Fifteen minutes of ‘Fame’
Leslie Shumate | Thursday, October 8, 2009
“Fame” certainly won’t live forever and I doubt you’ll remember its name.
The remake of the 1980 film may share the same name as the original, but it lacks the originality and edge of its predecessor. In a pop culture inundated with “High School Musical” offshoots, scores of students singing and dancing their way to stardom simply doesn’t bear the same novelty as it did in 1980. To engage audiences as effectively as the original film, “Fame” would have to develop dynamic characters through a compelling plot. Unfortunately, the 2009 remake doesn’t do this.
Like the original film, “Fame” follows the trials and triumphs of a handful of students at the New York City High School for the Performing Arts. Musicians, singers, dancers and actors all compete to succeed in the highly competitive school, with some advancing further than others. The talented teenagers face pressure from parents and teachers, rocky relationships, and the bitter reality of show business. Such struggles may spur self-doubt and unsuccessful suicide attempts, but, lucky for us, they are not enough to prevent an inspirational musical number at graduation.
The cast of “Fame” is clearly comprised of very talented performers. Naturi Naughton, who plays the character of Denise, is a particular delight to watch onscreen. Her soulful rendition of “Out Here on My Own” is easily the highlight of the entire film. But, with the exception of Naughton, the rest of the cast falls flat in their delivery.
To be fair, the structure of the film makes it nearly impossible to fully develop any character. “Fame” chronicles nine characters’ four years of high school in 107 minutes. This doesn’t leave much time for learning anything about the characters aside from their names and performance specialty (although even these are difficult to remember).
Hindering things further is a weak, if even existent, plot line. Other than watching the students’ progress from each grade, there is no perceivable storyline. Such an ambiguous plot makes it nearly impossible to provide any sort of continuity from one scene to the next. In one scene, the audience witnesses a tender heart-to-heart between an angry, guarded student and his compassionate teacher, and in the next, they watch Megan Mullally serenade her students with “You Took Advantage of Me” at a karaoke bar.
With so many characters and such a vague plot, it is difficult to invest in the characters and care about the successes and failures. When one character is accepted into a prestigious dance company, the audience is too distracted trying to remember her name to really care. And when another character is told he will never have a dancing career, his distress is undermined by the fact that he has not been onscreen since one of the first scenes of the film.
Even with spontaneous lunchroom jam sessions, drunken rap performances and secret singing careers, “Fame” proves to be a disappointingly predictable coming-of-age film. From the opening credits, one knows that the students will learn to believe in themselves and never give up on their dreams. Unfortunately, this story has been told too many times already and there is nothing about “Fame” that sets it apart from its predecessors.