Thursday, September 24, 2009

This Fame Deliver's Flash But No Substance

A reinvention of the original Oscar-winning hit film, "Fame" follows a talented group of dancers, singers, actors, and artists over four years at the New York City High School of Performing Arts, a diverse, creative powerhouse where students from all walks of life are given a chance to live out their dreams and achieve real and lasting fame, the kind that comes only from talent, dedication, and hard work. In an incredibly competitive atmosphere, plagued by self-doubt, each student's passion will be put to the test.

In addition to their artistic goals, the students have to deal with everything else that goes along with high school, a tumultuous time full of schoolwork, deep friendships, budding romance, and self-discovery. As each student strives for his or her moment in the spotlight, they’ll discover who among them has the innate talent and necessary discipline to succeed. With the love and support of their friends and fellow artists, they’ll find out who amongst them will achieve Fame. Many of the students who make the schools limited availability are talented to start with, but by the time the movie ends we see them performing as if they are major stars, what we don't see is how they got so good.

Jenny Garrison (Kay Panabaker) has the look of the scared fish out of water, Marco (Asher Book) has some experience singing in his fathers restaurant. Malik Washburn (Collins Pennie) has a deep anger toward life and he thinks that the stage is the best place to expel this anger, his best friend in the school is Victor Taveras (Walter Perez) who has a talent and an ear for music. They discover the one true bright star amongst the group, Denise Dupree (Naturi Naughton) whose music ability is clearly the best, it also doesn't hurt that her voice is like that of an angels. These are the best students that are showcased, there are several others that we learn of but not about. The Iowa farm boy Kevin (Paul McGill), the spunkiest student, Joy (Anna Maria Perez de Tagle), the best dancer Alice Ellerton (Kherington Payne) and the aspiring film director, Neil (Paul Iacono). The cast of teachers is eclectic in and of itself, The ballerina teacher Ms. Kraft (Bebe Neuwirth) the music teacher Mr. Martin Cranston (Kelsey Grammer) the vocal teacher Ms. Fran Rowan (Megan Mullally) the drama teacher Mr. James Dowd (Charles S. Dutton) and of course the principle Ms. Angela Simms (Debbie Allen). To whom I say welcome back.

The cast is the best thing this movie has to offer, the soundtrack is a collection of both old and new songs that have a nice beat and are catchy. The performances are amazing in that the talent that it takes to perform on cue is hard on its own, but to perform over and over again on a directors cue is even harder. The ending concert performance is one of the best, the graduation performance is a mix of all the students talents brought together as one act. The little we do see of the students seems thrown together, we don't see as the student progresses from scared beginner to talented musician, singer or dancer. Too bad, that alone would have made this a better picture to sit through, as it is though, unless you go to just see the dancers dance, the singers sing and expect no plot then this movie should be put last on what may be an already long list of must see movies.

I give Fame a 2 and on my avoidance scale a 1, musical work so well if the performances of the leads work and in this movie they do, barely. they also work if the songs have a nice beat and the songs here have that in spades. What Fame lacks is an interest in the characters, we see nothing of their home lives except in little snippets and here that just isn't enough. This movie will make a great addition to your DVD library, where you can watch it over and over again at your leisure.

Fame is rated PG for Thematic Material including Teen Drinking, Sexual Situations and Language.
Running time is 1 hr. 47 mins.

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