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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
At the time of its release, the original FAME (1980) was out of my
demographic - I was too young to appreciate the tribulations of 70's
high schoolers balancing schoolwork and performing arts and aiming for
their fifteen minutes. In this tepid remake - now I'm too old to care.
Kevin Tancharoen helms this rushed production that flits through so many story lines and characters at the New York School of Performing Arts, it implodes with two-dimensionality.
Main character is young, nominally talented Jenny (Kay Panabaker, who looks like she's still waiting for her period), so inept at the performing arts, we wonder how she ever got in. We discover later she didn't even sleep her way in, so which authority did her rich daddy pay off? Other characters orbit, trying to cover every angle on parent-kid tropes: the talented kid stultified by parents; the parents trying to channel their kid's talent in another direction; the kid hiding their scholarship from parents...
We see the cons, the competitiveness, the crises, as film scrambles through Audition Day, Freshman Year, Sophomore Year, ultimately failing to convey the tedium of practice, the long hours of dedication, the added burden of schoolwork, the sacrifices de rigueur in becoming any kind of artist. Well, I guess all these annoying extroverted snots are just looking for "fame" - not art. As evidenced by the impromptu cafeteria jam which will leave you feeling dirty.
Veteran cast (Charles S. Dutton, Kelsey Grammar, Bebe Neuwirth) don't have much to do except pretend to be teachers, which Grammar of course, pulls off most eloquently - everything he says sounds didactic. After claiming the school is highly coveted, we wonder at the mediocrities who were turned away when tin-eared Jenny plods insensibly through a vocal rendition of Someone To Watch Over Me like a little girl who's never been touched by either a boy or her pedophile uncle. (People clamor to get into a school that accepts people like HER?) Then pretty-like-a-girl Marco (Asher Book) gets up and sings it like he's remembering being touched by a boy or his pedophile uncle. Compare their renditions to that of Jean Louisa Kelly (and whoever performed her singing voice) in MR. HOLLAND'S OPUS - an amazing performance sung with the truest emotion of desperately needing a willy in her mouth.
The annoying conceptual mistake all movies of this ilk make: "talent = fame." No. Talent simply equals talent. The vagaries of the industry denote either landing in the pathway to greatness or nibbling at the periphery. Talent helps, fershure, but is not the magic key to any door.
And "holding onto your dreams" is no guarantee of success. Likewise, "letting go of your dreams" is no guarantee of failure.
The Kids playfully harass one of their vocal teachers who proves her mettle at Karaoke (which, to my knowledge, proves nothing more than you're a douchebag), asking her why she didn't stick to being a vocalist. Whatever that means - remaining a starving musician, I guess. They infer that inherent talent guarantees success. Or at least fame. As long as you "hold onto your dreams." This demonstrable bull is so egregious that I let my dreams out of their titanium prison and told them if they wanted to get held so much they should seek therapy.
The way the untalented character (Paul McGill) is castigated, movie is telling us that lack of talent equals futility in achieving fame. Also demonstrably untrue: Paris Hilton, The White House party-crashing Salahis, balloon boy's father, George W. Bush, Milli Vanilli, William Hung, Ed Wood, Rob Schneider, and most of the kids in this movie.
Yet "hold onto your dreams" is shoved down our throats like a pedophile uncle's penis, not taking into account that Paul McGill's character was just told to let go of his dreams, being so untalented he is advised to become a teacher! Those who can't do, teach, right? But what if HE held onto his dream of being a dancer? Well, he already IS a dancer - just not a "famous" one. And fame is all that counts.
Regrettably true. More people know the brainless Rush Limbaugh than the acute Stephen Jay Gould. There is more fame for the talentless winner of American Idol than for the talented writer of the song he sang.
Most of us teachers and musicians and composers get tagged "wannabes" and "failed musicians" at some point in our lives if we're not famous enough for the insulter to know us outside of their jejune existence. What we are is "Failed FAMOUS Musicians" - through no one's fault (especially not ours, since - as FAME tells us - Talent=Fame, and we've always had the talent) we've failed to become well known enough for Jejune to appreciate who we are.
