I can’t recall watching the original Fame, but as far as I can tell from its Wikipedia page, my major issue with the 2009 remake would apply equally to its predecessor. For those who don’t know, this musical dramedy follows a fresh intake of students at New York’s High School of Performing Arts, from their hesitant freshman auditions to their bombastic graduation show… with brief, unsatisfying snatches of what they all got up to along the way. Personally, I think it’s silly to try to compress four years’ worth of academic and extra-curricular activities into a two hour movie… especially when you have so many characters and so many different artistic disciplines to service. Traditionally, writers are taught that a story must have Conflict, Development and Resolution… but the individual plot strands presented here seem to skip the “Development” part altogether. You’ll see two characters arguing… then in the next scene (set up to a year later) they’ll be flirting… then they’ll be breaking up… then they’ll be back together again, even though they were never really together in the first place. It whizzes by so quickly, like a compilation of clips from a long-running TV series, that it’s impossible to invest emotionally in any of the characters, their dilemmas or their triumphs… it’s like trying to have a meaningful conversation with someone who’s driving past you in a speedy sports car. Feh.
That said, I did warm to one of the students… ‘Joy Moy’, played by Anna Maria Perez de Taglé (of Camp Rock fame), who chose Columbia’s anti-Rocky rant from The Rocky Horror Picture Show as her audition piece, and (SPOILER!) eventually ended up working on Sesame Street. Now, that’s a character arc I can respect. She also had some funny scenes in-between, including one where she gets drunk and raps on a park bench, for another student’s video project… followed by a hilariously obvious ADR line about how she’ll never drink again, during the video’s classroom “premiere”. Incidentally, the video’s obnoxious director comes off as kinda racist… or at least weirdly obsessed with Joy’s ethnicity whenever he interacts with her. He slaps the opening beats of “Turning Japanese” on to the end credits of her rapping video, for no apparent reason… and later when he’s jokingly giving her a “back rub” before a performance, he uses kung-fu hand-chops and does a vocal impression of a chopsocky-style martial artist. Whu!? To warm up for his opening audition, he also sang the “Chickity China, the Chinese Chicken” line from “One Week“, by Barenaked Ladies, so apparently he has some sort of Asian-fetish that was never fully explored or explained.
For me the standout cast members were the teachers… including Bebe Neuwirth as ‘Ms. Lynn Kraft’, the dance instructor… Kelsey Grammer as ‘Mr. Joel Cranston’, the music instructor… and Megan Mullally as ‘Ms. Fran Rowan’, the singing instructor. It’s a little strange to see Mullally playing it so straight, but she does get to sing a solo number during a scene set in a karaoke club, which was easily the highlight of the movie for me… although obviously it wasn’t as awesome as this Country duet she recently recorded with hubby Nick Offerman, depicting the blossoming love between a Paleontologist and a staunch Creationist, who insists he quit his evil job. “Hitch your wagon to the wings of a dragon!” Damn that’s catchy.
Things I totally thought were going to happen in this movie, but didn’t:
1) Joy getting capped for her gangsta rap outburst in the dark and scary park.
2) One/all of the male students confessing to a major crush on Ms. Rowan… because, seriously, who wouldn’t?
3) The Token Fat Kid actually having a conversation with one or more of the main chracters, instead of just being used for decoration/comic effect.