Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.


Review by Chris Keller

“I’m gonna live forevvveeeer” – so goes a line from the world-famous title track to Fame, one of the most influential movie-musicals of the past half-century. And many people would argue that Fame HAS lived forever, creating and reinvigorating many musicals plots and tactics that are still used today. But alas the executives at MGM Studios seem to think differently, thus we are presented with a seemingly timely “reinvention” more than 20 years after the original hit theaters back in 1980.

The original Fame followed 4 theater-loving teenagers on their paths, collectively and individually, through New York City’s famous Fame High School and onto their dreams after. For any number of inexplicable reasons, this version decides to focus on not 4 teens, but 9! This does not improve upon the original, but decidedly makes everything much, much worse. There is no cohesiveness, no connection between the characters other than they happen to all attend the same school. Instead of feeling like one strong thread of smaller threads weaving delicately in and out of each other, the plots feel like their own separate, singular threads, doing its own thing while having nothing to do with the next one. No one person’s back-story, or story at all, is given more than perhaps 10 minutes and the audience has no chance to relate to anybody before being whisked away to witness the next vignette.

But surely, in a musical such as this, the plot takes a backseat to the lavish musical set pieces and catchy show tunes, right? Well, this has been the case in other recent musicals, such as Hairspray, Mamma Mia! and Rent. And, if anything, Fame does have an overflowing supply of famous and catchy songs in its catalog, anywhere from the soaring ballad “On My Own” to the booming titular pop tune. Some of these get the respect and detail they deserve (Naturi Naughton’s version of the former is beautiful); others are thrown in for nostalgia’s sake (the latter only plays over the end credits). But other than a wonderful, groovy (but totally unrealistic) impromptu cafeteria jam session, none of the music is upbeat, happy, or catchy – surely a prerequisite to entice audiences to dance in the aisles.

And this cast of mostly young, unknown singers and dancers bring their A-game to the performances, but they often falter whenever the moment calls for some true acting chops – sometimes even in the movie’s acting class! But if you walk into the theatre thinking only of seeing spectacular singing and breathtaking dance moves, you’re “gonna fly hiiiigh” - much like the songs promises. But if you would like a little substance to go along with the theatrics, it looks like Fame (2009) comes very close to crashing and burning.

2 / 5 stars

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