This is Ron Salfen, “At The
Movies,” and here’s my commentary on a film opening today at The
Majestic Theater in
“Fame” is the kind of musical
that just begs to be re-made. The
premise, back in 1980, was to showcase some of the most talented high
school students from the New York Academy of Performing Arts, and that
movie launched the career of Irene Cara, as well as spawning a television
show that lasted several seasons.
Today, that same school is called
LaGuardia, and the young people we see in this film are considerably older
than high school. But it’s
still kind of a blast of energy to see these talented young performers
seemingly break into a spontaneous jam session in the lunch room.
Even the auditions crackle with anticipation, and ooze with raw
talent. Unfortunately, some
of the acting performances are kind of uneven, which is what happens
sometimes when you find gifted musicians and dancers who don’t
necessarily have acting experience. Unfortunately,
some of the dance numbers seem overblown, especially for a high school,
which is what happens when the Director hones his craft from a Britney
Spears tour. “Fame” is
supposed to be a kind of chronicling of their academic careers, everything
from the intimidating opening speech by the hard-nosed principal to the
personal emotional challenge of demanding teachers to some of the
student’s struggles with parental expectations, sometimes to achieve
mightily there, and sometimes not wanting them there at all.
Yes, it’s heartbreaking for a kid
to hear that’s he’s never going to make it in showbiz, but better to
be told then than waste a lot of everyone’s time later.
Yes, fledgling musicians can be swindled into bogus record
contracts, victimized by their transparent eagerness to succeed.
And yes, an aspiring young actress can also be suddenly introduced
to the casting couch, and must decide between her ambitions and her
This self-conscious re-make features
the awesome singing talent of Naturi Naughton, who isn’t exactly an
unknown (she was on “Soul Train” six years ago), but her powerful
presence is unmistakable, as is the startlingly clear voice of Asher Book
(who was on “Pop Rocks” five years ago).
In a pre-American Idol world, we all
enjoyed thinking that the obscure “best and the brightest” would get
noticed by veteran teachers who would care enough to help them develop
their artistic talent. Today,
we have more people, nationwide, voting on “American Idol” than we do
in a Presidential election, and their regional auditions are a veritable
cultural phenomenon. So, the
times aren’t the same as in 1980. But
this re-make is welcome, anyway, because we always enjoy watching great
talent, even if occasionally overproduced.
This is Ron Salfen, “At The
Movies,” for 93-5 KICK-FM.