I went into this movie with an open mind – determined to view it through the eyes of a teenager, rather than the cynical (albeit musical-loving) adult that I am. After all, I was a (young) teenager when the original Fame debuted in 1980. So I was kinda psyched to see the new one, for old times’ sake. Whatever. This “updated” Fame is simply lame.
It says a lot that I can remember “Coco” and “Bruno” and “Leroy” and even “Mr. Shorofsky” from 29 years ago. Yet I strain to recall a single character from the version I just saw.
Like the original, the movie centers on a diverse group of students attending the New York High School for the Performing Arts – a place that celebrates and cultivates their natural talents as actors, singers, dancers and musicians.
Unlike the original, the characters and storylines lack any real depth. One minute, it’s Audition Day to get into the highly competitive school. The next, it’s Graduation Day! Four quick years of teen angst, life lessons, parental conflict and teacher tidbits… punctuated by the occasional musical number.
American Idol does a better job of milking the drama.
The casting seemed promising at first, with the likes of Bebe Neuwirth, Kelsey Grammer, Megan Mullally and Charles Dutton as the instructors. But their roles have no meat (and there’s one scene with Mullally at a karaoke bar that’s just plain stupid). Original Fame cast member Debbie Allen appears briefly as the school’s principal – a choice that would have made sense if she were still “Lydia Grant”. But here she’s “Angela Simms”, delivering the same lines (“You’ve got big dreams? You want fame? Well fame costs. And right here is where you start paying – in sweat.”)
Teenagers will likely recognize some of the younger leads (I had no clue)… Kay Panabaker, Walter Perez, Naturi Naughton, Asher Book, Kherington Payne, Collins Pennie… If so, they’ll probably want to see the movie, and will (teen/tween girls in particular), even if it pales in comparison to the likes of High School Musical, Hannah Montana, or the new show, Glee. Sad, isn’t it?
Adults looking for a trip down memory lane are better served renting the original or checking out the musical clips on You Tube – such as Irene Cara’s version of “Out Here On My Own”. Hopefully, a new generation of teens will see them as well and learn a very valuable lesson: that some movies simply cannot or should not get remade. Are you listening, Hollywood?