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With the recent popularity of High School Musical and TV programs such as So You Think You Can Dance and Glee, it comes as no surprise that Hollywood would attempt to revitalise 1980’s Fame.
Like the original, Fame loosely follows a talented group of young artists — singers, dancers, actors, filmmakers — as they diligently study their craft under tough-but-sympathetic instructors at the New York City High School of Performing Arts over the course of four years.
It’s a bit like a documentary told in four acts, bouncing between the various students and their experiences as they grow from nervous candidates to confident professionals.
This is one of the film’s flaws: two hours doesn’t give enough time to fully develop the characters. The same was true of the original but then it became a TV show, which was able to give each character more screen time.
The movie focuses most on Jenny (Kay Panabaker), an aspiring actor, and Denise (Naturi Naughton), a gifted classical pianist who secretly wants to break out as a pop star.
There’s also Kevin (Paul McGill), the ballet dancer from Iowa who may not have the skills to cut it professionally.
Where the movie is most interesting is in scenes where teachers are pushing and imparting wisdom to the students and, in turn, when the students find their moments to shine. These scenes carry the most resonance but, sadly, are few and far between.
There are good lessons here about expressing emotion as an actor, mastering technique to unleash musical talent, and remaining true to one’s self. Jenny also delivers a meaningful monologue at the end about true success — and it is spot on.
This new version of Fame has a lot to offer to its target demographic (teens), particularly those considering a career in the performing arts. Thematically, the film explores and questions the notion of defining success in one’s life, appropriate in the You Tube generation where both fame and notoriety can gain attention.
Both the DVD and Blu-Ray formats have been released in the “extended dance edition” and include 15 minutes of footage not seen in cinemas. The Blu-Ray edition features deleted scenes, a music video, character profiles and a featurette called “The Dances of Fame”; the DVD version of the film has only the featurette and music video.