Return To Home Page
February 4, 2008
Hairspray - Shake And Shimmy Edition
Blu-Ray Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
13/9/200713/1/2008Village RoadshowAdam Shankman
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
VC-1DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1PGJohn Travolta

Click To Enlarge Image
That is John Travolta playing a woman!
So what do you get when you combine the talents of actors such as John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Amanda Bynes, Jerry Stiller, James Marsden, Queen Latifah, Nikki Blonsky, Brittany Snow, Zac Efron and remake a 1988 musical movie? In the past musicals such as Hairspray typically haven't fared well at the box office, however on this occasion the movie captured the hearts of movie goers and amassed an impressive $US200 million worldwide thereby making it the 25th biggest grossing movie of 2007 along the way. With such a success it wasn't surprising to see New Line put everything into this Blu-Ray release, and they have delivered the goods.

Tracy Turnblad, an overweight teenager with all the right moves, is obsessed with the Corny Collins Show. Every day after school, she and her best friend Penny run home to watch the show and drool over the hot Link Larkin, much to Tracy's mother Edna's dismay. After one of the stars of the show leaves, Corny Collins holds auditions to see who will be the next person on the Corny Collins show. With the help of her friend Seaweed, Tracy makes it on the show, angering the evil dance queen Amber Von Tussle and her mother Velma. Tracy decides isn't fair that the black kids can only dance on the Corny Collins Show once a month, and with the help of Seaweed, Link, Penny, Motormouth Maybelle, her father and Edna, she's going to integrate the show... without denting her 'do!

Click To Enlarge Image
Dancing outside the High School.
It is probably a little strange to say this but to be honest Hairspray was a bit too musical for my liking. It has never been my favourite genre with only a few movies ever really holding my interest, and attention (Blues Brothers being the standout). After the first couple of songs I was rolling my eyes, it was going to be a lengthy couple of hours. But the movie grew on me with the introduction of more and more triple-A actors including Christopher Walken, Michelle Pfeiffer and Jerry Stiller certainly increasing my interest as the movie progressed. Also increasing my interest was the quality of the production overall. Sure the sets are pretty nice, and the period costumes are fantastic as well however it was the music that really stands out.

Director Adam Shankman whose past credits include Cheaper by the Dozen 2, The Pacifier and Bringing Down the House may have been a risky choice as the director of this movie but his background as a dancer and comical movie director pays off as the movie retains a brisk pace and has a quality to it rarely seen in musicals. It's not all comical though as there is still a very serious topic covered about racial divisions during the 1960's (and which is still applicable to this very day).

Ultimately this was an enjoyable movie, but it's not one I would return to on a regular basis. Having said that I am certain that many people who are fans of the genre - my wife included - could have this playing constantly in the background for the music alone. The cast assembled for the movie is very impressive and there are moments - such as John Travolta and Christopher Walken dancing together - is worth the price of admission alone.

Click To Enlarge Image
Jerry Stiller was also in the original movie.
Encoded in VC-1 at the films original aspect ratio of 2.40:1 this is a stellar presentation on Blu-Ray with rich, vibrant colours used throughout the movie. Indeed we haven't seen too many movies with a video quality as consistant and vibrant as this. Being a new release certainly helps and there isn't a single bit of film dirt or artifacting that we could detect. The bitrate remains fairly high throughout the movie and even in the busier dance scenes the image remains sharp.

The only subtitle options on the disc are English SDH or Sing Along (Which ties into the Jump to a Song featurette detailed below).

While we have one or two very minor issues with the video quality the same can't be said of the audio which, bar the odd line here or there, is nigh on perfect. Indeed the audio has been encoded in DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 but, as usual, if you have a Playstation 3 you will be restricted to the 1.5Mbps track - but it's one hell of a track which is among the most lively, energetic and balanced tracks we have ever heard.

Hairspray was a pretty big hit at the cinemas despite being a rather low budget movie (it grossed $US168 million worldwide, but only cost $US20 million to produce). This 2-disc Blu-Ray set is also choc full of extras worth your time, and they are all presented in High Definition.

