The original movie production of Fame came out in 1980 and followed a group of students as they progressed four years through the New York High School of Performing Arts. It was gritty, it was harsh, but it was a very deep portrayal of budding students trying to get into the world of singing, dancing and acting. Nearly 30 years later, somebody gets the bright idea of doing a remake. Let’s find out if it is anywhere close to the original.
It is another year at PA or the New York High School of Performing Arts, there is a brand new crop of students trying their best to get into this elite school. The teachers are professionals at figuring out who has talent and who doesn’t. Teachers like Mrs. Fran Rowan (played by Megan Mullally) who works on vocals, Ms. Lynn Kraft (played by Bebe Neuwrith) on dance, Mr. Alvin Dowd (played by Charles S. Dutton) as drama coach and Mr. Joel Cranston (played by Kelsey Grammer) who takes on music.
After some agonizing auditions and carefully thought out selections, we cut to freshman year where the principal Ms. Simms (played by Debbie Allen) is telling them that they will have to maintain a C average and work harder than a normal high school student. This is about the time where we get introduced to the various students attending PA.
We have Alice Ellerton (played by Kherinton Payne) who is an extremely talented dancer. We then have Kevin Barrett (played by Paul McGill) who isn’t so talented but his mother put him in a bus from Iowa and he is eager to learn. There is also Joy Moy (played by Anna Maria Perez de Tagle) who has a charismatic appearance and is perfectly suited for the world of drama.
On the drama front, we also have Malik Washburn (played by Collins Pennie) who is suffering from a rough home life where his mother works all the time and his father left when he was young. He also has a talent for singing. Those same talents are also shared by Jenny Garrison (played by Kay Panabaker) who appears somewhat reserved and not wanting to let go of her inhibitions.
The final two students, worthy of mention is one Marco Ramone (played by Asher Book) who is a great vocal talent and infatuated with Jenny. Then there is the star of the show: Denise Dupree (played by Naturi Naughton). She is trained in classical piano by her overbearing father who doesn’t want her to try anything else. However, her real love isn’t just the piano. She wishes to express her voice as her singing is exemplary and could possibly land her a recording contract.
The students spend their mornings in performing their arts and then the rest of the day they have to squeeze in a full day of academics. Somewhere, in the midst of that they have time to land roles in small productions, do a concert in the middle of the lunch hall and attend Carnevil. The question is, can they keep it all together and make it four years in the demanding school all the while looking to their future and making sure they succeed on one of the most difficult playgrounds there is?
Somewhere, Irene Cara is turning over in her grave. Wait, what…she’s alive? Sorry, scratch that. Somewhere in Florida, she is working with her band Hot Caramel and they are shaking their heads. Why? This movie is a borderline train wreck, that’s why. The movie could be classified as a series of clips as they move from year to year. They try to cram half a dozen stories into 100 minutes over four years. This leaves the movie to have the character development of Mel Gibson in the next Lethal Weapon sequel. Translation: none.
There is also the problem with the overall tone of the movie, it’s like somebody rubbed together the production of High School Musical and Hannah Montana and slapped the word Fame on it. The original Fame was gritty, mature, and showed the seedy underbelly of the entertainment world. This is a PG Disney mess. Any attempt to recreate some of those moving scenes from the original made me wonder if Mickey Mouse was going to show up and go “Awww shucks.”.
The teachers were all faces we had seen before in other much better movies. Let’s be honest, if you saw Bebe Neuwrith and Kelsey Grammer in the same movie you think it should be a quality picture. Either that or a Cheers reunion. The only thing they brought to the movie was name recognition and a familiar face. Their performances were nothing more than backdrop. Furthermore, who is convinced that Megan Mullally is a vocal coach? She sounds like a chipmunk. Though I hear the Chipmunks sequel is doing great in the box office, so what do I know?
I would like to point out one scene in particular that sticks out in my mind as particularly awful. In senior year, Bebe Neuwrith’s character is talking to Kevin played by Paul McGill. She unfortunately tells him that she can’t give him a recommendation letter and that he should go back to Iowa to be a teacher. He simply isn’t good enough and doesn’t have what it takes.
