Fame (2009): Extended Dance Edition (Blu-ray)
Directed by Kevin Tancharoen
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 107/123 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, French
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: January 12, 2010
Review Date: January 15, 2010
The original 1980 version of Fame had a high entertainment quotient but was dramatically pretty much a mess. The new 2009 remake repeats the flaws of the first movie while providing a decent quotient of entertainment (while not truly matching the freshness and vivacity of the entertainment in the first film). The new film features a grab bag of performing arts: there are jazz, hip-hop, tap, and ballet dance numbers, a few solo songs, and very brief forays into acting and playing musical instruments. But the writer and the director haven’t solved the core problem of Fame: how to present the privileges and responsibilities of possessing great talent and then the difficulty of harnessing its power without its consuming you. The original film didn't do a great job of portraying that problem either, but it did have an edge and a grittiness about it that this remake simply doesn’t possess.
During four years at the Performing Arts High School of New York, ten students encounter success and failure in their various endeavors both in and out of school: talented classical pianist Denise Dupree (Naturi Naughton) is really more interested in a singing career, Alice Ellerton (Kherington Payne) and Kevin Barrett (Paul McGill) want careers in dance, Rosie Martinez (Kristy Flores), Joy (Anna Maria Perez de Tagle), Malik Washburn (Collins Pennie), and Jenny Garrison (Kay Panabaker) are all about acting, Neil Baczynsky (Paul Iacono) is also in the acting tract but only so he can learn about it to become a better film director, Marco (Asher Book) is the school’s most talented natural singer while Victor Tavares (Walter Perez) is a play-by-ear musician who isn’t much interested in the grind of becoming a trained pianist.
As was the case in the 1980 original, the film begins with the audition process to get into the Performing Arts High School. It’s an unremarkable beginning to the film lacking the dynamism of, say, Bob Fosse’s audition sequence at the start of All That Jazz, and then proceeds with episodes involving various students over the next four years of school. We don’t see each one of the ten students of the focus group during each of the four years, and dramatically there are plot threads that are begun and never resolved (the disapproval of Malik’s mother to his attending the school is the most blatant) or are resolved so unsatisfyingly (a dancer who’s told he’s not good enough simply takes the teacher’s word for it and doesn’t continue to pursue the dream for himself; a couple breaks up during their junior year and doesn’t talk about it until right before graduation; a couple of students get scammed in such obvious schemes that they’re irritating to watch) that it’s clear Allison Burnett’s screenplay has overextended itself (as did the original) and can’t handle adequately the dramatic through lines with each of the ten core characters. She even finds time to delve a little bit into one of the faculty’s failed dreams (Megan Mullally playing dramatic vocal coach Ms. Fran Rowan) making one realize that perhaps a movie about how these teachers (also played by Kelsey Grammer, Charles S. Dutton, Bebe Neuwirth, and Debbie Allen) got to where they are might make a more fascinating story than that of the kids trying to realize their dreams which (let’s face it) has been done so many times on stage and screen. Flavorless direction by Kevin Tancharoen never lifts the film’s emotive moments out of the chasm of colorlessness they inhabit.
Though dramatically inert, there’s a fair share of entertainment value to be had from the sheer array of talent on display. There’s one great singing performance: Naturi Naughton brings tremendous soul and passion to “Out Here on My Own,” conscripted from the original film (the new tunes composed for the movie are a mediocre lot, though the company gets a good workout to “Hold Your Dream” for the movie’s climactic number). There’s a great Bob Fosse-inspired hot jazz number to “Black and Gold.” Megan Mullally gets to sing the classic Rodgers and Hart ballad “You Took Advantage of Me” with her slightly nasal but captivating style that did her proud in Broadway roles ranging from Rizzo in Grease to Rosemary in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying to (most recently) Elizabeth in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein. Naughton also comes out to her parents as a singing star with “We’ve Come Too Far,” her dynamic vocals overpowering the slightly anemic song.
With a talented musical performer like Bebe Neuwirth stuck as the dance instructor at the school, we don’t get to see any of the vocal or dance moves that won her two musical Tony Awards. Likewise Kelsey Grammer, Debbie Allen, and Charles S. Dutton make fleeting appearances and then fade mostly into the background. Aside from the vibrant Naturi Naughton, the best performer in the young company is Kherington Payne’s lithe and lovely dancer Alice. Dramatically she isn’t given much to do, but she shines in all of the dance sequences. Paul McGill, who plays the other principal dancer in the film, has more dramatic scenes than terpsichorean ones but with inadequate support from the screenwriter, he comes off as an overreacting drama queen rather than a flesh and blood person. Asher Book is touted as the school’s most talented singer, but after his audition number, his other principal vocal work (a solo in his father’s restaurant) to the song “Try” and a counterpoint to girl friend Jenny’s feeble “Someone to Watch Over Me” are both thin and insubstantial. Kay Panabaker as a timid student who flowers during her four years at the school has energy, but her story just isn’t very interesting.
The film’s 2.40:1 theatrical aspect ratio is delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. The film’s look is mostly drab and unappealing. Sharpness isn’t a problem, and there are no compression artifacts to distract from the image, but the elevated contrast and the gunmetal blues and grays are repetitive and dull after a time. The film has been divided into 28 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix offers expansive surrounds to contain the energetic music that pumps through the speakers continually throughout the film. The LFE channel gets to show off on occasion during some of the hip-hop numbers, while dialogue is well recorded and placed into the center channel where it’s never stifled or overpowered by the music.
The disc offers both the theatrical and extended cuts of the movie. The extra running time comes mainly through extensions in scenes that are in the theatrical cut, and in most cases, the added moments do add to the characterizations of the young performers. The extended edition is definitely the version to watch for the best possible presentation of this material.
There are fifteen deleted scenes which may be viewed separately or in one 18 ¼-minute grouping. They’re presented in 1080p.
A music video for “Fame” as performed over the closing credits in the movie (a very different interpretation than in its Oscar-winning incarnation in the original film) is available for viewing. It runs 3 ½ minutes in 1080p.
There are eleven character profiles for the ten principal young actors in the film and the film’s director. Each person talks about his career up to this point, and they may be viewed individually or in one 17 ¼ minute bunch. For the record, the eleven participants are Anna Maria Perez de Tagle, Asher Book, Collins Pennie, Kay Panabaker, Kherington Payne, Kristy Flores, Naturi Naughton, Paul Iacono, Paul McGill, Walter Perez, and Kevin Tancharoen. Each brief interview is in 1080i.
“Fame National Talent Search Finalists” shows briefly the finals of a talent competition for an act to appear on the DVD/Blu-ray release of the film. Seconds of each of the ten semi-finalists’ acts are shown, and then the winners’ performance, Craig/Lewis, is shown in its entirety. It runs 6 ¾-minutes in 1080p.
“The Dances of Fame” features co- star Kherington Payne and choreographer Marguerite Derricks discussing the dance audition for the ensemble dancers for the film and show behind-the-scenes at the dance boot camp conducted to teach the numbers to the dancers. This 480i featurette runs 7 minutes.
The second disc in the set is the digital copy of the movie. There are instructions enclosed for installation on Mac and PC devices.
The disc contains 1080p trailers for Whip It!, Post Grad, and All About Steve. The trailer for Fame is not included.
2.5/5 (not an average)
Brimming with some good singing and dancing but dramatically undernourished and subsequently unsatisfying, Fame really didn’t need this new 2009 incarnation. Though some fresh-faced talent does come to the fore, the film is disappointing despite a better than average Blu-ray presentation. Those who love musicals might want to rent this just as a means of comparison to the original film.