Seems like Adam and I are on opposite sides of the spectrum when it comes to movie musicals. Well, except that I too am not an especially big fan of dancing. Hey, here’s a list of manliest movie performances ever. I’m about to go on a little aside about movie musicals, so feel free to skip below the jump for my thoughts on Hairspray, if that’s your bag. Maybe this is better off in its own post, and maybe I’ll do just that, after the Oscars are over. I was thinking about Adam’s last paragraph, and I can’t help but wonder if movie musicals are having some sort of resurgence. Here are three random bloggers who agree with me, therefore they must be very smart. And take a look at the Wikipedia list of musical films by year. I’m not arguing that Hollywood is churning out movie musicals by the bucketful. But since 2000 you have Moulin Rouge!, Chicago, Dreamgirls, Hairspray and Sweeney Todd all meriting Oscar’s attention. I’m not sure Rent or The Phantom of the Opera went anywhere, but I haven’t seen those, so I can’t comment. And I was a little down on The Producers (damn you, Will Ferrell), but you can’t have a resurgence without some misses, I’d argue. Hedwig and the Angry Inch was one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. And then I suppose you could start counting (as Wikipedia does) movies like Ray or Walk the Line. Plus, the uber-smashes High School Musical and High School Musical 2. Again, I’m not saying we are in a new golden age of musicals, far from it. But it does seem to be that we’re seeing an uptick in the quality and quantity of them. Oh, and for 2008? Mamma Mia! (Colin Firth, Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, and Lily from Veronica Mars? Hollywood, when will you learn that making things whose target audience is me just isn’t profitable <cough>Love Monkey<cough>? Trailer here.)

Hm, appears I got a bit distracted there. What were we talking about? Ah, yes, Hairspray. The third highest-grossing musical since 1974. A lot of things went right here. Obviously, any movie is made better with the addition of Christopher Walken, and Hairspray is far from an exception. Honestly, I thought the all of the headliners were fantastic. Just to save you the trip to imdb, that’s John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Amanda Bynes, James Marsden, Queen Latifah, Brittany Snow, Zac Efron, Elijah Kelley, Allison Janney, Nikki Blonsky.

A few quick notes on the actors. I agree with Adam that John Travolta’s performance wasn’t the best supporting actor performance of the year. I’m pretty sure we’ll reach a consensus on what was. But I’m not sure I’ve seen five performances (in movies the Oscars would consider, that is) that beat Travolta’s, yet. I know John was thinking of talking about this, so I don’t want to steal his thunder, but how oddly compelling is Amanda Bynes? I wouldn’t describe her as hot, beautiful, or cute, necessarily, but when she was on screen, I couldn’t look away. I blame the black arts. Oh, and if from now on, every movie worth watching would have Allison Janney playing a mother, as a signifier of it being a good movie, I could watch a lot fewer mediocre movies, which would be nice.

I thought the movie was very good. Not good enough to be considered for best movie of the year, maybe, but that’s not necessarily a knock against the film. Adam has some concerns with plot in movies, and while we generally seem to agree on that issue, I have to grant some sort of waiver to musicals. Given that so much screen time has to be devoted to singing the songs, the plot is generally forced to be more simplistic. That said, I’m not sure I’d say Hairspray has a simple plot, and I actually found it to get a bit ponderous at times.  I thought the musical numbers worked pretty well, the songs were good, if not altogether memorable, and the sequences were visually appealing in a manner that fit the movie, even for someone (like me) who doesn’t really like dancing.