A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
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
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 & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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.
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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.
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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.
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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. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.