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Hairspray Review

Other Critics provided by

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

  • 4.0

    out of 100

    Generally favorable reviews
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 63

    out of 100

    USA Today Mike Clark

    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.

  • 75

    out of 100

    Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert

    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.

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  • 75

    out of 100

    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]

  • 80

    out of 100

    The New York Times Janet Maslin

    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.

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  • 80

    out of 100

    Wall Street Journal Julie Salamon

    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]

  • 90

    out of 100

    Los Angeles Times Kevin Thomas

    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]

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For Families provided by Common Sense Media

Pause for kids 13 & under

A kitschy teen fantasy you can dance to.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Tracy, the main character, lies to her parents and sneaks off to make out with her boyfriend. She breaks the law by participating in a sit-in for civil rights, and ends up in reform school. A peer spreads lies and rumors about Tracy, including that she's a "whore," was naked in a car, and that she has cockroaches in her hair. Set in the early 1960s, the movie also depicts acts of racism and homophobia. People are called "queer" and "faggots," and a white woman calls Motormouth Maybelle a "native woman," even though she's from Baltimore, too. There is some fighting; Tracy's boyfriend has his legs broken, and another character gets a concussion.

  • Families can talk about Tracy's confidence and determination. How does Tracy react to name-calling and rumors about her? What does she think of her body, and how does it affect her popularity? How do other people react to her body? Why do some of the white characters seem to fear the black characters? Can you think of any examples where the same fear exists today? How have race-relations changed from the time in which the movie is set?

The good stuff
  • message true1

    Messages: Tracy is a great female role model, especially for larger teens (though she does lie to her mother on occasion); despite a constant barrage of racism and homophobia from other characters, the teens fight for what's right -- desegregation.

What to watch for
  • violence false2

    Violence: A fistfight leaves Tracy's boyfriend in a wheelchair, but there's nothing graphic and no blood.

  • sex false0

    Sex: Some heavy petting, and Penny tells Seaweed to "go to second." A beatnick encourages the gang to "take off our clothes and smoke reefer."

  • language false3

    Language: Lots of racial and homophobic epithets and general cursing.

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not applicable

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false2

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: The kids are offered drinks, but they don't take them. Corny Collins drinks from a bottle of liquor.