Fame

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Rating: PG

Starring:
Kay Panabaker as Jenny Garrison
Naturi Naughton as Denise Dupree
Kherington Payne as Alice Ellerton
Megan Mullally as Ms. Fran Rowan
Bebe Neuwirth as Ms. Kraft
Debbie Allen as Ms. Angela Simms
Asher Book as Marco
Cody Longo as Andy Matthews
Walter Perez as Victor Taveras
Charles S. Dutton as Mr. James Dowd
Kelsey Grammer as Mr. Martin Cranston
Collins Pennie as Malik Washburn
Anna Maria Perez de Tagle as Joy
Paul McGill as Kevin Barrett
Paul Iacono as Neil Baczynsky

Special Features:
Widescreen Feature Film Extended Version
15 Deleted Scenes
Fame National Talent Search Contest Winner
Music Video
Character Profiles
The Dances of Fame
Trailer Farm: Post Grad, All About Steve

Other Info:
Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Spanish and French Subtitles
Running Time: 110 Minutes

The Details:
The following is the official description of the film:

“Fame soars even higher with the Extended Dance Edition of the film, featuring over 15 minutes of thrilling dance footage you couldn’t see in theaters!

Passions will be tested. Hearts will be broken. Talent, dedication and hard work will triumph! Fame is the inspiring story of a group of dancers, singers, musicians and actors at the New York City High School of Performing Arts, and their spirited drive to live out their dreams of stardom. In an incredibly competitive atmosphere, each student must shine amidst the tumult of school work, deep friendships, budding romance and self-discovery. Debbie Allen, Charles S. Dutton, Kelsey Grammer, Megan Mullally and Bebe Neuwirth co-star alongside a group of gifted young performers in This soaring reinvention of the Oscar®-Winning hit film.”

“Fame” is rated PG for thematic material including teen drinking, a sexual situation and language.

The Movie:
At New York’s Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, everyone dreams of making it big. They cram and study and suffer for years, perfecting their craft, and that’s just the auditions. They’ll give up any semblance of a normal life in the short-term in exchange for what they’ll learn, and more importantly, where it will take them. Because if you’re not somebody, you’re nobody.

The old adage is right, everything old really is new again. It’s very seldom that a genuinely new story comes out of Hollywood, or anywhere for that matter. And that’s okay. There is certainly a case to be made that some stories are so stirring, so universal and eternal that they can and will be told and re-told without any loss of power. Assuming the author’s not a complete hack, anyway.

Unfortunately the reverse is often just as true: everything new is just plain old.

Because there are just as many stories out there that repeat themselves and repeat themselves because they are easily told and digested like a McDonald’s Happy Meal, and with about as much value. I’ll give you two guesses which category the remake of “Fame” falls into, and the first one doesn’t count.

For anyone who’s seen the original, it may be hard to believe it was actually nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, but the idea is actually quite good. Take the high pressure, high creativity world of the performing arts school, throw in a bunch melodramatic elements and stir in the favored public topic of the last 25 years–how to become famous (back when it at least required talent)–and you have the makings of a better than decent soap opera on your hands. Put in the hands of a good director and you’ve probably got something better than decent. Melodrama is still drama after all; it’s all a matter of the craft involved.

The new model doesn’t have to worry about that, however. It is in every way a faded copy of the original. It follows the format of the first “Fame” pretty rigorously, separating the story into the four years the students will be at school and peppering their studies with a few moments emotional turmoil, coming-of-age angst and some insights in to the cost of the search for stature in the world. Specifically the fact (which no one really wants to hear, especially in a movie about fame) that the vast majority of aspirants simply will not make it.

That’s about where “Fame” stops, though. It’s the light teenage primetime drama version of the story. That’s certainly who it’s targeting and that’s the card it plays the whole way through. No abortions, drug use, or life of scrounging and waiting tables here.

Barring one young ingénue’s (Kay Panabaker) introduction to the idea of the ‘casting couch’ and a very few other similar instances, there’s really nothing to it at all. It’s hard to believe, afterwards, where all 120 minutes went. Far more of it is spent with tentative romances and character arcs that are set up and never, never pay off like Mr. Dowd the drama teacher’s (Charles S. Dutton) attempts to reach tortured young Malik (Collins Pennie) and help his world view.

And, of course, singing and dancing.

If there’s anything that could probably benefit from casting to type, “Fame” is it. Director Kevin Tancharoen has filled his cast with young actors who aren’t that different from the people they’re playing. Young but filled with talent and promise, singing, dancing and acting as well as any of their adult co-stars. Well… singing and dancing anyway.

The pageantry really is very nice, especially the dance numbers, but as soon as the music stops, so does “Fame.” It’s not the worst remake ever made, it’s not even really very bad, just stodgily, repressively mediocre.

The Extras:
Among the bonus features you’ll find the theatrical version of “Fame” and an extended version. Also included are standard offerings like fifteen deleted scenes and music videos. You’ll also find character profiles on all of the young actors. They tell about their backgrounds and the characters they play. (These look like web videos or something.) There’s a featurette on the dance numbers rather stiffly hosted by Kherington Payne. Finally there’s a featurette showing a national talent contest held to promote “Fame.”

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