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A reinvention of the original 1980 hit film, 'Fame' follows a talented group of dancers, singers, actors, and artists over four years at the New York City High School of Performing Arts, a diverse, creative powerhouse where students from all walks of life are given a chance to live out their dreams and achieve real and lasting fame...the kind that comes only from talent, dedication, and hard work. In an incredibly competitive atmosphere, plagued by self-doubt, each student's passion will be put to the test. In addition to their artistic goals, they have to deal with everything else that goes along with high school, a tumultuous time full of schoolwork, deep friendships, budding romance, and self-discovery. As each student strives for his or her moment in the spotlight, they'll discover who among them has the innate talent and necessary discipline to succeed. With the love and support of their friends and fellow artists, they'll find out who amongst them will achieve fame..
For more about Fame and the Fame Blu-ray release, see the Fame Blu-ray Review
Starring: Kevin Tancharoen, Kay Panabaker, Naturi Naughton
Director: Kevin Tancharoen
» See full cast & crew
Fame Blu-ray Review
Unfortunately, this remake doesn’t have what it takes.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, January 15, 2010
I'm generally opposed to remakes, not just on the grounds that they're usually redundant, take- the-money-and-run cash-grabs, but also because there are countless new stories waiting to be told, and new filmmakers with an itch to tell them. There are very few instances where I'll nod my head and admit that, yeah, a remake totally makes sense. This 2009 reboot of 1980's Fame is one of them. Let's face it, the original—which spawned the popular 1982-1987 TV series—isn't exactly a cinematic masterpiece. It's not like we're talking about remaking Lawrence of Arabia. It's a teen-centric affair geared toward drama geeks—I can say it, I was one of them—jazz-handed chorus club kids, and all the bright young stars burning with a desire to perform. It's also extremely dated now, wearing its early 1980s kitschyness like a pink spandex unitard. So, yes, Fame could do with an update, especially considering how today's teens have grown up in a cult of instant celebrity, where fame and/or notoriety is seemingly only one YouTube clip, one successful turn on American Idol, or one panty-less paparazzi shot away. In some ways, though, Fame is the antithesis to this insta-pop- sensation attitude; it revels in that old adage about how to get to Carnegie Hall—practice, practice, practice. And it acknowledges that to succeed you have to have it, that almost indefinable combination of innate talent, hard work, ambition, and luck. Unfortunately, this Fame remake doesn't have it. Pack up your bags kid; it looks like you're going back to Iowa.
The original Fame follows seven students through their four years at a prestigious NYC performing arts high school, and the remake takes the same outline and populates it with new particulars. Essentially, it's the first four Harry Potter films crammed into 107 minutes, which should give you some idea about what my major complaints are. The film opens with the daunting audition process, whereby some 10,000 applicants are whittled down to 200 incoming freshmen. Of these, we get to know a few (a few too many, actually), and witness some of the pains and elations, the teen triumphs and tragedies that these privileged potential stars and starlets encounter on the way to graduation day.
Denise Dupree (Naturi Naughton) is studying classical piano at the behest of her overbearing parents, but there's an R'n'B diva locked inside her just screaming to get out. Drama student Malik (Collins Pennie) has had a hard-knock life in Brookyln and can't shake his troubled past. Jenny Garrison (Kay Panabaker), a mousy squeak of a girl, falls for Marco Ramone (Asher Book), a honey-tongued singer with effortless talent. Would be music producer Victor (Walter Perez) has his dreams dashed and his heart broken when his ballerina girlfriend Alice (Kherington Payne) leaves for a world tour with a famous dance troupe. Some students, like actress Joy Moy (Anna Maria Perez de Tagle) land professional gigs quickly—hers is on Sesame Street—while others, like dejected dancer Kevin (Paul McGill), are sent packing for their hometowns. And, of course, we have Wes Anderson wannabe Neil Baczynsky (Paul Iacono), who documents all four years on his camcorder (and gets scammed by a fly-by-night production company).
Okay, see how tedious that last paragraph is? See how I wrote so little about so many characters and how you probably don't have any real sense of who they are? Well, that's exactly what Fame is like. It should be following four main characters, not upwards of eight. Thanks to an overly cluttered cast, each kid's story is told in broad, frankly boring beats that leave little room for growth or characterization. And this doesn't include the line-up of instructors—played by Kelsey Grammer, Megan Mullally, Bebe Neuwirth, and Charles S. Dutton—who basically only exist in the plot because a story about a school requires teachers to impart the valuable life lessons that are so much more important than the rest of the curriculum. The key bit of wisdom here seems to be that, hey, if you don't have what it takes, there's always teaching! At least the film doesn't sugar coat the fact that some kids will just flat-out fail. Whoever dreamed up that saying about aiming for the moon—you know, the one where you get the consolation prize of landing among the stars if you miss—probably never had to watch a mediocre dancer consider jumping in front of a subway train because his teacher told him he would never be good enough to go pro.
Don't worry; the kid doesn't go through with it. This is a PG-rated movie after all, which means that Fame has been scrubbed cleaner than a surgeon's hands, an attempt to make the film more accessible to the lucrative, Hannah Montana-obsessed market of tweener girls. Joy does get drunk to give herself some much-needed "life experience," but she suffers the pukey consequences and learns her lesson. And that's about it. The hormonally charged teens are wearing invisible promise rings, all of the school's varied ethnicities get along swimmingly, and the one obviously gay character has been essentially closeted lest conservative parents take offence. Where the original Fame tackled the delicate drama of teen sexuality head-on, the remake steps gingerly around all that icky puberty stuff. Except during the dancing, of course. It's okay to be highly sexualized if you're just busting a move.