The original 1980 theme song, Fame (performed by Irene Cara, written by Michael Gore and Dean Pitchford) conveyed what it was all about - narcissism. "Give me time, I'll make you forget the rest / Don't you know who I am? / Remember my name! / I wanna live forever..."
There's nothing in this film that captures that egotism. And the urgent disco stylings of Cara's version are completely ignored, in favor of two of this film's overactors (Naturi Naughton and Collins Pennie) performing a limp hip-hop rehash as an outro fadeout.
Keep searching for your fifteen minutes, kids. Appearing in this film will just make you Failed Famous Actors...
There. Review done. Over. That's it.
Okay, okay, I guess I should say a bit more here. Well, I'm old enough to remember, and to remember having enjoyed, the older incarnation of "Fame" with the movie and TV show. It wasn't perfect but it was pretty good stuff, all about the perils of reaching for the stars while the fates are throwing hail at you.
So I wondered just what they would do with the remake and how gritty it would get (my memory is a bit hazy but I'm pretty sure that when the series was on TV it was such a big hit because it wasn't all spangles and stardust).
It's just terrible. The adults/teachers are very, very good (with the most memorable characters played by Kelsey Grammar, Bebe Neuwirth, Megan Mullally and Charles S. Dutton) but the kids are simply interchangeable, a bunch of stereotypes walking around in skin sacks. There's the dreamy director who wants to act to know the whole process better (and how he ever passed his audition I'll never know though, to be fair, he made me laugh a few times), the girl made to perfect her craft at the cost of everything else, the dedicated actress naive enough to think that it's just acting talent people are after, the angry young black rapper, the classical musician who produces phat beats, etc, etc.
I didn't really care for any of the people I saw on screen. Time passed by too quickly to work up any concern for their particular problems in any one term and everyone had roughly the same amount of highs and lows. Bizarrely, things never really got gritty. In fact, it felt like a diluted version of the old series crossed over with a number of "big number" moments designed with the Pop Idol generation in mind (Kevin Tancharoen showing why he got the gig, perhaps). Which is just sad.
Yes, there are other good points. I thought Kay Panabaker was okay, I really liked Walter Perez and Naturi Naughton and Kherington Payne can't half dance but the movie spreads these plus points amongst far too much dross. Oh, the "Carn-Evil" sequence was bright and lively, shame it was the only though.
See this if you like: Fame, High School Musical, Step Up.
Somewhere, someone took an awful turn and decided that the original
"Fame," a seminal work, wasn't good enough and made it into an episode
of "Hannah Montana."
But this did confirm that dancing and singing have in fact gotten worse in 30 years. At best, 2009 has nothing new to offer.
The final insult is the "we worked so hard" in the 2009 version compared to the grandeur of "I sing the body electric." And the "African" drums are just a PC waste of everyone's time.
Millennial self-referential claptrap.
At best it is a sad shadow of what was before.
At worst it is the best the millennials have to offer.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
My best friend saw it before I did, and she thought it was amazing, so
when we went to see it together, I was really looking forward to it.
However, within the first half an hour, I was bored out of my skull. I
had expected it to be like the original series, which according to my
parents was "fab", but, it most definitely was not.
There were parts which I think were meant to be funny, or scary ( SPOILER:>>> when the boy almost jumped in front of the train) yet it all seemed like it was filled with an anti-climax. If being in the cinema audience made it seem any better, well, I'm not going to rush out to buy the DVD. I don't mean any offence to the director etc, but it didn't live up to my expectations
The original "Fame" (the 1980 movie), really affected me at the time it
appeared. The reason is, I think, is that the coming of age of young
people as artists is much grander than the ordinary sexual awakening.
It is driven by deeper urges, and when you see the spectrum (drama,
music, dance), some of them are unfulfilled by all of us.
It was extremely well made. It had fantastic songs, lots of interwoven stories with characters that we learned enough about to care (by film standards). What drove the whole enterprise was the open, free energy of these kids. Every one of them burst with connective energy, promiscuously taking risks that are noted several times in the script. The final number is one of the most rousing experiences in filmed song, this despite coming close to the then pervasive Coke "we are the world" meme.
