Friday movie roundup & milestone celebration – July 20

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This week’s new films are “Hairspray” and “I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry.” So, you know, it’s a big week for the gays.

“Hairspray” is as delightful, upbeat, and entertaining a musical as has been produced in many, many years. Having seen the Broadway version, in which the gravel-voiced Harvey Fierstein played overweight housewife Edna Turnblad and earned a laugh every time he opened his mouth, I was skeptical about John Travolta taking the role for the movie. It didn’t help, of course, that nearly everything Travolta has done in the last 10 years has been horrific, and that the same applied to the director, Adam Shankman, whose previous work includes “The Pacifer,” “The Wedding Planner,” and “Cheaper by the Dozen 2.”

So you can imagine my rapturous surprise, then, when both the director and the actor proved to be just right, as is the entire film. It’s a genuinely positive, happy, feel-good movie, in the best possible way. If you come out of it and you’re not humming, then you must have done something wrong. Go back in and watch it again.

As for “I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry,” in which Adam Sandler and Kevin James are two straight men who get married in order to secure pension benefits, it’s far more interesting for what it isn’t than for what it is. It’s not two hours of dumb-guy jokes about gays, which is what you’d expect, and what the trailers make it out to be. It’s actually a rather heavy-handed “message” comedy about tolerance and acceptance. And I’m all for tolerance and acceptance, but would it kill you to be funny about it, too?

“Hairspray” is also about tolerance and acceptance, specifically of black people and/or fat people, though all other groups are implied, too. And it’s a great example of a film with a “message” that doesn’t come across as preachy. It’s nothing but fun.

Weird side note: In “Chuck & Larry,” the main characters’ last names are Levine and Valentine — which are also the last names of the lead singer and guitarist in Maroon 5. Coincidence?? Probably! Unless Adam Sandler and company are big Maroon 5 fans.

(I make no apologies for knowing the last names of two of the members of Maroon 5, by the way. James Valentine is the brother of one of my best friends, and how often do I get to brag about that? Not often enough!)

This week’s podcast edition of “In the Dark” can be heard here, and you can sign up for the e-mail version here.

Finally, in the Meaningless Milestone Department, “Hairspray” is my 2,000th movie review! If each review weighed a pound, there would now be exactly one ton of movie reviews on this site. I can’t promise you quality, but quantity — that, I can give you.

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