Hairspray: Shake & Shimmy Edition (Blu-ray) (2007)

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Released 11-Jan-2008

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Musical Audio Commentary-Adam Shankman and Nikki Blonsky
Audio Commentary-Craig Zadan and Neil Meron
Deleted Scenes-x5
Featurette-Hairspray Extensions
Featurette-Step By Step: The Dances of Hairspray
Audio-Visual Commentary
Featurette-The Roots of Hairspray
Featurette-Making Of-You Can't Stop The Beat
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2007
Running Time 116:07
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Adam Shankman
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring John Travolta
Michelle Pfeiffer
Christopher Walken
Amanda Bynes
James Marsden
Queen Latifah
Brittany Snow
Zac Efron
Elijah Kelley
Allison Janney
Nikki Blonsky
Taylor Parks
Paul Dooley
Case ?
RPI ? Music Marc Shaiman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English dts 7.1
English Audio Commentary dts 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary dts 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

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Plot Synopsis

    The ebullient musical Hairspray (2007) is New Line's first high definition release. Boasting both an excellent 1080p transfer and dts HD Master Audio 7.1, Hairspray has often been described as one of the best feel-good movies of recent years. Hairspray is also one of the brightest and bounciest movie musicals of all time. Despite being quite dubious when I first saw this film, I found Hairspray to be a very pleasant surprise. It’s a brightly-coloured, toe-tapping, and thoroughly entertaining movie, with a great message as well.

    Hairspray happily follows in the footsteps of films such as Little Shop of Horrors and The Producers as campy comedy films that became even more campy Broadway stage musicals before returning to the big screen as lavish song-and-dance productions.

    This version of Hairspray is based on the hit musical, also titled Hairspray, which has been running successfully on Broadway since 2002. The musical, with music by Marc Shaiman, and lyrics by Shaiman and Scott Wittman, and a book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan, is in turn based on John Waters' original fun and campy 1988 film, Hairspray.

    In the case of Hairspray, the transition from film to musical, and back to film was not too difficult, as the original film version, which starred Ricki Lake and drag-diva Divine, was almost a musical itself, as it was packed with plenty of music and dance scenes throughout.

    Hairspray is set in Baltimore, at the dawn of the civil-rights movement in 1962. Every day after school, the very perky, plus-sized high schooler, Tracy Turnblad (newcomer Nikki Blonsky), watches the American Bandstand-like, The Corny Collins Show, with her sprightly and blinky, best friend, Penny Pingleton (Amanda Bynes). Tracy is a huge fan of this segregated, whites-only show, which allows only one "Negro Day" each month – which also happens to be Tracy’s favourite. In her buoyant exuberance, she loudly declares at school, "Negro Day's the best! I wish every day were Negro Day!"

    When The Corny Collins Show advertises open tryouts for a new dancer, Tracy wags school to be first in line. She is immediately and very rudely dismissed by the show’s producer, the venomous and racist, former beauty queen, Velma Von Tussle (Michelle Pfeiffer), for being too fat. This disappointment is short-lived, however, as while in detention at her school for truancy, Tracy meets a black student, Seaweed (Elijah Kelly), with James Brown moves, and a willingness to teach her some black grooves.

    Far from being constrained by her size, Tracy has a grin that lights up any room, and an infectious enthusiasm. Despite her initial setback, Tracy still dreams of dancing on The Corny Collins Show. Although a much larger girl than the other skinny-model-types on the show, Tracy’s gleeful dancing begins to win people over, including the show's hip host, Corny (James Marsden). Tracy understands that dancing to “race music” isn't about how you look, but rather, it's about how you feel. Tracy’s enjoyable booty-shaking dance-hall flourishes are set to make her the show’s newest and liveliest young star. Corny likes her immediately and gives her a shot on the show, and Tracy is an overnight sensation.

    However, Tracy doesn’t win everyone over. Apart from being the pushy television station's manager, Velma is also the pushy show-mum of the show's arrogant and selfish star dancer, Amber (Brittany Snow). Amber is horrified when her boyfriend, the show’s teen heartthrob Link Larkin (Zac Efron), also takes a shine to Tracy. Link finds himself drawn to Tracy's genuine warmth and bubbly personality. To make matters even worse for Amber and Velma, Tracy also looks like she will win the title of "Miss Teenage Hairspray", the show's dance competition judged by audience phone-in votes. Velma and Tracy begin to plot Tracy’s downfall.

