Most people that know me – know that #1 – I have 23 Barbra Streisand Record Albums, and #2 – I have a dance movie collection complete with accompanying soundtracks. I’m one of those – Oh! I wish I had continued at Miss Jan Estrella’s School of Dance when I was 10 instead of dropping out to play 10 other sports kind of people. If only I’d had the opportunity to attend Performing Arts High School – oh the places I could have gone. (although my lack of vocal talent and my inate inability towards self-discipline probably would have caused some problems)
I went to a free screening of Fame last week at Loews Theater on 42nd Street. Any true dance nut knows that this movie has been in the works ever since the 1980 original version. (yes, 1980!!!) its directed by Kevin Tancharoen, who’s cut his chops on dance videos.
And indeed – the best features of the film are the moments when these talented young whippersnappers sing, rap and leap across the stage. The sheer brilliance of the dancing and choreography, the spectacular grittiness that is still New York and some beautiful Chicago-like montages make this film a must-see for anyone in entertainment. These kids have so much heart and so much talent – I got teary smack in the middle. Naturi Naughton plays a classical pianist whose real dream is to sing and Kay Panabaker plays a young actress all too eager to fall prey to creepy guys. Even though their storylines are barely fleshed out, the montage of teen angst and the spectacular dance scenes carry the energy throughout the film.
On the downside – the film follows the old script so closely, that the old screenwriters should be given royalties. When a young filmmaker walks into a sketchy producer’s office and is told that he needs to pay $5,000 to get his film made – you already know that the kid will be taken advantage of. Some parts of the film are just that predictable. The film only differs in one very unique way – there’s a bittersweet understanding of what it means to give up your dream to become a teacher. Megan Mullally, Bebe Neuwirth, Kelsey Grammer and Charles S. Dutton play the professors with all the intensity of the original movie. However, you’ll be surprised to find more of a backstory to some of these guys – notably Megan Mullally -who shows everyone just how her big voice carried her through years of Broadway before and after Will & Grace. When her students ask her why she stopped singing to teach – she says simply “I just didn’t have it. You just know.”
This movie represents those that have it and the thousands that have gone through La Guardia high school only to find that they didn’t. Relive your dream for 2 hours and give Fame a chance.