Hairspray (1988)

Forever interested in the kitsch built into past eras, director John Waters chooses the TV dance show craze of the early '60s for his playful focus in Hairspray. Ricki Lake plays Tracy Turnblad, just one of several alliteratively named… More

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Rated: PG
Running Time:
Release Date: February 26, 1988
DVD Release Date: November 5, 2002
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Critic Score: 98% Rotten Tomatoes™ Critic Reviews

Consensus: Hairspray is perhaps John Waters' most accessible film, and as such, it's a gently subversive slice of retro hilarity.

Pauline Kael
New Yorker

When Divine's Edna Turnblad is on-screen in the sleeveless dresses she's partial to, the movie has something like the lunacy of a W. C. Fields in drag.

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Derek Adams
Time Out

Waters' most hygienically commercial film is a Retro schlock-fancier's delight.

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David Robinson
Times (UK)

It is absurd and jolly, parodying not only the worst conventions of the teen film but also the Sixties social-conscience movie, with an anti-racist sub-plot.

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Jonathan Rosenbaum
Chicago Reader

Not only Waters's best movie, but a crossover gesture that expands his appeal without compromising his vision one iota; Ricki Lake as the hefty young heroine is especially delightful.

Janet Maslin
New York Times

The actors are best when they avoid exaggeration and remain weirdly sincere. That way, they do nothing to break the vibrant, even hallucinogenic spell of Mr. Waters's nostalgia.

John Ferguson
Radio Times

Waters tones down his usual excesses, but his mischievous black sense of humour is still very much to the fore in this affectionate salute to Z-grade teen movies.

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Variety Staff

John Waters' appreciation for the tacky side of life is in full flower in Hairspray, a slight but often highly amusing diversion about integration, big girls' fashions and music-mad teens in 1962 Baltimore.

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Roger Ebert
Chicago Sun-Times

The movie is a bubble-headed series of teenage crises and crushes, alternating with historically accurate choreography of such forgotten dances as the Madison and the Roach.

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Kate Muir
Times (UK)

Perhaps Waters' best known movie.

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More reviews for Hairspray

Flixster Audience Score: 80% Flixster User Reviews
Alex roy
Without a doubt, this is John Waters's best film, and he crafts something that is quite enjoyable, funny, entertaining and well worth your time. If… More
Chris Weber
The 1960s is one of my favorite decades. While I do prefer the latter half of the decade more (it just suits my sensibilities better), I can find much enjoyment… More
Greg S
A plus-sized teen dance sensation campaigns for "Miss Auto Show" and agitates for integration in 1963 Baltimore. This mockingly saccharine PG-rated… More
Spencer S.
The original is always best. Ricki Lake is the perfect Traci, and the drag is quiant.
Aj V
The most interesting part of this movie for me was the cast. Like wow, Debbie Harry and Ric Ocasek were in this. It is definitely a weird Waters film,… More
Jennifer D
I still haven't gotten used to John Waters style, but I am getting there. Definitely has a Grease vibe, but sillier. Much sillier. What social class was in… More