Glimpses Musicals Edition Part 1: “Hairspray” and “Mamma Mia”


Newcomer (no more) Nikki Blonsky is charming as Tracy Turnblad, a curvy dancing machine with a dream to appear as a dancer on the Corny Collins Show, the most popular local program in small town Baltimore. Hairspray is, in essence, Blonsky’s time to shine, and she does– going from doe-eyed teenage girl to grooving vixen in a span of an hour. John Travolta is charming yet awfully awkward as Edna, a role that he probably only got because of his previous experience in Hollywood musicals. He makes a brave effort, but just can’t cut it in the role of charming mother. The awkward dance he shares with Christopher Walken brings cringes instead of eager chills– never a good sign. Michelle Pfeiffer has gone a long way from the hot girlfriend in “Scarface” back in 1983– at least she’s got the chance to flaunt personality in this movie. Unfortunately, there isn’t much to flaunt. I would laud her for singing, but she doesn’t have the best chops. It was a smart decision on her part to stay with acting, but not exactly the best decision to opt for a singing part when her singing voice isn’t her top asset. Efron goes from modern-day Bolton to sixties-era hottie as Link Larkin, Tracy’s love interest,  a part that is pretty much written for him. Pre-Pitch Perfect Brittany Snow is a formidable background character here, playing Michelle Pfeiffer’s daughter Amber with the needed mix of spice and sugar. Snow has better chops!

What I enjoyed most about this movie were the breakout acts– Broadway actor Elijah Kelley as Seaweed J. Stubbs and his sister Little Inez… these guys are what gave the film its much-needed charm. In some twist of fate, they mirrored their roles: super talents unrecognized in the face of A-List acts. It would’ve been nice to hear (see more) from these acts after 2007… another entertaining bit? pre-Lohan Amanda Bynes playing innocent repressed child Penny, Seaweed’s doe-eyed love interest.

Splotched with bits of charm and corniness, Hairspray is a lively, on your feet flick based on one of Broadway’s more happier iconic musicals. If you’re looking for a sandwich movie or something to do that won’t stress you out but keep you positive, then Hairspray is the movie to watch. It has its serious bits and its happy bits and its cheesy bits in relatively edible proportions. Trust me, you won’t cop out.

“Mamma Mia” 

When you’ve been nominated for an Academy Award (or two, or three..), perhaps you’re allowed one or two bad films as fillers in between your best works. This is the case with Meryl Streep, the Oscars’ most nominated thespian who has received more than 10 nominations for her acting throughout her career. Mamma Mia is her ‘bad film’.

Streep plays single mother Donna Sheridan, and her daughter Sophie is Amanda Bynes, who at the young age of 20 has decided to get married. Sheridan busies and stresses herself out in preparing for the event, while in her quest to discover who her dad is, Sophie invites three of her mother’s former flames, played by Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skaarsgaard. Chaos ensues when Donna discovers their presence in her hotel, making for some much-needed fun fodder set to the dated (yet classic) sounds of ABBA disco music.

Meryl does what she can with this part– she gets to have fun (singing and dancing) and kissing, playing Donna Sheridan’s charming mom role quite well. Seyfried is just blah as Sophie, who makes up for her so-so work in this movie with an overload of singing parts (she isn’t the best singer, but better than Michelle Pfeiffer that’s for sure). Firth and Brosnan look like they’ve been unwillingly transported from another film to a deserted land to play their parts (a scary way to look, mind you). Pierce makes an effort to sing but falls flat, making for one of the film’s many cringeworthy bits.

Disco is classic and iconic in its own right, but its a genre of music that can’t always be over altered without losing its defining musical characteristics. I can’t be too sure, but perhaps that became one of the things that hindered modernizing the movie. Nevertheless, they did an okay job with the singing and the arranging. Still, it wasn’t enough to bring disco into the new age and make it ‘cool’– can’t say they wanted to do that, though.

Just like any other bad but no-so bad movies, Mamma Mia has its mix of good and bad parts. Overall, it isn’t a pleasant watch, to be honest. One could do better by watching the original movie instead of this modern remake, and save oneself almost two hours’ time of sitting through a number of strange arrangements, cringeworthy singing, and awfully screwed up moral compasses.




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