Now this. It is equally amazing. I highly recommend it, especially if you are susceptible to the urge to connect and matter. It shares many of the same plot points, sometimes curiously morphed. It has kids, songs, dancing, performance, etc. But none of the things that worked in the original do here. It isn't a matter of a failed attempt; rather the filmmakers deliberately decided a different strategy.
What happened here, is that instead of investing in the kids, who they are and what they do, the film invests in the space between the movie and us. Its the camera that has energy. Its the images themselves that have character. Its the rhythm of the thing that inserts itself. The yearning is in your desire to enter the thing. It is pretty darn amazing, not just because of the effectiveness of the cinema, but because of the clear intent to transform the energy from the sender to the contract with the receiver.
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When I entered the movie theater and realized that "Alvin and the
Chipmunks: The Squeakuel" and "Old Dogs" were being advertised before
this movie began I knew I was in for a real treat.
But, I haven't seen the original, so I knew I wouldn't be "tainted" by that; I'm just judging on the movie by itself here. And lemme tell you folks, it's pretty impressive.
We begin with promising characters that go no where and stay one dimensional and barely learn anything about them, yet we're supposed to be moved when one of their dreams doesn't become a full reality. Wait- what? The dancing, although slightly impressive, is nothing out of the ordinary. The "best dancer" in the school is alright, but nothing that would be gasp-worthy. And yes, yes, I know she was on "So You Think You Can Dance," but did she win? No. And apparently she can't act either.
None of the actors look like believable high schoolers and the school has an unlimited amount of funding (and I'm in a high school for preforming arts, so I would know.) Half of my fellow students in my drama class could out act this newcomers. Although, to their credit, they didn't have much do go on; the script is as thin as it gets.
And, to make matters worse, the singing isn't very impressive either. They all had the same sort of robotic- Hannah Montana/HSM type of nasal tone that we've all heard before on Radio Disney; it's old. We came for great performances, not an even WORSE High School Musical copy pretending to be- well, "Fame". Why should I care about these characters? So far none of them seem very special to me (although the black girl, I forgot her name, now THERE'S a singer. The rest? Mediocre at best.) Where's all the edge of highschool? No drugs? No sex? Why are these kids so clean? One drinking scene, and one "almost rape" scene, which really didn't seem that scandalous at all. Wow, one "gangsta" kid, real impressive and original guys. Wasn't expecting that. And the black girl who can sing hip-hop, and the closeted depressed gay guy, and the over-the-top dramatic film kid, these aren't predictable, no sirree. Why aren't these kids in a real crisis, and why the hell is the drama teacher a counselor? This movie is choppily edited, and for some reason it goes super fast (and not in a good way.) None of the years are distinguishable from another.
The absolute worst part? They cut "I Sing the Body Electric" for some crappy "believe in yourself" song. At that point I left the theater, because A) I had to pee and B) I was tired of being sold short. I didn't care anything about the characters well being, and when the gay dancing boy tried to off himself, I sincerely hoped he would succeed. And then all the kids, one by one, would jump in front of the subway to end the movie in a more interesting manner then how it began. And then the filmmaker kid would say, "And cut" and jump dramatically into the subway and die a slow death, and the "Fame" theme song (not the terrible remake, the original by Irene Cara) would play behind his demise. Now THAT'S an ending.
In full? It felt like an afterschool special. A really bad one. From the 80's. The movie was going for a reaction, but with too many one-sided characters and no real emotions, I had no reaction. It was stupid bubblegum fluff advertising itself as a great dance movie, the next "Fame." Well, it wasn't "Fame" at all. It was "Shame."
Yeah it's pretty watered down, easily digestible, non-memorable
tripe... just like most remakes. Annoyed I paid money to see this in
the theater, as opposed to accidentally stumbling onto it on HBO or
something, but I didn't have much else to do so I went in with the
right expectations. Some of the players in the film do seem to have
talent, but the characters were very blah for the most part. Gets an
extra star because Charles S. Dutton is the man, no matter what role he
Overall, doesn't hold a candle to the original, which gives a better look at how life at a performing arts school would be. As opposed to this one which shows how life at a performing arts school directed by the guy who directs Britney Spears videos would be.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Did this remake want to be a remake? It was hard to tell. The
characters were different but some of their stories were similar, the
fantastic musical score of the original film was largely ignored, and
the film seemed to go out of its way to cover up the fact that
Performing Arts is a New York City institution. None of the kids had
New York accents, the girl who played Jenny was so miscast as the Doris
Vinsecker mimic she should have sprouted pigtails and been jet-packed
to middle America where she obviously belonged, and the street scenes
pinpointing New York as the locale for this movie were minimal. There
was a shot of Webster Hall and some karaoke venue I'm not familiar
with, but the bright yellow taxis and the lights of Broadway were
mostly kept under wraps.