And really, the film is only successful when it drops the pretense of drama and lets loose with the big choreographed musical numbers. Dancer-turned-choreographer-turned-director Kevin Tancharoen may have bungled the story, but he can certainly put on a show. Granted, most of these sequences seem totally improbable in the otherwise realistic world that the film creates— see the lunchroom jam-session which escalates into a ridiculous, full-on cafeteria concert—but what's a musical without a little hammy pizzazz? The film's centerpiece is the Halloween CarnEvil, a school dance which looks like a Baz Luhrmann set piece gone spookily voodoo (though it's not really as impressive as that sounds). The best scene, though, is when Denise Dupree and her back-up band make their debut at a hip-hop club. They simply perform their song all the way through—no camera trickery or crazy edits—and this straightforward number far out-climaxes the overwrought graduation day spectacle that ends the film. If only the whole film had abided by this less-is-more aesthetic, maybe the second coming of Fame would've been more rapturous.
Fame Blu-ray, Video Quality
Fame may not have what it takes as a film, but this Blu-ray release's technical presentation brings its A-game. First up is a strong but not quite perfect 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer. Really, my sole complaint about the look of the film is that the handheld camerawork frequently results in a soft image, as the focus isn't always exact. For example, there's a scene where we see Kelsey Grammer sitting at his desk; the mug full of pencils in front of him is in crisp focus, but his face is ever so slightly blurred. This happens quite often, but when the image is in focus, there's lots of sharpness and clarity to be had, particularly in facial and clothing textures, where fine detail is easily apparent. Background detail isn't really a concern, as the film often only keeps the foreground in focus, throwing the rest of the image into silky shallow depth of field. Colors are consistently strong and weighty, and a faint yellowish cast adds some warmth to the image's highlights. Blacks levels are similarly deep, and though detail is sometimes crushed in inky chiaroscuro shadows, this is wholly intentional and part of the film's hyper-vivid appearance. Finally, the print is clean, the film's grain structure rarely gets too heavy, and there are no overt compression or transfer-related issues.
Fame Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Even better is the film's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, which supplies a level of immersion and a dynamic breadth that's usually reserved for sound effect-heavy action films. You'll notice from the very first song that the music sounds excellent. Bass is extremely potent, with the LFE channel pumping out thick, room-filling tones. This is never to the detriment of high and mid- range fidelity, though, as each dulcet piano note, dishy hi-hat strike, and quivering cello string is reproduced with crystalline clarity. More so, the music makes use of every channel, giving each instrument a distinct place in the mix. And even when no music is playing, the track puts you right in the middle of the film with almost non-stop, highly-detailed ambience, from the putter and roar of New York City traffic to the tennis shoe squeaks, rustling clothing, and enveloping chatter of a busy school hallway. There are a few brief moments when vocals seem a bit low in the mix, but dialogue is always easily understood and subject to appropriate acoustics, like the slight reverb on the principal's voice when she speaks to the students in the auditorium. It's hard to wrangle up any complaints for this brilliant mix, but you will notice that lip-syncing seems obvious at times, as if the singing that's coming out of the actors' mouths sounds a little too clean and processed. Otherwise, the small overlap between Fame fans and hardcore audiophiles should be duly impressed.
Fame Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Theatrical Cut and Extended Edition
In the "Extended Dance Edition," expect just that, 15 minutes of additional dance footage inserted into the film.
Deleted Scenes (1080p, 18:11)
Fifteen scenes are included here, most of which contain sad interactions with parents or the aftermath of dejection. Don't expect any big dance numbers or anything.
Fame Music Video (1080p, 3:29)
A typical tie-in music video, featuring lots of clips from the film.
Remember My Name - Character Profiles (1080i, 17:14 total)
These are short video bios of each of the featured actors, some of which have had lives strikingly similar to the characters that they play in the film. Includes profiles for Anna Marie Perez De Tagle, Asher Book, Collins Pennie, Kay Panabaker, Kherington Payne, Kristy Flores, Naturi Naughton, Paul Iacono, Paul McGill, Walter Perez, as well as one for director Kevin Tancharoen.
Fame National Talent Search Finalists (1080p, 6:49)
I'm not sure what the details on the talent search were, but the winners got a spread in OK magazine, a trip to Hollywood to meet with an MGM executive, and $5000. Judging by the less- than-impressive finalists we see here, I wouldn't want to see the people who didn't make the final culling.
The Dances of Fame (SD, 6:52)
Kerrington Payne, who plays Alice, shares a behind-the-scenes look at the casting call, the dancer boot camp, and some of the dances featured in the film.
Fame Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Fame is certainly an appropriate film to remake—the original would probably seem pretty goofy to today's tweens—but the result here is an overly-polished, soulless product that seems like a 107 minute commercial for itself. I'm sure the film will find fans among the huddled masses of junior high band nerds, dramaturges, and thespians-to-be, but even high school-aged kids will likely scoff at how hard the film tries and how little it actually accomplishes. Despite a fantastic audio/video package, there's really no reason to give Fame any more than a rental unless you've got a junior pop-star who's nagging you to buy it.
Fame Blu-ray, News and Updates
• MGM Details Fame Blu-ray - December 8, 2009
MGM Home Entertainment in conjunction with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment have announced the technical specs and special features for the upcoming Blu-ray release 'Fame', which is scheduled to be released on January 12th. For this 2009 remake of the Alan Parker ...
• Fame Remake Announced on Blu-ray - November 29, 2009
MGM Home Entertainment, in conjunction with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, has announced that it will release 'Fame' on Blu-ray on January 12, 2010. This "reinvention" of the Alan Parker movie (which, in turn, is announced on Blu-ray for January 26) will ...
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