Click To Enlarge Image
Amanda Bynes is great as Tracy's friend.
Deleted and Extended Scenes (9.43/HD): Five extended or alternate scenes which are pretty entertaining in their own right with optional directors commentary. Many of these scenes could have easily slotted straight into the movie without problem.

Hairspray Extensions (37:15/HD): While not extended versions of the songs I was pleasantly surprised to see that this feature offers a 3-way split screen of the movie showing the rehersals, the on-set filming footage and the final product. The song and dance routines featured include The Nicest Kids In Town, The Legend of Miss Baltimore Crabs, Ladies' Choice, Welcome to the 60s, Run and Tell That, and You Can't Stop The Beat. An invaluable inclusion on the disc which is a fascinating watch - especially if you love the music and songs.

Step by Step: The Dances of Hairspray (12:43/HD): One of the weaker extras in my mind this shows you two of the dance sequences so you can learn the moves. Required a bit too much effort to get my fat ass off the couch, but I'm sure some people will love this.

Commentary with Director Adam Shankman and Nikki Blonsky: Quite an entertaining commentary which is pretty non-stop from start to finish with plenty of interesting stories to tell and some great information about the production.

Commentary with Producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron: A little drier but this commentary is also full of information. There is some overlapping with the first commentary and documentaries, but it is also worth a listen especially if you are interested in adapting and differences between the Broadway Production and the movie.

Jump To A Song: As the title suggest this allows you to jump to a song in the movie. Impressively it also allows you to turn on "Sing Along" which puts the lyrics at the bottom of the screen effictively turning the disc into a great karaoke disc! This feature includes 21 songs in total including one song which didn't make it into the movie - I Can Wait.

Behind the Beat: A superb Picture-In-Picture commentary which shows different camera angles, interviews, behind the scenes footage and more from the production of the movie while the movie is playing. If you only watch one feature on this disc this is the most worthwhile. It's not Profile 1.1 but just as impressive.

Click To Enlarge Image
Travolta and Walken dancing together - Priceless.
DISC 2: As well as the extras on the first disc there is a second disc with a couple of superb documentaries that are among the best we have ever seen on a DVD or Blu-Ray set.

The Roots of Hairspray (39:37/HD): Split up into three parts (The Buddy Deane Show, John Water's Hairspray, Harspray on Broadway) this looks at the history of Hairspray. THe first part looks at the TV show which actually inspired John Waters to create the the original Hairspray movie which was released in 1998 (and starred Ricki Lake!). The second part looks at the making of that original movie while the third part of this documentary looks at the Broadway musical. This documentary interviews pretty much anyone associated with the three documentaries including dancers on the Buddy Deane Show, Ricki Lake and the creators of the musical. While the video has been encoded in High Definition with the VC-1 code the most interesting aspect was the audio which was encoded in 2 Channel 255kbps DTS audio.

You Can't Stop The Beat (78:29/HD): Another absolutely massive, and impressive documentary which is split up into 8 parts (Hairspray Returns to the Screen, The Cast of Hairspray, The Music of Hairspray, The Choreography of Hairspray, The Costumes of Hairspray, The Hairdos of Hairspray, The Production Design of Hairspray, Reflections on Hairspray) and looks at the development of this 2007 movie. Loaded with behind the scenes footage and interviews this is one of the best "Making of" documentaries which we have see on Blu-Ray or DVD over the years.

Theatrical Trailer (2:20/HD): A trailer for the movie presented in HD with DTS-HD Master Audio sound.

If you like this movie, or indeed any musicals then this is an essential purchase with a brilliant transfer and superb extras. If, like me, you typically don't like musicals then I still encourage you to check this 2-disc set out as you may be pleasantly surprised. Village Roadshow have a stunning release here with Hairspray which is one of the best Blu-Ray releases we have seen to date. Superb.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Village Roadshow. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.