Saturday, July 26, 2008

Hairspray II: What I Did For Money

There are some stories that welcome an addition to the journey already told. Take, for example, X-Men, which practically screamed to have a sequel because of the nature of the characters and stories.

Most stories survive on the idea that the plot itself is one chunk of time in the characters’ lives. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is about that one great time we got took. The Wedding Singer is about how we met. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is about a spelling bee.

Only certain stories require additional chapters. I have no doubt that characters with mutant powers would have many interesting events happen in their lives, but the spunky, chubby girl who integrates television should only have on amazing life story.

It’s like with Pocahontas. Yes, the Disney movie. I always adored that movie, but the idea of a Pocahontas II was ludicrous. The appeal of the first one was a Romeo and Juliet story, two people whose destinies were meant to be entwined but were forever parted by two-sided ethnocentrism and fear. Juliet can survive the ordeal and later get married to someone else happily ever after. There’s a reason we never learn much about Kate Winslet’s character’s marriage in the movie Titanic—because you can’t assume she loses Leonardo DiCaprio only to gain Brad Pitt. It’s not so touching an ending when you know there’s something great just around the river bend.

So, let’s count the ways Hairspray II could really screw up Hairspray.

1. We know Tacy and Link aren’t going to get married because they’re high school students. Then what happens next of any interest? Link runs off to college with Penny?

2. What journey does Edna take? She’s learned to not be ashamed of her weight . . . Does she now take up the cause for ugly women everywhere?

3. Tracy becomes a do-er when she sees a problem that needs fixing. What issue arises next?—protesting the war, rising divorce rates, prayer in school? Enough sequels, and she’ll become the first chubby congresswoman in Maryland.

4. One of the cast members doesn’t return, and then we’re stuck with sequelitis—the case of the unexplained disappearance of a character because of budget or scheduling problems.

I have faith that Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman will create a top-notch score of songs, like they always do. I just don’t have faith that they will be supporting a story that warrants them or a story that won’t work against the magic of the original.

the Broadway Mouth
July 26, 2008

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