Review by Rob Carnevale
ALAN Parker’s original Fame spawned a hit TV series, a musical and even a reality show after its release three decades ago. Sadly, Kevin Tancharoen’s re-imagining won’t be doing the same.
A tepid, cliche-ridden movie, Fame 2009 is more content to play to formula and embrace the High School Musical fan club rather than the edginess of its far better predecessor.
It’s excessive song and dance routines also ensure that few of the characters get to really shine… whether it’s the success-hungry students or the tough but inspirational teachers guiding them.
As with the original, the film follows a group of students as they vy for success and recognition at the New York City High School of Performing Arts, from nerve-wracking audition process to graduation.
These include Jenny (Kay Panabaker), an uptight would-be actress struggling to let herself go; Denise (Naturi Naughton), a classical piano player who yearns to sing against her parents wishes; Malik (Collins Pennie) an actor/rapper who struggles to incorporate his own personal tragedy into his work, and Marco (Asher Book), a gifted vocalist whose laidback demeanour creates tension with those who have to work harder to attain perfection.
Teaching them, meanwhile, are Charles S Dutton’s devoted acting teacher, Kelsey Grammar’s caring piano specialist and original Fame star Debbie Allen as school principal.
There are other characters but few really register above the stereotype demanded of them.
Several students fall in love, some burn out and others are exploited but first-time director Tancharoen appears to be going through the motions with each one.
A veteran of countless pop videos (and many with Britney Spears), he seems more at ease directing the innumerable music sequences, which are delivered with the expected gusto, but which fail to drive the story or leave too lasting an impression.
Nods to the original (aside from the presence of Allen) include a hip hop version of the original Fame song and a gutsy R’n‘B rendition of Out Here On My Own but, as with the storyline, they don’t really add anything, so much as leaving you pining for the originals.
The lack of time afforded to the young cast, meanwhile, means that few get to make a lasting impression, suggesting that their moment in the spotlight could be shortlived.
Incredibly, a generous running time pads things out to unncessarily long length and further stretches any goodwill you may feel towards it.
Fame isn’t a complete disaster, but it does feel like it lasts forever and is now bidding to cash in on the success of others, whereas once it shone brightly on its own.
Running time: 107mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: January 25, 2010