    When Velma tries to take tighter control over the show by cancelling "Negro Day", Tracy joins a pro-integration march, led by Queen Latifah as the soulful “Negro Day” Hostess, Motormouth Maybelle. Latifah brings a lot of dignity to the role, and she is rewarded by being given two big civil rights anthems to perform, I Know Where I’ve Been and Come So Far (Got So Far to Go). Latifah also imbues her comic performance with a knowing wisdom, as she warns an interracial couple: “You got a whole lotta ugly comin’ at you from a never-ending parade of stupid.

    As widely publicised, in an inspired piece of casting, John Travolta surprisingly plays the role of Tracy’s doting mother, Edna Turnblad. Despite being burdened with heavy padding and thick prosthetics that constrict his movement and expressions, Travolta is endearing as the Baltimore housewife, Edna. Underplaying his role, and never lowering himself to obvious or campy clichés, Travolta avoids the drag queen image of Divine, and rather presents Edna with a girlish voice with a thick Baltimore accent. Travolta brings an undeniable sweetness and vulnerability to Edna, an agoraphobic laundress shrouded by fear and self-loathing, but who also dearly loves and shelters her family. For me, one of the film's highlights comes near the end, when Edna busts out her dance moves in one of the big numbers.

    As Edna's adoring husband, Wilbur, Christopher Walken is simply fantastic as the befuddled goof who runs a joke shop, the Hardy Har Hut. One of the standout moments in the film is when he and Edna have their big romantic number on the rooftops, (You're) Timeless to Me. Although it's completely kitschy, it is also completely heart-warming.

    Another surprise is that the film is directed and choreographed by Adam Shankman, who has previously delivered movies such as The Pacifier, Bringing Down the House, and Cheaper by the Dozen 2. Shankman seems to have found his niche in campy musicals, and the entire film is bright and bubbly, with a good pace, happy tone, and glossy finish.

    Indeed, the film’s bright opening song, Good Morning Baltimore, sets the tone for the musical: We see Tracy skipping and dancing through the city, singing in absolute and genuine jubilation. Hairspray’s catchy (albeit not very memorable) tunes, such as You Can't Stop the Beat, I Can Hear the Bells, and Welcome to the 60s, are a 1960s musical pastiche - post-Elvis but pre-Beatles, and peppered with good hooks to keep you humming along, while tapping your toes. Indeed, the catchy early-1960s-style show tunes often evoke classics such as Be My Baby, and stylistically often reminded me of one of my favourite movie musicals, Little Shop of Horrors.

    However, apart from the music, and despite the acknowledgement of the civil rights movement, Hairspray looks back at the early 1960s through rose-tinted glasses, and the films costumes, hairstyles, and dances nostalgically celebrate a time in the early 1960s when teenagers emerged as a distinct consumer group, and with their own sub-culture. Somehow, the film's silliness never gets in the way of the serious civil rights message, nor does the film's more serious moments ever leave it with a sombre tone.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Visually, Hairspray is stunning, with a distinct visual style. The BD's high definition transfer accurately reflects the film's original print, and it is noticeably sharper and far more detailed than the DVD's transfer.

    The film has a very bright and colourful look, which suits the story well. The 1080p/VC-1 encoded transfer is beautifully presented widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1, in a native 16x9 frame. This is the film's original theatrical ratio.

    As one should expect with a high definition transfer, the sharpness of the image is excellent. For example, consider the perfect delineation in the crowded dance scene at 28:18, or the fine lines in the pattern of Mr. Pinky's suit at 37:39. The sharpness of the BD's transfer is noticeably better than that of the DVD's. For example, with the high definition transfer, consider the intricate detail now visible in the aerial shot of the Baltimore suburbs at 73:31. The black level is excellent throughout with true, deep blacks. The film intentionally has a very brightly lit appearance and the shadow detail is good.

    The film's overall production design is fabulous. A kaleidoscope of bright primary colours are used strongly and boldly throughout, and as with the DVD, the BD accurately reflects the rich colour palette of the source material. Skin tones are accurate.

    The BD's transfer has an average bit rate lower than what I have seen on other BDs that I have reviewed. It ranges between 15-20 Mbps, compared to 25-30 Mbps. But there are no problems with MPEG artefacts, such as pixelization. There are also no problems with Film-To-Video Artefacts, such as aliasing or telecine wobble. A pristine print was used for the transfer, and I never spotted any film artefacts.

    Only English subtitles are included, and they are accurate.

    This is a BD-50 (50 GB) disc. The feature is divided into 20 chapters.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    As a musical, Hairspray boasts an excellent and enveloping surround sound experience, and the BD's audio is wonderful, and again there is a noticeable improvement over the DVD.

