Generally favorable reviews - based on 14 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 13 out of 14
  2. Negative: 0 out of 14

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Critic Reviews

  1. 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.
  2. Los Angeles Times
    Reviewed by: 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]
  3. 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.
  4. Reviewed by: Noel Murray
    Mar 10, 2014
    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.
  5. 80
    It seems inappropriate to call ick noir auteur Waters a breath of fresh air. But, amid the stale odor of our man-made, musty, Muzaked lives, he's a welcome gust of Renuzit.
  6. Reviewed by: Kim Newman
    Thoroughly charming, and thoroughly deserving of its cult status.
  7. 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.
  8. Wall Street Journal
    Reviewed by: 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]
  9. Time
    Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    See Hairspray. It's light and airy, but it will stick around: the first aerosol movie. [29 Feb 1988, p.101]
  10. 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.
  11. Chicago Tribune
    Reviewed by: Johanna Steinmetz
    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]
  12. Washington Post
    Reviewed by: Rita Kempley
    Hairspray is definitely self-congratulatory, like the message movies it aims to spoof. But there's a sweet morality mixed with the camp clumsiness of this nostalgic goof. Waters couldn't care less about the subtleties of plot or character. He writes and directs the way a kid finger paints. As usual, he's gathered a tantalizing cast from the so-out-they're-in crowd. [26 Feb 1988, p.b1]
  13. USA Today
    Reviewed by: 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.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 15 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 1 out of 1
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 1
  3. Negative: 0 out of 1
  1. KellyW.
    Aug 15, 2007
    It is a wonderful movie if you love musicals. Also if you like love stories or just teenage life'll LOVE the movie. I SURE DID!!