By no means will this review advocate future remakes. Creative properties like Clash of the Titans, Footloose, The A-Team, and The Karate Kid are best left in the recesses of our memories, where nostalgia amplifies quality and negates obvious flaws. Article continues below
That being said, now is the right time for Hollywood to revisit Alan Parker and Christopher Gore's 1980 hit Fame -- one of the original high-school musicals. Because during a time where overnight celebrities are a dime a dozen and scandal, not talent, earns people their proverbial 15 minutes, it bears repeating that grit, sweat, perseverance, and tears are the price of staying atop the entertainment mountain if you find yourself lucky enough to ascend to the peak.
It is ironic that Kevin Tancharoen, the 25-year-old choreographer turned feature-film director, fills his the immensely talented student body for Fame with performers who'd burst onto the scene courtesy of the primetime reality/talent/popularity programs that contribute to the delusion of celebrity. Nimble ballerina Kherington Payne, for example, appeared on So You Think You Can Dance before scoring the role of Alice, an Upper East Side debutante with a blazing knack for modern choreography. Fame co-star Anna Maria Perez de Tagle also appeared on one episode of Dance, while power-ballad belter Naturi Naughton courted record executives as a member of the pop group 3LW, opening for the likes of Destiny's Child and Jessica Simpson.
But Tancharoen tapped these talents because they can sizzle, not because they're flashes in the pan, and their contributions teach Fame how to fly (high!). Yes, Irene Cara's title track finds its way into the remake, along with actress Debbie Allen and the soaring piano tune "Out Here on My Own" (which Naughton nails in a very powerful scene). However, Tancharoen's Fame is its own animal: a modern, gritty, hip, and cool musical with spontaneous and organic jams and a musical styling tailored for today's teenagers.
The young cast attending the fictional New York High School of Performing Arts is uniformly great. They're all plugged into the collective notion of entertaining, rising to the challenge of a solo -- Payne's dance sequence is a beautiful escape -- yet finding ways to stand out when collaborating as an ensemble (in the graduation scene, for instance). Kelsey Grammer, Bebe Neuwirth, Megan Mullally, and Charles S. Dutton bring needed experience to the roles of faculty members, but they're support structures for the talented, younger co-stars and don't demand too much of the spotlight.
Because Fame trades in creativity and artistic stimulation, the left-brain functions of an ordinary screenplay -- plot, character development -- take a back seat to the high-powered singing and high-energy dancing. But the talent on screen is so impressive, you don't really mind. Fame is a front-row seat to a rousing Broadway production. It's a calling card for Tancharoen -- the right man for this particular job -- and a solid demo reel for many of the artists who should ascend to the top of the Hollywood ladder and stay there. Too many remakes flooding multiplexes are easily forgettable. Fame is one I'll remember (remember, rememberů)