The original “Fame” film that went on to spawn a moderately successful television series was released in 1980. It followed a group of aspiring artists through their four year stay at Performing Arts School in New York City, year after year, just like the wizards of Hogwarts. There were no feature long storylines to guide you through, just one year of highs and lows at a time and a whole lot of letting loose in between. 29 years later, the kids are ready to bust their moves once again and the new “Fame” actually follows a similar structure. Teaching staff like Kelsey Grammar, Bebe Neuworth and Megan Mullaly guide them through the auditions to their senior year and hope to free the artist within in the process.
In 1980, the unorthodox story development was strong enough to earn writer Christopher Gore an Oscar nomination for his screenplay. Now, many of the same plot points (from a sleazy audition to a near suicide in New York subway station) make the new grade but with little details changed here and there. The biggest and most unfortunate difference would be the issues the kids are facing when they’re aren’t in class. While coming to terms with your sexuality may almost be clichéd nowadays, it was pretty poignant stuff back then. Today, the kids only seem concerned with hooking up with either each other or an agent and making sure that Mom and Dad don’t hate them for the choices they’ve made. And with only tiny amounts of screen time allotted to each character, their problems seem like minor annoyances rather than insurmountable obstacles.
“Fame”, then and now, misses the mark for me on the most important thing about it – the performances. The players are talented; that isn’t the trouble. The director, first time feature filmmaker Kevin Tancharoen, just never gives them enough time to show it off. The random moments here and there never come close to an entire episode of “So You Think Can Dance” as far as the “wow” factor is concerned. And if I am not there to admire all the amazing feats that I can only dream of doing from the comfort of the groove in my living room couch, then I’m not really sure why I’m there at all. Insipid teenage problems are not worth my time unless they are accompanied by breathtaking lifts apparently. I mean no offense but that is the price of fame.
Review by Joseph Bélanger