Watch It

On DVD: Now | On Blu-ray: Now

Hairspray Review Critics


Dave White Profile

… too strong and joyful to be ruined … Read full review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 5.0

    out of 100

    Universal acclaim
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 70

    out of 100

    Wall Street Journal

    In the musical numbers, where by rights Mr. Travolta should shine, he's almost out-danced and certainly out-charmed by Edna's better half, Wilbur (Christopher Walken), who is one of the movie's great assets, an oasis of calm amid the twisting and shouting.

    Read Full Review

  • 70

    out of 100

    The Hollywood Reporter Michael Rechtshaffen

    John Travolta takes on John Waters in Hairspray, and the result is anything but a drag in this appealingly goofy, all-singing, all-dancing screen adaptation of the Broadway musical based on the 1988 film.

    Read Full Review

  • 75

    out of 100

    USA Today Claudia Puig

    John Travolta may stand out as a plus-size laundress who is hesitant, drab and retiring, but Hairspray is a consistently flashy, rousing and rambunctious movie spectacle.

    Read Full Review

  • 91

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly Owen Gleiberman

    A fizzy and delirious high-camp message-movie musical that may just turn out to be the happiest movie of the summer.

    Read Full Review

  • See all Hairspray reviews at

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

OK for kids 11+

Infectiously fun musical with a message.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this musical adaptation of the Broadway hit will appeal to tweens thanks to stars like Amanda Bynes and High School Musical's Zac Efron. It's a bit tamer than the John Waters original -- there's less cursing and fighting -- but the themes are the same: accepting people's differences, whether because of their looks or their skin color. Kids younger than 11 will miss much of the meaning while still being entertained by the characters and the production. Some of the song lyrics are a tad sexually suggestive: "I won't go all the way/but I'll go pretty far" and "The darker the berry/the sweeter the juice" are just two examples. Since it's set in the early '60s, African Americans are called "Negroes" (and, in one case, "lawn jockeys"). There are a lot of weight-based insults and one case of parental abuse: Mrs. Pingleton literally ties Penny to her bed and calls her a "devil child." In one scene, three "bad girls" are shown smoking in the school bathroom, while adults sit in a smoke-filled teachers' lounge.

  • Families can talk about prejudice and racism. Mrs. Von Tussle assumes that Tracy isn't talented because of her size, but Tracy proves her wrong. Tracy's determination and self esteem are strong despite her weight. How are overweight kids discriminated against today? What about minorities? Even though there's no more segregation, do kids of color get picked on for being different? Kids: What does Tracy teach us about judging people (and their abilities) by their looks? Families who've seen the original (or the Broadway show) can also talk about how this movie is similar to -- and different from -- the other incarnations.

The good stuff
  • message true3

    Messages: Tracy marches in favor of integration. The movie's major theme is seeing beyond people's looks or skin color.

What to watch for
  • violence false0

    Violence: The Baltimore police push and shove African-American demonstrators marching for integration. Mrs. Pingleton ties Penny to her bed.

  • sex false0

    Sex: Link and Tracy kiss; Tracy sings about how she won't "go all the way/but I'll go pretty far" and "French kissing" her crush. Seaweed and Penny kiss and dance together, as do Amber and Link and Tracy and Link. Mrs. Von Tussle throws herself on Mr. Turnblad; Mr. & Mrs. Turnblad embrace.

  • language false3

    Language: Insults about Tracy's weight: "chubby communist," "whale," "fattie," etc. Use of the term "lawn jockeys" in reference to African Americans, as well as the formerly common (and, at the time, accepted) word "Negro." Other racially charged terms include "cracker boy," "race mixing," etc. Penny's mom says "whore" and "devil child."

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Just hairspray...

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false3

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Teens smoke in the girls' bathroom; adults smoke in the teachers' lounge.