I’m gonna live forever? Fat chance. How can you expect to live forever when your target audience will lose interest the moment they hit puberty? The new Fame has a new rating and ultimately it’s that PG rating that does it in. The grittiness of the R-rated original is gone and we’re left with a slew of contrived storylines that will never hold up for fans of the 1980 version. The original film is iconic but moviegoers will forget its successor by the end of the weekend. Fame isn’t a movie for the generations, it’s one for the youths. Face it; these are the days of High School Musical.
Fame is not a movie you can sum up in one paragraph. We all know the basic premise passed down from the original film; a bunch of aspiring performers study for four years at a New York City High School of Performing Arts. We meet the players on audition day and see what happens up until they graduate. Now for the hard part, all the damn stereotypes – er, I mean characters.
The only way to go about nailing all the details is going character-by-character. Let’s start with Jenny (Kay Panabaker), an acting student having trouble breaking free of her inhibitions and her flame Marco (Asher Book), an incredible singer who seems to breeze his way through school. Then there’s Denise Dupree (Naturi Naughton) whose father pressures her into studying classical piano at PA but deep down she wants to sing. Luckily she has Victor (Walter Perez) and Malik (Collins Pennie) to give her a nudge to defy daddy and recruit her to sing on the hip-hop track they’re working on. After relocating to NYC from Iowa, Kevin (Paul McGill) quickly learns he might not have what it takes to be a professional ballet dancer while Alice (Kherington Payne) is at the top of the class. Comic relief comes from Joy (Anna Maria Perez de Tagle), a girl with a knack for acting but not for academics and Neil (Paul Iacono), a wannabe director with a major goofy side.
Odds are, if I gave you a quiz right now about the last paragraph, you’d have no clue who anyone is. That’s what kills the first half of the movie. You can’t ‘remember their names.’ The entire audition segment is like a music video on speed. There is zero character development and really no point to this portion of the film. We get that they’re auditioning to get into school and it’s a very selective process; now move on! That rocky start puts freshman and sophomore year in a haze. You’re still not exactly sure what each character’s deal is and are starting to lose interest all together. There’s no defining moment of inspiration but at some point in the middle of the movie you catch yourself empathizing with the characters and the film becomes somewhat endearing.
Keep in mind; anything positive about Fame I’ve just mentioned stems from accepting the film as a musical for teenagers. I wouldn’t liken it too much to High School Musical. Not that I enjoyed HSM immensely, but what makes HSM work better than Fame is its sense of humor. Fame is certainly not a comedy but its PG rating keeps it from getting too dramatic. This is a no smoking movie. There is no grit or depth to this film and in no way does it resemble the school from the original; well, except for the whole singing and dancing part. Even when Fame stirs up some drama with serious issues like sexual assault and suicide, they’re completely glazed over and immediately forgotten.
The highlight of Fame is the performances and by performances I mean the singing and dancing. The acting isn’t terrible, but it’s difficult to bring life a lifeless character. Everyone in the cast gets credit for trying except one, Payne. Payne didn’t have one line of dialogue in the beginning of the film. I was just about to label her a mute and then it happened; she spoke. I wish she played a mute. The So You Think You Can Dance vet is a phenomenal dancer but should keep it at that. Another character who should stick with her talent is Naughton, not because her acting stinks but because damn, she can sing. Think Lauren Hill in Sister Act 2.
And no, I didn’t forget about Bebe Nuewirth, Kelsey Grammer, Megan Mullally or Debbie Allen. Minus an impressive tune belted out by Mullally, they’re barely in the film.