DVDs: Bonus Points Movies

Say Good Morning to Baltimore

By JEN CHANEY
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2007

"Hairspray" might be the happiest movie of 2007. This infectious look at the politics behind an early '60s dance show, based on the hit Broadway musical that was in turn based on the 1988 John Waters movie, brims over with enough energy to light up the entire city of Baltimore. Even the fact that John Travolta -- in drag and a fat suit as plus-size mama Edna Turnblad -- looks like a Caucasian reject from "Nutty Professor II: The Klumps" doesn't detract from all the fun. In fact, Travolta's much-hyped role is just one small (no pun intended) part of this deliriously dizzy spectacle; other members of the cast, including Elijah Kelley, Zac Efron, Queen Latifah, James Marsden and newcomer Nikki Blonsky, shine just as brightly as the former "Grease" star does.

Great musicals like this one invite repeat viewings. And that makes the "Shake & Shimmy Edition" DVD ($34.98), released today, well worth owning. Fortunately, this two-disc set also delivers hours of extra material that mesh perfectly with the movie's gleeful sensibilities (and yes, girls, they include lots and lots of footage of tween heartthrob Efron), making this a no-brainer holiday gift for anyone who relishes a great song-and-dance number.

Those features include a pair of commentary tracks; two documentaries; six deleted or extended scenes, including a beautifully-sung Blonsky number that got cut from the film; behind-the-scenes footage of rehearsals; and an excellent breakdown of two of the dances from the movie. Maryland natives and fans of the original John Waters production will especially appreciate "The Roots of 'Hairspray,'" a 40-minute overview of the "Hairspray" phenomenon featuring reminscences from former dancers on "The Buddy Deane Show," John Waters, Rikki Lake (the original movie's star) and the creators of the Tony Award-winning Broadway show.

Of course, not every moment on the DVD is a gem. The commentary track with Shankman and Blonsky, as well as sections of the nearly 90-minute doc "You Can't Stop the Beat," focus so heavily on how "wonderful" and "talented" everyone involved in the production is that some viewers may start to feel nauseous. But overall, the DVD leans more toward the fabulous than the flawed. Indeed, fans of one of this summer's major movie hits -- it's now one of the highest-grossing musicals of all time -- will happily sing out "Good Morning, Baltimore" every time they press "play."

Most Subversive Bonus Point: It's true that some of the sharper edges from the John Waters version of "Hairspray" have been sanded down for the 2007 take. Fortunately "The Roots of 'Hairspray'" sneaks in some tidbits about that production, including Lake's confession that she started to lose weight because of all the dancing she did during rehearsals, which prompted some panic on the set. "They would literally chase me around with Dove bars ... they called it Fat Patrol," she laughs. Waters followers may also appreciate the way he summarizes his filmogaphy: "My career prior to 'Hairspray' was underground movies that generally played to audiences that were on marijuana at midnight."

Most Danceable Bonus Point: When two of the movie's assistant choreographers walk viewers through combinations from a pair of key dance scenes, they aren't fooling around. Unlike similar features on other DVDs, these steps are actually somewhat challenging, so get ready to shake, shimmy and sweat.

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Also Available This Week

Before you watch him play Bob Dylan in "I'm Not There," see Christian Bale as a prisoner of war in "Rescue Dawn" on DVD today. For more options, check out this full list of today's DVD debuts.

Coming Next Week

Hungry for pie? You'll crave it even more after watching the truly sweet "Waitress," on DVD next Tuesday. For a full calendar of what's coming to DVD in the weeks ahead, click here.

Recently Announced

Releases worth marking on the calendar:

  • "The Invasion" fizzled in theaters, but the "Body Snatchers" remake gets another chance to snatch your attention when it comes to DVD Jan. 8.
  • Prepare your tissues: "An Affair to Remember: 50th Anniversary Edition" brings the heart-breaking romance between Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr to DVD Jan. 15.
  • The rom-cul-com (that's romantic, culinary comedy) "No Reservations" debuts on Feb. 12, just in time for Valentine's Day.
  • The documentary "Lake of Fire" from controversy-courting director Tony Kaye arrives on March 11.
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PHOTOS: 'Hairspray' -- New Line/'Rescue Dawn' -- MGM/Fox

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