Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Making Trash 1 Percent More Acceptable?

I know that time is flying by faster than Lindsay Lohan's career if Hollywood is now remaking movies I remember watching like it was just last week. And doing a crap weasel job of it, if you ask me.

Look, there's little about John Waters's original Hairspray, made in 1988, that could possibly be improved upon today. It was the director's first really "mainstream" film and it starred Waters staples like Divine, as well as some heavy-hitting pop icons: Deborah Harry, Iggy Pop, Pia Zadora. Remember Pia? One of the decade's great It Girls for sure.

So why retread the tire? About the only thing to recommend the new version (not directed by Waters) is Michelle Pfeiffer as Velma Von Tussle, the role originally inhabited by La Harry. Pfeiffer has long been one of my favorite actresses because beneath that California cool chick surface of hers lurks a steely intelligence and just a hint of self mockery. She always seems to be on the verge of busting out a sly smirk, half directed at herself for her public position, half directed at the outside world for stupidly worshiping that position. And any gal who can say, and mean it, "I used to smoke two packs a day and I just hate being a nonsmoker . . . but I will never consider myself a nonsmoker because I always find smokers the most interesting people at the table." has got my vote.

But in the end she can't pull the boat all by herself. Not when John Travolta insists on continuing his quest to become the Queen, uh, sorry, King, of Overblown Emoting. The guy had me once, at Saturday Night Fever. And then promptly lost me forever and ever with Moment By Moment. And no, I did not like him in Pulp Fiction. The only good thing about that drag of a movie was Bruce Willis. And we all know I'd follow Bruce to a film if he were wearing a diamond-encrusted tutu.

Where was I? Oh, yes. Remakes rarely improve upon the original. What they mostly do is fuck with precious memories. The original Hairspray represented Waters at his most giddy. It was trash gone good, maybe even slightly smart, as the movie also managed to make deft commentaries on body imagery and racism without sacrificing all the fun. The remake just burns the gummy image of John Travolta in a fat suit into our brains forever and a day. Nothing Divine about that.

1 comment:

Meghan said...

And no, I did not like him in Pulp Fiction. The only good thing about that drag of a movie was Bruce Willis.

You must be my long-lost sister. Bruce Willis was the only reason to even walk by that movie.

As for Hairspray, I agree that Waters' film is a classic. And, I agree with your WTF?! sentiment on the Travolta front. BUT, I'm always up for remakes of musicals... especially ones as good as Hairspray.