger Old Cheeser said...

    Thanks very much Deemer! And for dropping by. Yes, it's nice when that happens...when something surpasses your expectations. Give it a go.

  • At 3:28 pm , Blogger Old Cheeser said...

    Aaaah - yes, dear Minge - Jerry Stiller I think?


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