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Fame: The Original Movie (1980) [Blu-ray]
Fame: The Original Movie (1980) [Blu-ray]
Before tweens began contemplating whether or not they'd adhere to Team Edward or Team Jacob in the Twilight franchise, they kept time with Walt Disney's wildly popular High School Musical trilogy.
Furthermore, by taking a cue from the House of Mouse's ingenious DVD release strategy for Musical in serving up various “remixes” to ensure that die hard fans would collect each one, MGM attempted to sprinkle a little of Tinker Bell's fairy dust on their own movie about a renowned musical high school via the 2009 remake of Fame.
And honestly, it's this unique approach to an otherwise forgettable movie that prevents Fame from shelf life as the cinematic equivalent of Jan Brady, always waiting off to the wings while "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia" or in this case Alan Parker's original movie basked in critical glory.
As the directorial debut from acclaimed Madonna and Britney Spears choreographer and director Kevin Tancharoen, the one thing that Fame had going for it to the point that it actually is able to surpass the original is in the mind-blowing dance numbers.
To this end, given Fox Studio's decision to emphasize this aspect via an Extended Dance Edition of fifteen additional minutes, Fame suddenly becomes far more worthwhile and entertaining as one spirited dance movie that outdoes its thirty year old predecessor in terms of performance.
Despite this, unfortunately Fame fails to generate any empathy or connection between the audience and every single character presented onscreen who-- aside from one or two-- may as well be interchangeable.
Replacing the gritty reality of life as a talented teen on the verge of adulthood and all of the issues that go with it from peer pressure to parental expectations, pregnancy, sexual identity and life in the projects with an overly sanitized version of life in the projects or cliched disagreements between teens and parents who just don't recognize their artistic vision, Fame doesn't feel at all in touch with today's youth nor does it have the goofy likability or escapist air of High School Musical.
Caught between both worlds by moving uneasily from a student's confession of how he felt when his sister was shot to a run-of-the-mill romantic quarrel when a boyfriend is threatened by a guy who puts the moves on the girl and she has to apologize for getting out sans rape or parents being startled when their pianist daughter reveals the urge to sing hip-hop, Fame tries to be many things at the same time and ends up sticking to the shallow end of the pool because of it.
Using the same freshman year through graduation breakdown of the original, complete with the nerve-wracking audition process as 10,000 students vie for 200 openings, the kids try to impress faculty including original film and series star Debbie Allen, Will and Grace's Megan Mullally, Cheers and Frasier stars Kelsey Grammar and Bebe Neuwirth and Charles S. Dutton.
Containing a few requisite breakthrough moments with their teachers, such as a nice heartbreaking role for Mullally who serves as a warning for the kids that many will not see their name in lights, while Neuwirth is particularly good in an underwritten role, it's Mullally who has the chance to professionally bring the house down in a rousing rendition of Rodgers and Hart karaoke that's worth the rental fee alone.
Considering some standout musical performances by its overly polished cast, the movie plays much like MGM's That's Entertainment collection of impressive numbers without the bother of plot or audience investment. Similarly, it can be likened to a group of kids all auditioning for a show whom we barely get to know during the entire process.
And while it's still surprisingly more entertaining than I feared going in, had it not been for the HSM Extended Dance Edition cue, I have the feeling that far from living “forever,” Fame would've barely lived past its DVD/Blu-ray release.
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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.