The Flick Chicks

Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews


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Fame – Ineffective Remake Won’t Live Forever

The trouble with remakes is that, undoubtedly, they will be compared to the original…which, of course, brings me to Fame.  With all its potential, possibilities, and promise, sadly this remake, or rather re-imagined (some may prefer calling it re-invented) version of the 1980 musical hit is a major disappointment that no way compares to the classic original.  In its 2009 incarnation, Fame doesn’t hit the mark and has little in common with Christopher Gore’s original Oscar-nominated script directed by Alan Parker, or the popular TV series it spawned, other than the basic premise and setting: the struggles and aspirations of a group of talented students during their four years at the prestigious high school, the New York Academy of Performing Arts (PA).  To begin with, none of the original characters are the same. Instead, they are replaced by a completely different cast of characters portrayed by unknown, fresh faced actors.  

The only returning actor is Debbie Allen. She played a dance teacher in the previous movie version, but is now wasted in a small cameo role as the school’s principal. Other familiar Emmy award winning TV actors that are underutilized in bit parts are Kelsey Grammer as the music teacher, Bebe Neuwirth as dance teacher, Charles S. Dutton as drama teacher, and Megan Mullally as voice teacher.

The movie is broken down into four parts; audition for admission as freshman, followed by sophomore, junior, and senior year through graduation. As the story unfolds we are introduced to several gifted students of different races and ethnicities including a few African Americans and Hispanics, one Asian, and several Waspy white girls and boys; with each struggling through study, hard work, auditions, angst, and personal problems while hoping to fulfill their dream of a career in the arts.

They include Denise (Naturi Naughton) whose conservative, upscale parents want her to be a classical pianist, something she hates, when in her heart she dreams of being a singer.  Malik (Collins Pennie), is an angry, angst ridden, aspiring rapper with issues (is there any other kind?). Insecure, wannabe actress Jenny (Kay Panabaker) has conflicts with her boyfriend, naturally gifted singer Marco (Asher Book). Alice (Sharon Stone lookalike Kherington Payne) is a beautiful, mesmerizing dancer and heart breaker.  Victor (Walter Perez) is her love interest, a keyboard player/composer. Kevin (Paul McGill) is the ballet dancer crushed by disappointment and Neil (Paul Iacono), the son of a butcher, longs to be a successful filmmaker.

The disjointed script by Alison Burnett jumps from one undeveloped character to the next, not allowing the audience any reason to feel connected to or to care about any of them. Most of the acting is weak other than a standout performance by Naughton, who sings her heart out with a strong rendition of “Out Here On My Own”, one of the few songs from the original film.  There is too much talk, not enough memorable musical numbers and most songs are of the rap/hip hop variety. It was a very stupid decision to put the signature theme song “Fame” at the very end, only to hear it sung over the closing credits.

The dancers are all talented, but unfortunately, the dance numbers and choreography are uninspiring. Payne, a former finalist om So You Think You Can Dance is a magnificent dancer and she lights up the screen whenever she is given the chance to show off her amazing dance skills. She is stunning to look at and the camera loves her, but she definitely needs to take some acting lessons if she wants to make it as an actress.

In his debut as a feature film director, Kevin Tancharoen (whose resume includes choreography and music videos) doesn’t deliver the goods.  Rather than being energetic and engaging, his film is cliché driven, burdened by too many storylines, lackluster, unforgettable and a big letdown.  That’s too bad.  It’s a shame that it failed to live up to expectations. Like so many wannabes, it doesn’t have the right stuff.

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