It’s hard to believe that it’s been 29 years since a young singer named Irene Cara first belted out the showbiz anthem, “Fame.”
That theme was just one of the hits from an episodic movie musical about students who attended the New York City High School of the Performing Arts. The flick became a box office smash and spawned a popular TV series that lasted for six seasons.
Given the popularity of “High School Musical,” “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance,” a remake seemed inevitable. The obligatory update is a mildly entertaining if uninspired series of interrelated vignettes.
Screenwriter Allison Burnett (“Feast of Love”) and first-time director Kevin Tancharoen, a choreographer, have attempted to maintain the atmosphere of the original, spreading focus among a number of different students and their stories.
The adult “name” stars are given little to do but toss off the occasional criticism or compliment.
Debbie Allen, who was in both the original film and the TV series, returns as the school principal. Kelsey Grammer (TV’s “Fraiser”) as a piano teacher, Bebe Neuwirth (TV’s “Cheers”) as the ballet instructor, Charles S. Dutton (“The Express”) as the acting coach and Megan Mullally (TV’s “Will & Grace”) as the vocal coach comprise the all-star faculty.
But, of course, this is a movie about the kids.
The newcomers include Kay Panabaker, the actress, Kherington Payne, the dancer, Walter Perez, the composer, Collins Pennie, the rapper-actor, Paul Iancono, the filmmaker, Asher Book, the singer and Anna Maria Perez de Tagle, the comedienne.
But the standout performer is Naturi Naughton as a classical pianist who yearns to be a singer. Her stirring rendition of the Irene Cara tune “Out Here On My Own” is easily the movie’s highlight.
Payne, who rocketed to fame on “So You Think You Can Dance,” has a couple of nice numbers, but they’re not particularly well choreographed or well shot.
The episodic nature of the movie works against it. The lack of a cohesive narrative was a minor weakness of the original movie. This time out, it seems like a cardinal sin.
We’re not given enough time to care about any of these characters or their circumstances. Plus, since four years of school are crammed into the movie’s 100 minutes, you know that conflicts are going to arise and be resolved in short order.
While it has a few moments that really shine, “Fame” is an ironically forgettable enterprise. (PG) Rating: **1/2
* Avoid at all costs
** Only if you're bored
*** Good movie
**** Well worth your time
***** Be sure to see it