Fame (2009)

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Fame (2009) Movie Poster Image
Teen musical remake has edgy content for a PG movie.
  • PG
  • 2009
  • 105 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 8 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 41 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The movie aims to convey positive messages about hard work and following your dreams. It doesn't sugar coat how hard it is to succeed as a performer (some students are told frankly that they won't make it, and others have to make very difficult choices), but it also promotes dedicating yourself to whatever you feel passionate about. All of the students have overcome personal odds to be at the school, and a couple of them make decisions to follow their own dreams instead of those their parents have imposed upon them.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The students are an impressively diverse, tolerant bunch. Almost all of the students work hard and are wholly committed to their art -- but they're also typical teens who sometimes drink and lie to their parents. One boy gets mad at his girlfriend when another guy comes close to assaulting her (not the best example for teens), and two others are resentful when their friend is offered an opportunity that they aren't. Some of the parents aren't very sympathetic to their kids' dreams (though most of them come around).

Violence

No on-screen violence (though performers definitely fall down several times), but Malik discusses his family's violent past, including how his little sister was killed by stray bullets from a gang-related shooting. One character looks poised to jump in front of a subway train but doesn't at the last minute.

Sex

Several kisses, some involving major characters and others between extras in the background. A couple of the kisses are quite passionate, and one (within the context of a "casting session") ends up briefly horizontal. A character warns his girlfriend that another guy is hitting on her and only wants to "hook up"; another girl seems to be flaunting her boyfriend to annoy her stuffy parents. Some of the dances are quite sensuous.

Language

More swearing than you'd expect in a PG-rated film, including several uses of "s--t," plus "bulls--t," "ass," "bitch," "hos," goddamn," "a--hole," "my God," "hell," "screw," "retarded," and more.

Consumerism

Considerably less than many teen-targeted films; mostly just minor references to YouTube, OK magazine, and Sesame Street (one of the students lands a spot in the cast).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Most of the extracurricular scenes involve obvious or implied underage drinking -- often at parties, but also at a club. In one case, a teen girl purposely gets drunk (to "expand her life experience") and throws up; she subsequently says she'll never do it again. Teachers are present at some of the occasions when teens are drinking.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 2 and 5 year old Written byILoveMyWife June 29, 2015

Violent as heck

Not for kids under 17; Sesame Street's Elmo Monster attacks a teenage boy while driving a train. Also, boys constantly call girls "b**ches." Our... Continue reading
Parent of a 8, 10, 12, and 14 year old Written bysupamomma January 15, 2011

12 and up

Lets just start by saying that there is no way this should be rated pg. There were tons of teens drinking at parties and teachers and adults just sitting there... Continue reading
Kid, 8 years old March 22, 2010

Bad for tweens but good for older people

I have watched the movie (Even if i was 8 yrs old) and i think this is a good movie but the language,drinking and behavior isn't good. I watched it by my s... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old February 28, 2010
kinda ok

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?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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