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critics consensus

Hairspray is perhaps John Waters' most accessible film, and as such, it's a gently subversive slice of retro hilarity. Read critic reviews

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Hairspray Photos

Movie Info

When Tracy Turnblad (Ricki Lake), an overweight teen, auditions for a spot on a popular teen dance show, she beats out the spiteful Amber von Tussle (Colleen Fitzpatrick), winning over Amber's boyfriend (Michael St. Gerard) in the process. After meeting some black students at her school, Tracy begins to push for more racial integration on the dance show. This gets her into trouble on many sides, especially with Amber's pushy parents (Sonny Bono, Deborah Harry).

Cast & Crew

Ricki Lake
Tracy Turnblad
Divine
Edna Turnblad , Arvin Hodgepile
Jerry Stiller
Wilbur Turnblad
Sonny Bono
Franklin von Tussle
Vitamin C
Amber von Tussle
Ruth Brown
Motormouth Mabel
Deborah Harry
Velma Von Tussle
Leslie Ann Powers
Penny Pingleton
Shawn Thompson
Corny Collins
Ric Ocasek
Beatnik Cat
Pia Zadora
Beatnik Chick
Pat Moran
Associate Producer
John Waters
Co-Producer
David Insley
Cinematographer
Vincent Peranio
Production Design
Vincent Peranio
Art Direction
Van Smith
Costume Designer
Julia Cort
Second Assistant Director
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News & Interviews for Hairspray

Critic Reviews for Hairspray

All Critics (42) | Top Critics (9) | Fresh (41) | Rotten (1)

  • It is absurd and jolly, parodying not only the worst conventions of the teen film but also the Sixties social-conscience movie, with an anti-racist sub-plot.

    December 31, 2017 | Full Review…
  • Perhaps Waters' best known movie.

    September 3, 2015 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • While it's corny by design, Hairspray also aims to get at something truthful, about the various kinds of prejudice [...] and how youthful optimism and music made a difference [...].

    March 10, 2014 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • When Divine's Edna Turnblad is on-screen in the sleeveless dresses she's partial to, the movie has something like the lunacy of a W. C. Fields in drag.

    May 28, 2008 | Full Review…
  • The kitsch is a delight, and Divine, who has a low and fascinating deadpan voice, is very funny as Tracy's mother.

    September 5, 2018 | Full Review…
  • Waters tones down his usual excesses, but his mischievous black sense of humour is still very much to the fore in this affectionate salute to Z-grade teen movies.

    July 10, 2016 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Hairspray

  • Jul 15, 2014
    Without a doubt, this is John Waters's best film, and he crafts something that is quite enjoyable, funny, entertaining and well worth your time. If you're familiar with Waters' filmography, you'll notice that he was more an exploitation, trash director who made some of film's most bizarre films. With Hairspray, he makes his most accessible picture, a film that is highly enjoyable, well acted and with a good story. The film may not be a perfect effort, but it does manage to be an entertaining film while using the theme segregation and racial issues as its backdrop for its story. With that, I thought it brought something serious to a comedy, and the way it handled it was very well done. John Waters has made his finest film yet with Hairspray, and this is a highly amusing entertaining film that is one of the finest musical comedies that I have seen. Every actor here brings something wonderful to the screen, and it's a satisfying film that will certainly appeal to any viewer looking for a pleasant time waster. Hairspray works well because it's a witty, funny picture with a message and it is a film that shows us that John Waters is a capable director who was able to shift from Exploitation to a more mainstream type of movie. Hairspray is worth seeing, and it's a film that surprised as I didn't expect to really enjoy it, but I did. If you're uncertain about John Waters, give this film a shot, it's easily one of his most accessible works, and with many well thought out characters, it's a memorable musical that ranks among the genres finest films.
    Alex r Super Reviewer
  • Mar 18, 2014
    A plus-sized teen dance sensation campaigns for "Miss Auto Show" and agitates for integration in 1963 Baltimore. This mockingly saccharine PG-rated effort from John Waters lacks his transgressive nastiness, but the tacky decor, elaborate hairstyles, and offbeat casting (Sonny Bono, Debbie Harry, blues singer Ruth Brown, Divine in and out of drag) still reveal his arch worldview.
    Greg S Super Reviewer
  • Mar 24, 2013
    The most interesting part of this movie for me was the cast. Like wow, Debbie Harry and Ric Ocasek were in this. It is definitely a weird Waters film, although it's PG. This is one of the strangest portrayals of the early 60s I have ever seen. I was expecting more singing, though, hearing from others that it's a musical and all. I didn't really get into this movie, but I guess others like it.
    Aj V Super Reviewer
  • Jan 09, 2012
    Slightly better than the remake. Probably didn't deserve to be remade. Waters has made better since.
    John B Super Reviewer

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