September 28, 2009
Glittery Glory Down A Cynical Tunnel
Cast members of "Fame", directed by Kevin
Tancharoen. The film opened last Friday. (Photo: MGM)
By Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com
Monday, September 28, 2009
In the intervening years since Alan Parker's 1980 original "Fame" movie there's
been the television series of the same name, the films "Footloose", "Flashdance",
"Dirty Dancing"; and "American Idol" and a host of reality television talent
shows. With "Fame" 2009, director Kevin Tancharoen gives a slight sheen to
Mr. Parker's grittier (and R-rated) film, using Christopher Gore's script from
the original as a template. The problem with this 21st century version is
that it tries too hard to shine, especially on the technical level. Scott
Kevan's camera rarely settles -- it's like a hyperactive toddler. The
mistake is that the performers at New York's School of Performing Arts are
supposed to be the vivacious beings -- not the camera that floats like a
butterfly but doesn't sting at all. By the time Mr. Bevan's camera becomes
static the film has exhausted itself, stale with faded energy and repetitious
set-ups that go to predictable places.
In New York City, the kids are not alright. Each of them hold a dream
figuratively accompanied by the dollar or so that it takes them to get on the
subway. They want the spotlight but it comes with a price, whether that is
na´vetÚ, abuse or other assorted schools of hard knocks. Some of the
hopefuls have parents who are so harsh they are either caricatures or from
another planet -- especially the black parents. Moreover, there's a
shallow, pop-candy feel to "Fame" and the plight of those in it that make it
difficult to take Mr. Tancharoen's film seriously. Recruited to bolster a
lifeless production are Debbie Allen, who was in both the original film and TV
series, Kelsey Grammer, Charles S. Dutton, Bebe Neuwirth and Megan Mullally.
Of these only Mr. Dutton and Ms. Mullally appear plugged in to their students'
needs. The younger generation of performers don't fare too badly,
specifically Naturi Naughton ("Notorious") who plays a pianist seeking a larger
stage for her talents.
"Fame" promises much more than it actually delivers and
on the big screen looks remarkably modest for all of its early razzle-dazzle.
There's a transparency and weakness that dilutes the passion and commitment that
the story written by Allison Burnett requires. Ms. Burnett's screenplay is
awfully hollow, filled with cliches and padded with poor dialogue. A few
more drafts may have been needed, but one wonders whether they would have made
much difference. Many will likely reject "Fame" because in the 30 years since the original there's so much more passion and
sensationalism (for better or worse) on the airwaves. YouTube has livelier
footage of amateurs than Mr. Tanchareon's film does. In an era of being
famous for wanting to be famous (ala
Phoebe Price) and instant stardom (Susan
Boyle) via TV talent shows, this new "Fame" is a misfortune victimized both by
its place in time as well as its low-gear express. Let the nostalgia
With: Anna Maria Perez De Tagle, Asher Book, Kristy Flores, Paul Iacono,
Paul McGill, Kay Panabaker, Kherington Payne, Collins Pennie and Walter Perez.
"Fame" is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association Of America for thematic
material including teen drinking, a sexual situation and language. The
film's running time is one hour and 47 minutes.
Related: Popcorn Reel unscripted YouTube review
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