Monday, September 28, 2009

Movie Review: Fame

Fame **
Directed By:
Written By: Allison Burnett based on the 1980 film.
Starring: Naturi Naughton (Denise), Kay Panabaker (Jenny), Anna Maria Perez de Tagle (Joy), Kherington Payne (Alice), Walter Perez (Victor Taveras), Paul McGill (Kevin), Paul Iacono (Neil Baczynsky), Asher Book (Marco), Collins Pennie (Malik), Kelsey Grammer (Joel Cranston), Megan Mullally (Fran Rowan), Bebe Neuwirth (Lynn Kraft), Charles S. Dutton (Alvin Dowd), Debbie Allen (Principal Simms).

Fame is a movie that takes itself too seriously to be fun, and yet is too clich├ęd and scattershot to be taken seriously. While I wouldn’t say that it is a terrible movie, it is a movie that I found hard to get too involved in. There are so many characters that appear and disappear constantly, that the film never really builds momentum. Yes, there is some good music and dance sequences, but it is not nearly enough to make it a satisfying.

I guess I should mention off the bat that I have never seen the original Fame - the 1980 Oscar winner for Best Song, and one of the most loved musicals of that decade. Musicals are the one genre that I have never fully warmed to, even if I do appreciate them a lot more than I used to. But, I still have a lot of them to catch up with, and this is one I have just never had the time to see. So, I cannot really compare this movie to the original.

This movie however, about four years in the lives of students at the New York School for Performing Arts tries to cram so much into its two hour running time that it never really does any of its storylines justice. The movie opens on “Audition Day” where a group of kids, who are supposed to be around 13 or 14 (but look to be in their mid-20s for the most part) try and get accepted to the school. We meet a group of them who make the cut. Denise (Naturi Naughton) a classical pianist who really wants to sing, but does not want to disappoint her strict parents. Jenny (Kay Panabaker) is an aspiring actress who needs to learn to loosen up. She has a crush on Marco (Asher Book), who is a natural performer. Joy (Anna Maria Perez de Tagle) is a cutie, and also an aspiring actress. Alice (Kherington Payne) is a bored rich girl, who wants to be a dancer. Victor (Walter Perez) is a musician, who really wants to be a producer and do his own thing. Kevin (Paul McGill) is an aspiring ballerina who just may just not have enough talent. Malik (Collins Pennie) is a black kid from the ghetto trying to express his anger. Finally there is Neil Baczynsky (Paul Iacono) who wants to be the next Martin Scorsese, and maybe slightly too trusting for his own good. These, and a few other, characters revolve around each other for two hours, fighting for screen time. Some of them get more than they deserve, and others far less.

The problem with the movie is that it tries to cram so much into two hours that none of the characters truly get a chance to develop. The closest the movie comes to a fully developed character is Jenny, the shy girl. She apparently learns to loosen up during the course of the movie, but the only real indication of this is that she starts wearing her hair down instead of in a the tight braid she had at the beginning of the film. But at least her and Marco’s relationship has a few stages to it. Victor and Alice apparently date for two years, and yet we only see them together twice - once when they get together and the next time when they are breaking up. It’s hard to care when you never feel like you truly know the characters. Another characters apparent suicide attempt is even less emotional, since we had barely seen him at all since Freshman year.

Yet, there are things to like about the film. There are quite a few fun dance numbers and even if director KevinTancharoen, over directs at times (way too much slow motion), but they still do some interesting things with them. The music is also quite good. The performances are, for the most part, are quite good given the limitations placed on them by the screenplay.

Fame is certainly not a boring movie. There is always something happening, and the individual scenes can be very entertaining. But they never really come together to make a cohesive story. I’m sure for people who want to see nothing more than music and dance, then Fame will be a popular movie. For anyone who wants a more complete motion picture experience though, Fame is going to disappoint.

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