Fame (2009) Review
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Lately, it seems that everything old is new again. From TV shows and movies to toys and even fashions, so many of those things that were cool when I was a kid having been making a comeback. But while some have been successful blasts from the past, others—like the new Fame remake (and stirrup pants)—should have just stayed in the ‘80s, where they belong.

The new-and-not-so-improved Fame follows the students of the New York City High School for the Performing Arts through four years of hard work and dedication as they practice their various crafts—whether that’s singing, dancing, music, acting, even filmmaking. With help from their teachers—and from each other—the students learn and grow, but they also discover that fame doesn’t come easy.

From the opening audition scenes, Fame is a cluttered mess. In the beginning, it feels much like the audition episodes of American Idol: there are a whole bunch of people running around—singing, dancing, and playing all kinds of instruments—and it’s often hard to tell which characters you’re supposed to remember and which ones are just there to add to the craziness. Some of the auditions, too, are ridiculous—like filmmaker Neil (Paul Iocono), who auditions (and not very well, I might add) with the infamous “You talkin’ to me?” monologue from Taxi Driver and gets accepted anyway.

Still, the audition scenes are at least somewhat entertaining. The rest of the film, on the other hand, is bland and pointless and perplexing.

Granted, even the most accomplished directors would have a hard time telling the stories of a dozen or so characters throughout four years of their lives in less than two hours. Add in a bunch of musical numbers and dance routines, and you’ve got an even greater challenge. So it’s really no big surprise that first-time director Kevin Tancheroen—whose previous experience is primarily in reality TV—is less than successful.

With so many characters and so many stories getting so little screen time, it’s difficult to keep track of them all—and it’s even harder to care about any of them. Throughout the film, storylines (and characters) continually come and go. Some show up for a minute or two during the students’ freshman year, only to go unnoticed for most of the movie before popping up again in their senior year. Others are introduced, only to be dropped altogether. The result is a mess of short, predictable stories that, in the end, don’t really matter—which makes for a very long (and often painfully dull) movie.

If Tancheroen had focused more attention on fewer stories, it may have helped. Perhaps the characters could have been more than flat and stereotypical (the angry young rapper, the dancing diva, the quirky film geek, the struggling gay dancer from Nowheresville…). They could have had real personalities and well-developed stories. Then, maybe the audience would have cared whether total opposites Jenny (Kay Panabaker) and Marco (Asher Book) can make their relationship work—or whether pianist and closeted singer Denise (Naturi Naughton) will ever be able to stand up to her demanding father.

Though the musical/dance numbers are often pretty impressive, they’re not enough to make Fame worth watching. So if you’re in the mood for a movie about high school kids who can sing and dance, you’d be better off re-watching your copy of High School Musical instead.

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