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Barnes & Noble -Whether one sees it as the first and greatest civil rights musical, a loving argument for teen liberation, or a fresh, fun-as-hell excavation of rock and soul arcana, Hairspray remains captivating. Set in Baltimore in 1962 -- effectively making it John Waters's first period film -- the movie follows "pleasantly plump" adolescent Tracy Turnblad Ricki Lake as she goes from fan to star of the Corny Collins Show, a local version of American Bandstand. Her notoriety, outlandish teased hair, and deep love of soul music eventually lead her to revolt against the segregation practiced on the show. Hairspray shimmers with the two qualities that have always graced a Waters film: a bouncy, antisentimental playfulness and a sharp sympathy for rebels and outsiders. Still the director's most accomplished film, Hairspray sports an enviably catchy soundtrack of obscure tunes like "The Bug," "The Roach," and the lovely, Curtis Mayfield-penned rarity "Mama Didn't Lie." The audio commentary from both Waters and Lake is notable for its ironic humor, such as when Lake recalls having to eat to gain the weight she was losing in learning the dances.
Perhaps the story of Pecker is best expressed by a bubbling piece of hamburger seen through photobug Pecker's viewfinder. The heat has been on John Waters for years to decide whether he wants to be sizzling on the fringes of the mainstream or remain in a midnight movie ghetto that barely exists. The story is at once poignant and gently funny: Pecker Edward Furlong works at the Sub Pit, which the owner insists "ain't no art gallery." It becomes one, though, to the tune of New York gallery owner Lili Taylor dropping in to see Pecker's innocent snaps of rats coupling in a garbage can, of his girlfriend Christina Ricci at her laundromat, of a prostitute dry-shaving her legs on a bus. Before he knows it, his pictures are the art market's next big thing. A Vogue photographer is soon profiling Pecker with a self-satisfied smile, stating, "He's poor. He's white. But he sure ain't trash." Pecker ain't trash either, though its normalcy hoodwinked some people into thinking that the Trash Gourmet himself had suddenly switched to haute cuisine this, in spite of despite the full-frontal presence of a very mean lesbian stripper. What Waters achieves here is a renewed sense of warmth and even, gulp, introspection. After all, Pecker does decide to stay in Baltimore.