Thursday, October 15, 2009

"Fame" Review

While I concede that I am not among the target demographic for "Fame," I still feel qualified to inform you that the film is a piece of shit. Its failures reach far beyond the fact that I couldn't possibly care less about students of the performing arts singing and dancing their way to the top. It's a rickety, poorly conceived and bewilderingly constructed fiasco with cliched, interchangeable characters overcoming what are surely life's most trivial challenges ultimately to perform some bizarre, evidently uplifting Cirque du Soleil knock-off at graduation.

"Fame" attempts to create compelling fiction by way of reality TV. "So You Think You Can Dance?" or "American Idol," or any other prime-time talent-off currently on air bares more in common with director Kevin Tancharoen's film than whatever's playing in the adjacent theater. Appropriately then, Tancharoen comes from a music television background, having directed episodes of winners like "The Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll," "Dancelife," and something called "The JammX Kids," which imdb informs me is also known by the title, "Can't Dance, Don't Want To."

So in all fairness, Tanchaeoen may have looked on paper like the perfect candidate to direct a remake of the 1980 film of the same title. Unfortunately, he seems to have no artistic comprehension of how the mediums of film and television (let alone reality television) fundamentally differ in their approach to storytelling. He employs a fast-paced music video editing style that makes it difficult to follow what withered conventional story "Fame" has, or even to keep track of who's who or what plot or character archetype is most currently being exploited.

And the film is mostly devoid of likable characters, as each of the featured students has next to no screen time to themselves, each recalling the developed protagonist of some other, better movie. There's the uptight, book-smart girl who needs to learn to embrace her spontaneity, the headstrong street-smart kid who's too macho to be artsy, the girl whose parents want her to become a classical pianist even though her proclivity is for singing, and my personal favorite, an out-of-place pretentious filmmaker with his ubiquitous camcorder recording all the break-out dance numbers that just, you know, happen in those types of schools. To top it off, the characters all fall under the sway of their universally tough love 'tell it like it is' professors.

It's not fair though to hawk all of the films problems off on Tancharoen, as Allison Burnett's screenplay is every bit as scattershot, grating, and uninvolving as the final product, and the cast, who fulfill their contractual obligations to sing, dance and occasionally speak, never go very far above or beyond that. "Fame" is just a limp noodle of a film that I couldn't possibly recommend to anyone who doesn't have a preexisting interest in the performing arts, and I have a feeling even that subset will probably be let down by its blandly talented cast and major dramatic shortcomings.

When you get right down to it, there are a thousand reasons not to waste your money, or even very much more time on "Fame." From the staccato pacing to the cookie-cutter characters and complete lack of dramatic tension, the film plays not only like a remake, but a retread of ideas that have been executed better a hundred times over, making this superfluous, half-baked, intellect deficient cash-grab a one-note disaster.


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