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Friday, September 25, 2009

Fame descends to American Idol-like theatrics

Posted By on Fri, Sep 25, 2009 at 1:19 AM

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The pulsating opening of this remake, in which kids nervously audition for the New York High School of Performing Arts, momentarily quiets doubts about the wisdom of remaking the landmark 1980 Alan Parker film. The sequence, culminating in an eruption of hip-hop song and dance in the gritty cafeteria, could stand alone as a fine short. Disappointingly, the movie descends thereafter into a hodgepodge of underwritten vignettes in which Allison Burnett’s script pays lip service to Art by having the principal (original Fame’s Debbie Allen) and the teachers (Kelsey Grammer, Megan Mullally, Bebe Neuwirth, Charles Dutton), speechify about craft and hard work, ideas that are swiftly dismissed in favor of an American Idol model of success. One storyline focuses on Denise (3LW’s Naturi Naughton), a classical pianist who secretly yearns to sing (though why she can’t also play piano is unclear). Over her father’s predictable objections, she sings on a record that magically launches her toward pop stardom. A piano student jazzes up a Bach prelude and pronounces Bach “boring,” which encapsulates the movie’s attitude. Rather than telling real stories about developing artists, it panders to High School Musical fans with bad, overproduced production numbers and a dismissive view of the arts it purports to promote. **

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