Fame was an exhilarating experience back when it first came out back in 1980. For better or worse, it inspired a whole generation to head to the big city to pursue their big dreams of becoming famous. It was not that new – such themes have inspired films going back decades. But Fame informed the ‘80s yet, to come. It was leg warmers and dancers bodies. It was Irene Cara – tights and spotlights. It was one of the biggest thrills of that decade.
In 2009, MGM thought it wise to revive Fame with an updated remake. The remake would be okay, good enough to be seen, say, as a movie-of-the-week on the Disney channel. It is passable, that is, if you’d never seen the original. With those backbeats in your head, those flying bodies and those high notes, the original towers monstrously over the remake, very nearly obliterating it from orbit.
The new Fame is helmed by Kevin Tancharoen, who cut his chops mostly on dance and concert videos. The story is robbed of any real life conflicts, which is part of what made the original Fame interesting; it wasn’t about appealing to the target demo of homogenized youths. It was really about telling their stories and it looks back upon moments of what our realities were back then. Clearly time has changed.
Now it’s difficult to tell where the ad campaign stops and where the real person begins. We know too much about celebrities now, even too much about people who are only famous for being famous – names like Kardashian and Hilton and Lohan – they are everywhere all of the time. Fame isn’t what it used to be.
The various storylines include a pretty young actress (Kay Panabaker), a concert pianist (Naturi Naughton), a gay ballet dancer and a rapper (Collins Pennie) who is too angry to be a good actor, and of course, Kherington Payne, from the dance show So You Think You Can Dance playing the hot dancer in the group. These players are all competent. One wonders what they might have done with a good script.
The real standout, though, and the one you wish the whole movie was about is Naturi Naughton as the concert pianist-turned-singer. Her parents don’t want her to stray from her intended course and so they push her too hard. But her talent must out. It’s a thrill to listen to her sing, and she remains one of the only characters in the film we even care about at all.
There doesn’t seem to be any great point to making or even watching the movie. It isn’t awful and it doesn’t offend in the least. It’s just that there isn’t a whole lot there. It is as sweet and temporary as a meringue cookie. It looks like it has substance but one taste and it melts away.