Lame! It’s Gonna Suck Forever!
Weak remake tries to do too much
By Kristen Page-Kirby
You’ve got the song in your head already, don’t you? I thought so.
Fame, a remake of the 1980 film, is just terrible. It follows a bunch (seriously, there are so many characters, not one of whom is the least bit memorable) of teenagers through their entire four years at the New York High School for the Performing Arts. That’s right—screenwriter Allison Burnett (whose only other big credit is the romantic vomit that was Autumn in New York) attempts to do four years in less than two hours. I don’t know if that happened in the original film (I was four when it came out and have only seen bits and pieces on TV), but here it doesn’t work.
Anyway, according to my notes, the one-note characters are Angry Black Kid (talks about the ‘hood, says “a-iight” a lot); Black Classical Pianist (parents don’t understand that she wants to sing); Shy Actress Girl, (who… I don’t understand why she made it into the school, because we never see her actually act); Guy Who Can Sing; Guy Who Looks Just Like Guy Who Can Sing But Is A Producer? Or a Composer?; Filmmaker Kid; Asian Girl; Not-Very-Good Possibly Gay Dancer; and Rich Mean Blonde Dancer.
Teachers at the school are played by Kelsey Grammar, Megan Mullally, Bebe Neuwirth and Charles S. Dutton, all of whom do more in their eight lines each than all of the kids do with scenes upon scenes of “no one understands me” teen angst. Actually, Mullally has a nice longer scene where she tells the kids why she’s teaching and not, you know, an actual actor. And for a second, you see the potential in the film–that very few of these kids are going to live forever, as it were. But then the scene ends and we get back to the stupid.
No one expected Fame to be great cinema. But it can barely tell a story. With nine main characters over four years, the story fragments and breaks so often we never get a chance to feel anything for any of these kids. None of them are particularly sympathetic; the sad stories and obstacles are so cliché that we can see them jazz-handing in from miles away. The musical numbers—of which there aren’t many—are also uninspiring. If you go see a movie musical — which this one isn’t, not quite; it can’t make up its mind if it is or it isn’t, which is another problem—you want to be humming at least part of a song. And the song we all know (“Remember my name!”) doesn’t show up until the ending credits. There is one of those impromptu yet perfect performances, where the acting kids are kind of hilariously left out of the fun. Because if you’re not a triple threat you can’t jam in the cafeteria.
Funnily enough, the clichés that really should have shown up don’t. A film about a high school for the performing arts and there’s not a single gay kid in the school? I’m not saying Fame needed a sassy, snapping sidekick, but wouldn’t it be nice for gay kids to see a character like themselves here—in a situation where at least someone is going to be gay? There’s a lame attempt to embrace the YouTube culture, but I’m not sure anyone associated with the film has even been on YouTube—which, since it and the rest of the Internet are important media for young directors—is a glaring omission.
There is some cool, Matrix-style slo-mo shots during the Big Final Show, showing you just how much power and control is involved when it comes to dance. Dancers always get the best footage.
There’s some objectionable language: the full forms of “B.S.” and “G.D.” There’s underage drinking, at one point to clear excess. There’s a casting couch scene, but no nudity. Dancers wear what dancers wear–it’s not salacious, but it is skimpy.
So instead of seeing this, I’d stay home and watch Center Stage. That’s how you do a movie about teenagers in the performing arts. If you can’t make it good, make it awful; hilariously, stupidly awful. Fame even failed at that.
Previews at a Sept. 25 showing included a featurette on New Moon, with a lot of shirtless Taylor Lautner; Everybody’s Fine; and When in Rome.
Kristen Page-Kirby is the editor of Chesapeake Family magazine. She last reviewed the animated film 9.