The premise behind Undiscovered is nothing new. Coyote Ugly did it in a bar. Raise Your Voice did it in a summer boarding school. Young, talented singer/songwriter moves away from home to find his or her destiny in the real world, finds it harder than they expected yet still overcomes all odds and some internal fears to miraculously achieve their life hopes and dreams. Undiscovered is simply rehashing old ground, but it sets the story to a little L.A. music lounge called “The Mint” and does a much better job than any of the others of making an hour and half feel like an eternity.
Take a group of twenty-somethings out to make careers as singers or actors then drop them in L.A. with a formulaic plot and you have the gist of the movie. Boy wants to be a rock star. Girl likes boy. Girl helps boy become rock star. Boy ditches girl. Boy’s two week career as rock star fails. Boy comes back to find girl gone. So on and so forth. There’s very little about the storyline to intrigue the imagination and Undiscovered is left to rely on its actors, dialogue and music to make up for its simplistic plot. The talent pool comes up too shallow to satisfy.
The interesting dilemma with this film is wondering whether to be more embarrassed for the actors or the writer. This collective group of young artists are constantly spouting phrase after phrase of bumper-sticker psychology, all the while playing it off as deeply profound secrets of life. Perhaps it’s an intentional choice since the movie’s two older and wiser characters, played by Carrie Fisher and Peter Weller, contrast all the silliness with relatively meaningful and entertaining tidbits and observations. Too bad their screen time is minimal.
Pell James and Kip Pardue play Luke Falcon and Brier Tucket the aforementioned boy and girl. Despite the soap opera names and situations they’re given to play, the two have all the chemistry of vinegar and baking soda. That could very well be more the fault of their director, Meiert Avis. Avis has spent most of his career directing music videos and he seems to have tripped up a bit making the switch to feature film. The only scenes that really work are the songs and montages, which occur all too frequently. At some point you start to feel like the movie is on MTV and like an episode of “Beavis and Butthead” is regularly interrupted for promos or rock videos.
The rest of the cast seem to be trying their best, but it’s too little, too rarely. The script, which is writer John Galt’s first stab at a screen production, leaves too much for the disjointed cast to cover. Interestingly enough, Ashlee Simpson makes a modestly impressive showing, doing no worse than her leading co-stars. She seems to have reversed roles with older sister, Jessica. While Jessica’s music career and singing talent are beyond Ashlee’s grasp (although her songs in the movie aren’t completely terrible), the younger sibling steps out of the shadow of big sister’s role-winning assets and holds her own on the screen without having to rely on an uncanny ability to act like a busty blonde.
The movie isn’t a total loss. It’s pathetically fun to watch Pell James’ hair change with his character’s mental state. There’s a skate boarding dog. Fisher Stevens provides terribly out of place but much needed comic relief as over-the-top producer Garrett Schweck. There even seems to be one good, profound line from Peter Weller towards the end of the film. I missed the first part of it as my brain wasn’t able to snap out of MTV drone mode until half way through the speech, but what I absorbed was interesting, almost moving. Apart from those short highlights there isn’t much to get excited about. The movie is truly best left what it’s title suggests: undiscovered.