No shame in pulling for Fame
Every year at least one movie arrives that is bashed by critics and ignored by audiences yet deserves a chance to be more appreciated by those willing to overlook a few flaws. “Fame,” based on the movie and TV series from a couple decades ago is this year’s underdog.
No it’s not a budget strapped indie and yes it has a few recognizable veterans to go with its talented newcomers but this year’s “Fame” is energetic, credible and contains just enough “Wow!” moments.
The terrific and rousing opening 20 minutes feature quick shots of the kids hoping to pass the tough auditions at “P.A.” a respected New York City arts school. If nothing else, the moral here is that hard work and dedication pay off and the film does a good job of driving that point home as we get to know several of the young artists lucky enough to be part of the 200 (of the over 10,000 who audition) who make the cut.
These freshman are no doubt stereotypical characters, and the script doesn’t pretend to develop them into anything more complex than typical teenagers feeling the pressure to find their own artistry and overcome the rigors of their challenging but sympathetic instructors (The excellent Kelsey Grammar, Bebe Neuwirth, Megan Mullaly, and Charles S. Dutton).
Of the students, Denise (Naturi Naughton) whose powerful version of “Out There on My Own” is a home-run, handsome as a Jonas brother Marco (Asher Book), chip on his shoulder rapper Malik (Collins Pennie) and uber dancer Alice (Kherington Payne) take advantage of their limited screen time (after all, four years are covered in the film’s 100 minutes) to give standout performances. Only mousey Jenny (Kay Penabaker) falls short in the looks and talent department comparatively, anyway, but her self-doubts also feel the most authentic.
This version of “Fame” isn’t trying to reach back into the original’s R rated past, nor does it play to the edgier agendas so common in films or TV shows trying to entice young adult audiences.
Its lack of melodrama and shock value make it all the more refreshing. A clunky karaoke club scene and a befuddling finale only slightly detract from the high points of this year’s “Fame.”
Consider this film “High School Musical’s” grittier, inner city cousin and that’s no back handed compliment.
Rated PG for thematic material including teen drinking, a sexual situation and language