Every time I watch “Space Jam,” I make plans to drop out of school to become a basketball star. The euphoria of MJ’s triumph over those pesky green aliens convinces me anything’s possible and anyone can make it big — the same goes for “School of Rock,” “Save the Last Dance,” “Remember the Titans” and countless other preadolescent films. I expected that same feeling of exuberant empowerment when I saw the recent remake of Alan Parker’s hit ’80s film, “Fame.” Instead, I emerged from the theater with the grandiose feeling of “huh?”
This movie, directed by Kevin Tancharoen — a quality filmmaker who started as a dancer in “You Got Served” and went on to create “The Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll” — spends most of its rambling two hours striving for the feel-good moments and performance-driven highs of “High School Musical.” And admittedly, “Fame” has its moments: As it follows nine(ish) talented teens through four years of high school, the actors and stunt doubles are occasionally allowed to show off their performance skills. But the film’s problem is placement — the most spectacular performances are stuck randomly in the midst of a weak plotline and leave the audience confused. At one point, the gifted high schoolers find themselves in a raucous Halloween “Carn-evil” with outlandish props, extreme choreography and (what seemed to me like) an abundance of ecstasy. It’s like that time Winnie the Pooh had a trippy nightmare about “Heffalumps and Woozles” — an entertaining but unsolicited bout of psychadelia in the midst of a feel-good flick.
The movie’s plotline finds itself in limbo between a Disney Channel original movie and the 1980 version on which it is (loosely) based. Where the old version addressed issues from homosexuality to racism to child abuse, the new “Fame” limits itself to troubled relationships and mild parent problems. But with the shiny PG rating comes complete emotional impotence: I was neither excited when the beautiful blond dancer hit it big nor frightened when the not-so-talented ballerina headed for an oncoming subway train. Maybe it’s because the plot tried to follow too many characters, or maybe it’s because the characters couldn’t cuss or face real world issues, but in any case, the film’s drama doesn’t hold much appeal for anyone over the age of 13.
After “Airbud,” I shot ,1000 baskets in my front yard. After “Save the Last Dance,” I practiced pirouettes for hours. And after “Sister Act,” I belted gospel for months. But after “Fame,” the only thing I was inspired to do was get my money back. If success is synonymous with conformity and a few minutes of unappreciated talent, then fuck fame.