Don't get me started on character development!! There was none. Did you care when the girl who gets the gig with the modern dance company dumps her brokenhearted fellow PA student boyfriend? Why should you? They only appear together in 2 scenes prior to their breakup: when he is admiring her from afar as she dances a solo and when she invites him to a dinner with her parents to annoy them. When the black girl (loosely modeled after the Coco character in the original) breaks into "Out Here on My Own," you want to laugh because she's all the opposite: the product of a domineering father and passive mother who forbid her to do anything but continue on the classical pianist career path they launched her on. She's not out there on her own; she's being double-teamed by her stuffy parents and left to suffocate in an oppressive home environment. Ditto for other characters as well. We are left to wonder about many characters' emotional states because we haven't been made privy to what led up to them.
Embracing the original score (with added genres to be true to present day) might have saved this flick. Including "Out Here On My Own," erroneously crooned in the middle of the movie, and the feeble salute to its namesake at the end when "Fame" plays over the credits, didn't do it for me. The new music introduced in this film isn't remarkable or memorable, just like the film itself.
I'm surprised that such talented actors as Kelsey Grammar, Debbie Allen, Bebe Neuwirth, and Megan Mullally wanted to appear in this swill of a film. And maybe they didn't, because their portrayals of the four key administrators at this school were half-hearted and lifeless. For a school overflowing with creativity, the faculty had the personalities of sponge mops.
And speaking of creativity, the original film was dead on depicting the students as lovable narcissistic ego maniacs passionate about the craft they hoped to perfect. There was none of that here. The film passes through these students' four years at PA without even a hint that they've mastered their craft or matured in any way.
In short, the writing was bad, the acting was worse, the direction was missing in action, the editing was in sleep mode, and the score was a snore. Go rent the original. It might be a little dated but it's one fantastic ride. When the students regale the graduation audience at the end with "The Body Electric," you are moved because you've come to care about the kids and their angst-filled four years at the High School of Performing Arts. Furthermore, you want to celebrate their triumph with them. If not, "The Body Electric" is one dynamic musical piece and worth the price of admission alone.
I've read the comments and most of them were criticizing Fame. well, everyone has their opinion, but Fame is not THAT bad right? though i didn't watch the original one; compared to twilight(no offence), i think it's much better. of course, the total of 10 main characters was really...wow. pretty confusing, the movie just showed bits and bits of the characters' life in PA here and there, and the time line was too fast. overall, it was good. i love the music and dance performances, especially the one at the café and when Macro was singing. few comments above, someone said Macro's voice was bad. Seriously! is yr singing THAT good? not trying to bash someone, but i kind of feel offended. sorry! :/ well, despite some bad parts of the movie, i still love it :) just my two cents.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First of all I have never reviewed a film before, but just felt the
need to tell others not to waste their time on this film.
Also, don't think that just because it has a PG rating that its a film for kids, it isn't! I took my 10 year old daughter with me, as she usually enjoys a bit of singing and dancing and she was thoroughly bored. I feel sorry for all the mums with even younger children who kept asking "is it finished yet?" The setting for the film was not pleasant, an old and dirty performing arts school set in Chicago, which including the dull characters proved nothing pleasing to the eyes.
The school seemed to do nothing for its students, in the 3 years that it portrayed in 140minutes, apart from make them want to commit suicide, which one tried to do (I heard another child ask her mum "why is he trying to do that" to which the mother replied "because he was sad", its great what these films teach our children these days, its OK to jump in front of a train when you feel sad!!!!) Usually I try to look for something good in films that I have watched, but just cant think about anything that would make me recommend this film.
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