Fame, Not Quite what it Takes

Kay Panabaker as Jenny Garrison in Fame

I grew up watching "Fame" during the 80s, rushing home to watch the TV series which came thanks to Alan Parker's 1980 movie "Fame". As such when they announced they were remaking it the movie I didn't like the idea and now having watched the 2009 version of "Fame" I still don't like it. To be honest I wouldn't say that "Fame" is a remake more a re-imagining as whilst it takes the basic structure of the original it plays about with the characters, the issues and the drama which occurs over the 4 year period it covers. That isn't so much a problem but the problem is that it has no heart; this is a movie all about the musical scenes, some which mirror the original some which are new and because it is all about the musical element the drama becomes just something which fills in the gaps. I am sure audiences who enjoy the likes of "Glee" will enjoy this new interpretation of "Fame" but for me and I imagine many others who grew up on the original movie and series will find it a pale, tame imitation.

"Fame" is the story of a group of young adults as they audition for a place at the school for performing arts and we follow them through the four academic years. We watch them grow as wannabee stars but also learn that the path to success is not easy, it takes hard work and there are many issues along the way.

Kelsey Grammer as Mr. Martin Cranston in Fame

So as already mentioned this version of "Fame" basically follows the same structure of the original and so we have the various chapters such as the auditions, the sophomore year and so on. And like with the original we have a select group of students we follow from Jenny who wants to be an actress through to Victor who is a musician and through these people we watch the ups and downs of their attempts to make it. Now there are elements of this which mirror the original, Jenny gets lured into a situation where she is hit upon whilst Victor struggles with having to learn technique and old music. But there are new elements such as wannabe film maker Neil learning that not everyone is trustworthy whilst talented singer Denise has to deal with pushy parents. The mix of new and old drama is reasonably good allowing for some familiarity but updating the drama as well.

But the thing is, is that none of the actual drama has any heart, we watch the events unfold but feel no emotion from them such as when Jenny realises she has been tricked or Kevin learns that he hasn't got what it takes. And the reason why there is no emotion is that the focus of the movie has changed to be all about the musical and performance side of things rather than the trials and tribulations. Basically the drama ends up being the bit which in fills between various musical numbers.

The thing is that the musical side of "Fame" is entertaining and there is a nice mix of old and new with a touching rendition of "Out Here On My Own". Although having said that certain scenes which try to mirror the original such as the supposedly spontaneous canteen jamming scene is painfully forced. But it will work for modern audiences who will enjoy the update to the songs whilst watching some impressive dancing.

And to be honest new audiences will probably enjoy the various good looking characters along with some recognizable faces such as Kelsey Grammar, Charles S. Dutton and Bebe Neuwirth amongst the teachers. But again because "Fame" ends up being about the musical scenes it is all about the performance rather than the characters and so no matter how nice Kay Panabaker and Asher Book look together they are 2 dimensional and forgettable characters.

What this all boils down to is that "Fame" 2009 just didn't do it for me despite doing a reasonable job of updating the original to a modern setting. The problem is that the focus from being about the drama is now on the performances and so there is no emotional depth to this version, just a lot of nice looking actors performing in various musical numbers.

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