Fame is fleeting and, by itself, unsatisfying. So what are we to conclude about a group of kids chasing a dream, not of being a great singer, dancer, or musician, but only trying to grab the spotlight for themselves?
Fame, the remake of the 1980 film, gives us a variety of characters from the meek Penny (Kay Panabaker) to the angry Malik (Collins Pennie), but in none of them do we find anyone to root for. Sometimes it was all I could do try and remember what particular talent got each kid into the school; there are simply too many characters. More than once I actually forgot someone was even in the film as they disappeared for long stretches.
The film condenses the journey of a class of students from the New York City High School of Performing Arts from auditions through graduation. That’s more than four years boiled down into less than two hours. The film bites off more than it can chew.
Our story begins with an insipid American Idol-style audition sequence which is included solely to grab some cheap laughs from the audience. How are we to judge the talent or root for those who made the cut if those who missed it were nothing more than clowns? Also included in the film are a karaoke night out, the sterotypical unreasonable parents (for no reason other than the script needs them to be), and some rather odd chronological problems which leave too many issues to be quickly and neatly wrapped up late in the students’ fourth year.
There’s plenty to nitpick about the story, acting, and questionable updating of the original story and music (which includes more hip hop and rap), all of which is inconsistent. If the film has one major flaw, however, it is almost instantly forgettable. None of the actors are bad, at least I believe that to be the case, but the shallow characters they are stuck with makes it hard to tell.
That’s not to say Fame is a bad film. There’s some talent here, especially Naturi Naughton who shines despite being saddled with the most cliched subplot. One-time TV couple Kelsey Grammar and Bebe Neuwirth, along with Charles S. Dutton, each have nice moments as teachers of PA. Add to that a few passable musical numbers and some impressive dancing and the film may not succeed, but, for most of the running time, there’s just enough there’s enough to keep your interest.
The trademark song of the original film doesn’t show up until the closing credits, re-edited into a hip hop travesty. The entire film has been updated, but like this one number, not improved. Even if Fame had been an original film, and not an unnecessary remake, it still sports a few too many blemishes to garner much praise.
Although I can’t recommend the film I do think there is a target audience that should enjoy themselves, if only until the closing credits. The pre-teen girls in the audience of the screening I attended had fun, and as PG family fare you could do worse. Go see it if you like, but if I could offer you a piece of advice: forget Fame, I plan to after finishing this review.