Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Hairspray: A Celebration of Outcasts

Sincere yet remained entertaining is embodied in the movie musical Hairspray. The film radiates with overflowing optimism that even the sulkiest person will be left smiling and your day becomes a little bit brighter.

Hairspray is adapted from the Broadway musical of the same title (also adapted from the 1988 comedy film by John Waters). It takes place in `60s Baltimore and revolves around a plump bubbly teenager named Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky). Being a teenager in the `60s, she dreams of becoming a part of the “coolest” teenage dancers (called the Council Kids) in a local TV, The Corny Collins Show. She gets her chance when Corny Collins announces that there will be an audition for a new dancer. Accompanied by her timid best friend, Penny Pingleton (Amanda Bynes)—whose mother won’t even allow Penny to watch the show—Tracy auditions. But she is instantly turned down by the station manager Velma von Tussle (Michelle Pfeiffer) because of her size and her support for the integration of the white and black people of America. Velma, who choreographs the dances in the show, is also the mother of one of the council kids (Amber, played by Brittany Snow) and as such, she makes sure that her daughter gets the most exposure in the show. When Tracy finally gets in the Corny Collins show, she becomes a threat not only to Amber’s popularity but more to Amber’s relationship with the show’s heartthrob Link Larkin (Zac Efron), because Link becomes increasingly fond of Tracy.

Hairspray gathers a perfect set of cast. Nikki Blonsky is amazing as the main character. The she appeared on the screen, singing “Good Morning Baltimore,” she’s not Nikki Blonsky anymore but Tracy Turnblad. She did her role very well. Her character’s optimism is infectious, although later in the film, she also realizes that no matter how she believes in the innate goodness of people, her belief that “fairness is just gonna happen” has to take a step back.

As the shy best friend, Amanda Bynes, despite her few lines, faultlessly played the role. She may be unsure most of the time, but she remains supportive to Tracy. Their characters are complete opposites, yet they get along and understand each other.

John Travolta is back and dancing again! Although this time in a fat suit and high heels! He plays Tracy’s mother Edna Turnblad, who prefers to shut herself inside the house working as a laundress because of her appearance. Playing as Edna’s husband Wilbur Turnblad is Christopher Walken. Really good to see him dancing in this movie. Wilbur’s admission that his heart “only beats for the size 60″ woman (Edna) is one of the most touching scenes in film and it’s complemented by their duet of “(You’re) Timeless to me.”

Michelle Pfeiffer’s performance is wicked; a real stage mother in the truest sense of the word. She’s prepared to manipulate everyone and will do anything (even cheat) just to make sure her only daughter will not be outshined by anyone.

Queen Latifah’s Motomouth Maybelle, a local R&B deejay who hosts the Negro Day on Corny Collins Show, is simply vivacious. Enough said.

Relatively unknown actors that steal the screen without effort are Elijah Kelley (plays the role of Seaweed, Maybelle’s son and Penny’s love interest) and Taylor Parks (as the energetic Little Inez, Seaweed’s sister).

Hairspray is full of joy that you’ll rarely notice slow-paced moments. It’s unpretentious, a candy-colored celebration of outcasts. It’s a must-see film with great singing, great dancing and lots of great time!

Hairspray is directed and choreographed by Adam Shankman; written by Leslie Dixon; music by Mark Shaiman, lyrics by Scott Wittman and Mark Shaiman. It stars John Travolta (Edna Turnblad), Christopher Walken (Wilbur Turnblad), Michelle Pfeiffer (Velma Von Tussle), James Marsden (Corny Collins), Amanda Bynes (Penny Pingleton), Queen Latifah (Motormouth Maybelle), Zac Efron (Link Larkin), Brittany Snow (Amanda Von Tussle), Elijah Kelley (Seaweed), Taylor Parks (Little Inez), and Nikki Blonsky (Tracy Turnblad).

Monday, December 3, 2007

A Rat in the Kitchen

Once in a while, you stumble into a film that touches a soft spot in your heart no matter how simple the plot may be. Like Ratatouille, a story of two very different protagonists, both confronting difficult situations.

Remy is no ordinary rodent. He hates garbage and won’t eat them. Instead, he prefers to good stuff, food prepared in the kitchen. Because of his love and appreciation of good food, Remy has a well-developed, very exceptional sense of smell. Unfortunately, this unusual characteristic also makes Remy an outcast from his own kind since rats marvel in slops, food waste, and everything else dirty, not in classy, well-prepared meals.

Our other major character is Linguini, is the new garbage boy at Gusteau's Restaurant (now being run by Gusteau's former sous chef Skinner). Although he has the opportunity to work in the kitchen, his situation is worse than Remy's. He may love food, but cooking or preparing a descent meal is not among his skills. He possesses no other talents than being miserable and feeling sorry for himself.

The paths of our two heroes cross when Linguini accidentally messes the soup on the stove. Hoping to save it, he randomly drops ingredients and spices and in the process making a bigger disaster. Seeing all this, Remy makes a move, salvaging the soup and creating the first best thing that the restaurant has ever prepared after the famous French chef's death. So, here begins a partnership and friendship of two outcasts trying to find a niche in this fault-finding world.

Putting all technical aspects aside (because this film did it excellently), Ratatouille stresses the importance of friendship, appreciation, family, talent, the uniqueness of each individual, dreaming big and making a go to achieve it. Watching it made me realize what a friend had told me once--that food is more delicious if you prepare it with your heart; like what Remy did when he chose to make his own version of a humble French dish (ratatouille) to be served to food critic Anton Ego. Remy's dedication to his craft/art brought tears to Ego's eyes and brought him back to his childhood and to the memory of his mother's cooking.

Ratatouille is a treat for the eyes and palate as it takes to magnificent Paris and gives you a peek how sumptuous food are prepared in a restaurant’s kitchen. It’s a film worth watching.

The film features the voices of Patton Oswalt (Remy), Ian Holm (Skinner), Lou Romano (Linguini), Peter Sohn (Emile), Brian Dennely (Django), Janeane Garofalo (Colette), Brad Garrett (Gusteau), and Peter O’Toole (Anton Ego). It is directed by Brad Bird; written by Brad Bird based on a story by Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco and Brad Bird; music by Michael Giacchino; lighting director Sharon Calahan; director of photography/camera Robert Anderson; supervising animators Dylan Brown and Mark Walsh. Produced by Brad Lewis and released by Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios.