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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this remake of the 1980 movie musical Fame has been heavily marketed to tweens and teens on television and online. Although it's rated PG (unlike the original, which was rated R), it feels more like a PG-13 movie, especially in regard to underage drinking (the high schoolers are shown drinking several times, and in one scene a girl gets so drunk that she throws up) and language, which includes more than a few uses of "s--t," "a--hole," "bitch," and the like. The sexuality is also more obvious than in most PG movies, with several kisses and one video-taped "casting couch" make-out session. On the bright side, there's considerably less consumerism than in comparable teen-focused movies, the cast is incredibly diverse, and the underlying messages about working hard and fighting for your dreams are definitely worthwhile.
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What's the story?
The new FAME, like the 1980 original, follows a diverse crop of students through their years at New York City's prestigious High School for the Performing Arts, where every lunch hour turns into an impromptu jam session and every teen yearns for fame and fortune. The large ensemble includes wealthy dance queen Alice (Kherington Payne); Malik (Collins Pennie), a Harlem-bred tough who dreams of a stage career; Denise (Naturi Naughton), a classical pianist who'd rather sing hip-hop; budding music producer Victor (Walter Perez); Kevin (Paul McGill), an Iowa boy seeking ballet stardom; Joy (Anna Maria Perez de Tagle), who lands a job on Sesame Street junior year; Jenny (Kay Panabaker), a slightly uptight actress, and Marco (Asher Book), the sweet-as-pie singer who wants her to loosen up. Do they have what it takes? Some seem to, but not all of them are destined to "light up the sky like a flame."
Is it any good?
The new crop of performing arts students are cute, and a couple seem poised for Disney flicks, primetime teen soaps, or musical careers, but it's hard to really care about any of them. After seeing the updated Fame, anyone old enough to remember (remember... remember...) the original will want to listen to Irene Cara's rendition of the theme song and wax nostalgic about how that high-school musical became a cultural touchstone of the early 1980s. Sure, the 2009 version has the same premise, an equally diverse cast of newcomers, and even a supporting role by Debbie Allen -- whose famous quote from the first movie -- "You want fame? Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying, in sweat" -- is played over the opening credits. The problem is, unlike the original cast of memorable misfits and prodigies, the new generation of performing students is quite bland.
As the school's teachers, the always-excellent Kelsey Grammer (music), Bebe Neuwirth (dance), Megan Mullally (musical theater), and Charles S. Dutton (drama) are all much, much more interesting than any of the students. You almost starts hoping for an extended sequence in the faculty lounge, a la Glee. Parents and Gen-Xers hoping to hear the songs from the original film will be mostly disappointed (sorry, no "I Sing the Body Electric"), although Naughton does a lovely job with "Out Here On My Own," and Book capably delivers short covers of "Ordinary People" and "Someone to Watch Over Me." But despite a few entertaining numbers, it's hard to believe that this Fame will have anything close to the cultural impact on teens that the original did in the age of leg warmers and off-the-shoulder sweatshirts.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how "fame" is different now than in the '80s. With so many media outlets for getting your name "out there," is it even necessary to go through lots of special training to be discovered?
The teens drink pretty openly at parties and clubs. Is this common behavior for teens?
Are the parent-child relationships in the movie realistic? What about the choices that some of the characters have to make about work vs. school?
If you've seen the original, you may want to compare the two movies. How is the music different? Which version has stronger characters?
- In theaters: September 25, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: January 12, 2010
- Cast: Anna Maria Perez de Tagle, Kay Panabaker, Naturi Naughton
- Director: Kevin Tancharoen
- Studio: MGM/UA
- Genre: Musical
- Topics: Arts and Dance, High School, Music and Sing-Along
- Run time: 105 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic material including teen drinking, a sexual situation and language
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.