In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve never seen Footloose. I got half way through Dirty Dancing before I wanted to trap Baby under something heavy. I don’t watch reality TV shows involving singing or dancing because despite it being their dream, I think they’re muppets for invariably crying.
Because of my colourful relationship with people “dreaming to be the next big star”, it was with some trepidation that I went to see the new remake of Fame, the 80s classic so camp and self-conceited, it’s on a scale of awfulness similar to Elizabeth Berkley in Showgirls.
In an era that continues to produce movies such as Step It Up, Make it Happen and worse, three separate Highschool Musicals, it was inevitable that Fame would get a facelift of sorts, considering in its day it spawned a tour and TV series of its own.
Little has changed in the original formula, again centering itself on a young class of dexterous and hopeful students in a New York school for the performing arts; Marco (Asher Brook) does his best singer-songwriter, John Mayer impression and his girlfriend Jenny (Kay Panabaker), an aspiring actress who’s so tightly wound that she could turn coal into diamonds, are joined by Neil (Paul Iacono), a director of no measurable talent other than a delusional sense of self-belief, and Alice (Kherington Payne), a toff with no acting ability but will probably be a girl in a music video someday. The faculty made up of generally well respected members of their craft (and Debbie Allen returns as the principal) includes Bebe Neuwirth, Megan Mullally and Kelsey Grammar proving that everyone’s hayday is fleeting and bills have to be paid.
Whereas the original tried to add grit and clever editing together with important social themes not dealt with elsewhere at the time such as coming out, stage mothers and the murkier side of the industry, this new interpretation desexualizes and sacrifices realism and character development for style. Everything is one dimensional and thought through badly, such as the stereotypical angry black man whose mother works three jobs to keep a roof over their head yet never wears anything less than Lacoste to school.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember in this desaturated palette is that no matter how much you can attempt to dress it up, fame is exploitative, something evident when Mullally explains to her class why she left the business they call show; just ask the original cast about their successes.
Oh and if you can’t do, teach.