     Hairspray was originally released in the theatres with dts, SDDS, and Dolby Digital audio. The DVD offers five options for the feature: English 5.1 Dolby Digital EX encoded at 448 Kb/s, English 6.1 DTS-ES, English 2.0 Dolby Surround encoded at 192 Kb/s, and two audio commentaries. The BD offers three audio options for the feature: English dts HD Master Audio 7.1, and two audio commentaries, both encoded in dts stereo, at 255 Kb/s.

    The dts-HD Lossless Master Audio can potentially support an unlimited number of surround sound channels, and down-mix to 5.1 if required. This is 'future-proofing' as currently there are no Blu-ray or players in Australia that are able to decode the full dts-HD Master Audio, but all Blu-ray players can currently decode the dts-HD "core" audio at 1.5 Mbps.

    Despite all the extensive use of ADR, the dialogue quality and audio sync are excellent.

    As mentioned earlier, Hairspray is based on the 2002 musical, featuring music by Marc Shaiman, and lyrics by Shaiman and Scott Wittman, and a book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan. The music is generally very upbeat and catchy. The toe-tapping tunes perfectly suit the exuberant and positive mood of the film. Shaiman and Wittman, who each took home a Tony Award for their work on the musical edition, have contributed several new songs to the movie, although none are as catchy as their original numbers, such as I Can Hear the Bells and You Can't Stop the Beat. The Academy Award nominated, Shaiman has also won a Grammy Award for his work on Hairspray.

    As with the DVD, the surround presence and activity is wonderful, and it adds a lot to the film. The film's visuals have been presented with a sense of hyper-reality, as colours are bright and bold and in your face, and the surround sound experience matches this. Apart from supporting the score, the rear speakers are also often used to provide ambience. As I have noticed with other BDs, there is also a very noticeable improvement in the clarity of the sound in the rear speakers.

    The film has a great LFE track to support the score, and the subwoofer is utilised very effectively throughout.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    With the DVD, there were a number of genuine and interesting extras, spread over two discs. The Blu-ray includes all of those, and then even manages to add some extra goodies as well. The interesting (and very welcome) feature here is that ALL of New Line's Extras are presented in high definition widescreen.

Disc One

Floating Pop-Up Menu

    As with other BDs, the menu can be accessed while the film is playing.

Audio Commentary 1

   Director Adam Shankman and the film's star, Nikki Blonsky, provide an informative and fun screen-specific commentary, with plenty of anecdotes. Blonsky keeps it fairly lively and light, and also discusses being in her first film.

Audio Commentary 2

   Producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron take a more technical approach, discusses various aspects of the filmmaking process, such as casting and the script adaptation.

Deleted/Alternate Scenes (24:36)

These can be viewed with or without commentary.


Hairspray Extensions

    A few of the show's numbers are presented showing different camera angles, rough cuts, and song/dance rehearsals. They are:

Step By Step: The Dances of Hairspray

    For those of you happy to get off the couch, two of the dances from the film are taught by two of the film's associate choreographers. They are:

Jump To A Song

    As the title suggest, any of the musical's songs can be selected, with the option of karaoke-style lyrics appearing on screen as well.

Behind The Beat

   Exclusive to Blu-ray, this is a picture-in-picture commentary. Note this extra does not require Profile 1.1-compliant Blu-ray hardware to play, as parts of the film has been re-encoded with a burned-in video window, and the playback relies on seamless branching.

Disc Two

The Roots of Hairspray

   A comprehensive and genuine documentary that looks at the development of Hairspray from its original inspiration, to the original film, and eventually as a successful Broadway musical. Divided into three sections, the chapters are:

You Can't Stop The Beat (78:29)

   An almost exhausting examination of the various film production aspects of Hairspray. This featurette is divided into a number of sections:

Trailer (2:20)

    Presented in high definition, in a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1, in a native 16x9 frame, with dts surround audio.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    In terms of content, this appears to be the same BD as was released in the US.

Summary

    Hairspray was never designed to challenge more serious movie musicals, such as the Oscars' Best Film contenders, Chicago or Dreamgirls. Rather, Hairspray is all about light-hearted, feel-good fun, and in that respect it delivers, as it is a thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable, feel-good experience.

The video quality is excellent.

The audio quality is also excellent.

The two-disc BD is packed with extras that are both genuine and interesting.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Monday, March 17, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDSony Playstation 3 (HDMI 1.3) with Upscaling, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic High Definition 50' Plasma (127 cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSamsung Pure Digital 6.1 AV Receiver (HDMI 1.3)
SpeakersSamsung

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