Here are my issues: first, Why does the teacher wait until the 4th year to tell him he pretty much stinks? I understand allowing him into the school but you would think somewhere by the 2nd year, you be like dude; you aren’t cut out to do this. Go home. All the while, this important dramatic scene has a bunch of dancers in the back acting like they are performing at a Vegas burlesque show. No wonder he tries to kill himself. I just wasted four years of my life attending a school for something I suck at and Bebe from Cheers has the Cathouse performing in the background. Throw me in front of a subway train too.
There isn’t much to say that is positive about this film. The dance scenes are pretty decent and I can tell the kids did have a desire to be in the picture. But the only ounce of talent that actually shines in this movie is in the hands of Asher Book and Naturi Naughton. Their singing voices are impressive and they far out perform the rest of the cast. My only hope is that they go on to do better things and leave this abysmal mess behind.
This film gets the 2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen treatment. It is actually the best part of the film as they capture the gritty New York setting and make it look alive and beaming with activity. Colors are strong here and there aren’t too many scenes that don’t stand out as a fine presentation of the Blu-Ray format. If only look counted more in the overall score, we would have a better film.
Another strong part of the film, this includes audio @ 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio in English with 5.1 Dolby Digital Tracks also included for French and Spanish. The film is naturally very music heavy (though I wouldn’t really classify it as a musical) and the audio shines in these moments. Dialog is clear and everything is nice and loud. Surrounds are honestly rather limited, but you are more there to appreciate the beats and the grooving of the students rather than pick out discernable moments in the audio.
- Automatic Trailers: Digital Copy, Whip It, Post Grad, & All About Steve
- Deleted Scenes 18:11: A good fifteen scenes here, some of which actually have character development *gasp*. However, the vast majority still goes absolutely nowhere and has little to show for it.
- Fame: Music Video 3:29: Actually, as far as videos go, this one isn’t bad. Mainly cause it is clearly inspired by the original Fame video from way back. They should have worked this into the film somehow.
- Remember My Name – Character Profile 17:14: Remember, Remember…okay if I ever hear the opening of that song again, I swear I’ll remember who the heck is responsible for putting it there. Well, for those who are annoyed by repetitive diddies, you get that one eleven times for these intimate portrayals of important cast members. They run about 90 seconds a piece and include some interesting tidbits (like Joy mentioning that the production was a lot like Hannah Montana, O RLY?!) but they really should have grouped this into one long featurette instead of running bumpers between them.
- Fame: National Talent Search Finalists 6:49: Performances from the talent search they did to find the cast for this wonderful remake of the film Fame *caugh*. From 600 people they chose 30 dancers, the other 570 were happy once they received their complimentary copy of the dvd that they weren’t in this reproduction.
- The Dances of Fame 6:52: Kherington Payne hosts this small featurette which shows off some of the slick moves from the movie. You get some personal tidbits from Kherington, but mostly this is a showy piece.
- Digital Copy: I could waste time speaking about this, but then why care when the studio threw this in a 2 disc eco-style blu-ray case. Clearly, they gave it little consideration as well.
The true travesty of this mess is that the original Fame is also being released on Blu-Ray around the same time as this disc. That means that people will pick it up instead of the original and wonder why they wasted roughly two hours of their life. There should be a disclaimer: “Not the Fame you are thinking of, put this one away”. This film tries too hard to cram way too many characters over too long of a time frame into 100 minutes. It leaves the film shallow and completely lacking of character development.
If there is a silver lining in this, it’s the disc is pretty well produced. It comes with excellent video, suitable audio and a solid list of extras. If for some reason you did like this film, you’ll get a great package to enjoy. The only two shining stars in the movie, Asher and Naturi will hopefully have long, productive entertainment livelihoods. For the movie going public, I urge everybody to avoid this flick. It’s Hannah Montana meets High School Musical, its Silent Hill meets Disney (that’s a real scary movie), it’s my lunch meeting the toilet. Run away, screaming and intoxicated if you have to get away from watching this one.