Movie Reviews

Film Review: “Fame”

(MGM/UA. 1 hour, 47 minutes. Rated PG for thematic material including teen drinking, a sexual situation and language. Directed by Kevin Tancharoen.) Kherington Payne (Alice), Anna Maria Perez de Tagle (Joy), Paul McGill (Kevin), Asher Book (Marco), Kristy Flores (Rosie), Naturi Naughton (Denise), Kay Panabaker (Jenny), Collins Pennie (Malik), Walter Perez (Victor), Megan Mullally (Fran), Kelsey Grammer (Martin), Charles S. Dutton (James), Bebe Neuwirth (Lynn), Debbie Allen (Principal Simms). Music by Mark Isham.

Slick, prepackaged remake of the 1980 original. Not from Disney, but might as well have been. The first version (rated R) was grittier and seemed more real. We now get a sanitized PG version with too many characters played by seasoned actors who are supposed to be high school freshmen, but are in their ’20s. I can see the pitch meeting now: “We take High School Musical, add whatever elements from American Idol, America’s Got Talent, etc. and most important to the teenage girls this is being made for, get a squeaky-clean Zac Efron clone (Asher Book).”

Most of the “kids” do have talent: a standout is Naughton as a classical pianist who later transforms herself into a hip-hop singer. But Naughton’s no greenhorn: she’s a Broadway veteran and performs like one. Pennie’s the “angry young black kid” who’s 25 in real life. And so on. (Director Tancharoen is a former choreographer for Britney Spears.) Personally I was hoping for more scenes from teachers Kelsey Grammer and Bebe Neuwirth: maybe “Frasier” and “Lilith” could start squabbling and liven up the predictable proceedings, but they fight for screen time with this bloated cast. Sole 2009 release from the once-great MGM Studios, now controlled by creditors: maybe it’s time to close the doors, guys, and make a graceful exit. Leo the Lion would thank you.

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