You know what has changed the most since Fame, Alan Parker’s beloved 1980 film about a New York performing arts high school? The nature of fame itself. Today, fame is a reality TV show, viral video, or testy town hall meeting away. The question isn’t who gets to be famous? It’s who doesn’t get to be famous? So the stakes are pretty low on this update—and the film clearly knows it.
I mean, say what you will about Parker’s original (I loved it), but it was made with a real affection for the young cast and a kind of messy, earnest joy. This update is as slick and calculated as a McDonald’s commercial.
Sure, there are some show stoppers. Newcomer Naturi Naughton gives Irene Cara a run for her money as Denise, the classical pianist who really just wants to sing. (Of course, I hate films that depict classical music as somehow stifling, but that’s a personal pet peeve.) And the inevitable cafeteria music extravanganza, while cheesy, is fun to watch.
But for the most part, we don’t care about these kids, whose stories are barely...