Dir: Kevin Tancharoen
Cast: Kherington Payne, Naturi Naughton, Collins Penne, Kay Panabaker, Asher Book, Walter Perez, Anna Marie Perez de Tagle, Paul Iacono, Kristy Flores, Paul McGill, Debbie Allen, Kelsey Grammer, Charles S. Dutton
Seen: September 30, 2009 at AMC
Reason to see: Dance movie! Well, all of the performing arts movie
Based on the film Fame (1980), this updated version shows a much lighter side of the growing pains of students as they trek through their time at a performing arts high school. Coming from the perspective of having the original film ingrained on my brain from a very young age there is a lot familiar with this version, but almost only on the surface - literally. Visually the films are very similar, and I felt like the idea started with watching the 1980 version with the sound off. We have similar locations, character types and scenes but unfortunately the depth of the characters and their stories was nowhere near as strong.
We are treated to great performances, not only when the characters are performing in the film but just in the film itself. Kay Panabaker is lovely as the quiet and reserved actor, Collins Pennie is fantastic as the 'angry young man' actor/rapper and both Asher Book & Naturi Naughton have voices that bring a smile to your face and will your heart with hope. As for the teachers, who wouldn't want to be in the acting class led by Charles S. Dutton? And although I wouldn't want to be in Megan Mullally's singing class I would love to be a fly on the wall - she has some of the best lines in the entire film.
We see the students travel from year to year but we don't learn a lot about the individual crafts nor see the students work on their craft, at least not with any sense of struggle. The film is strangely absent of rivalries in a competitive world of auditions and the huge differences between being a lead and in the chorus. In fact, there is very little conflict at all.
It was also a surprize to see so little connection between the different arts, a film about a performing arts school should shine in this department. I wonder if there wasn't enough triple threat talent for that crossover here. We do see amazing dancers, but only two dancers have a storyline at all and even then they are pretty thin. The dancing we do see is great, but it appears in the film usually as a number with no resonance to the characters, their stories or film as a whole. There were really strong moments in both the acting and music threads of the film but it would have made such a difference if hit more marks and hit them together. Enjoyable for certain, but lighter than I ever would have imagined.
Shannon's Overall View:
I enjoyed it, but had hoped for more
I'll buy it
I'd recommend it to fans of performance arts
16 minutes of preshow including 3 commercials and 5 previews: Nine, Up in the Air, It's Complicated, When in Rome and The Twilight Saga: New Moon
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© Shannon Ridler, 2009