(1988)

Critic Reviews

77

Metascore

Based on 14 critic reviews provided by Metacritic.com
90
Los Angeles Times
Hairspray is a deliriously fast and funny satire of the '60s that marks John Waters' best shot yet at mainstream audiences. [25 Feb 1988, p.1]
90
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.
88
Controversial filmmaker John Waters finally hits his commercial stride in this film, parlaying his keen social observation and great compassion for society's outsiders into a colorful and engaging comedy full of dancing, music and heartfelt nostalgia.
80
The 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.
80
Wall Street Journal
The strangest thing about his latest picture, Hairspray, is how very sweet and cheerful it is. In his own weird way, Mr. Waters has captured the gleeful garishness of the early '60s, when high-school girls wore demure bows in their ratted hair and deadened their lips with palest pink lip gloss -- and believed that racial harmony was inevitable if teens of all flavors could dance together on TV. [25 Feb 1988, p.1]
80
While it's corny by design, Hairspray also aims to get at something truthful, about the various kinds of prejudice weighing down the city circa 1963, and how youthful optimism and music made a difference, if only in the lives of those kids craving some kind of diverse, progressive community.
80
Thoroughly charming, and thoroughly deserving of its cult status.
75
Basically 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.
75
Chicago Tribune
From its opening shot-of little girls with huge hairdos-Hairspray is a relentlessly silly, crude and hilarious lampoon of modes and mores in teenage America, 1962. But it's also more than that. By closing credits, it has made some provocative observations about the influence of rock music on race relations in America, about how the '50s became the '60s and about the volatility of fashion and politics. [26b Feb 1988, p.F]
63
USA Today
If Hairspray is clean and sweet, don't cry sellout. Taken as a pointed burlesque of a serious racial issue, this is what Spike Lee's School Daze should have been. It's also a PG (for "Pretty Darn Good'') simply on its own.
50
San Francisco Chronicle
There are some nice things to be said about Hairspray, the John Waters movie which opened over the weekend, but not enough to explain all you've been hearing about it. It's a fairly run-of-the-mill teenage dance movie, set in Baltimore in the early '60s, with a certain oddball humor that only occasionally lifts it out of its class. [29 Feb 1988, p.F3]

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