Reviewed by: Martin Gray

Baby look at me... and tell me you've not seen it all before. But better. This update on the 1980 tale of students at New York's High School of Performing Arts has all the right moves but you never get the feeling that showtime has arrived.

It starts with the day of the auditions, as thousands compete for a few places and we're introduced to the characters we'll be sticking with for four years. There's Neil the wannabe director, Alice the ballet dancer, actors/singers/rappers Jenny, Marco, Joy and Malik and musicians Victor and Denise. There's also someone called Rosie who turned up in the end credits along with the preceding main cast but I have no idea who she was.

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All the kids are fine, talented enough, but the only one showing any actual charisma is Walter Perez as Victor, who gives his character an appealing mix of intelligence, cockiness and vulnerability.

It's that kind of film. To say the characterisation in Fame is cursory would be like calling Titanic short. Scenes come and go with unnerving speed, hitting all the expected notes - unsupportive parents, regular TV job vs graduation, bad men taking advantage of naive students. While this will likely keep the short attention span teens of today happy, I'd rather spend some time with the characters, get to know them. That way I might actually care what happened to them, rather than being surprised when Kevin and Marco turn out to be two different people - I thought it was one kid, changing his hair every year.

There are some superb actors playing the teachers - Charles S Dutton, Bebe Neuwirth, Kelsey Grammer, Megan Mullaly and some woman named Debbie Allen - but apart from Dutton, they're criminally underused. And why have Allen play the principal but be someone other than her original character, Lydia Grant. Surely after 30 years she could have risen to the top?

Amusingly, the film tries to have its cake and eat it, with the kids being lectured by Allen's Ms Simms that if they want fame, they might as well leave now - it's all about finding joy in the art. Fame? Bah.

There are a few new songs, none of which I can remember a day later, and a classic from the original, Out Here on My Own which, as performed by Naturi Naughton, provides the film's best moment. There are also a few scenes echoing the parent movie which will likely make you remember just how good Alan Parker's film was.

I'll not be so glib as to condemn the new Fame as lame - it's entertaining enough - but there's nothing in there to match the joie de vivre of the original's taxi dancing scene, or the emotional jolt of Montgomery McNeill's isolation. Look on it as an inconsequential time-filler and you can't go wrong.

Reviewed on: 29 Sep 2009
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Fame packshot
It's not all glitter at the High School for the Performing Arts.
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Director: Kevin Tancharoen

Writer: Allison Burnett, based on the 1980 screenplay by Christopher Gore

Starring: Asher Book, Kherington Payne, Naturi Naughton, Kay Panabaker, Walter Perez, Anna Maria Perez de Tagle, Collins Pennie, Kristy Flores, Paul McGill, Paul Iacono, Bebe Neuwirth, Charles S Dutton, Kelsey Grammer, Debbie Allen, Megan Mullaly

Year: 2009

Runtime: 107 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US


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