Saturday, September 26, 2009

About five years too late

A couple years ago, I was sitting in the theater when a trailer came on featuring a bunch of boisterous young people dancing in one of those loft studios, the kind that always seem to be in New York City. The kids were of different races and genders, and their dialogue was pretty snappy.

And I thought: "Finally, the remake of Fame."

Except it wasn't. It was Step Up 2: The Streets. Yet another pop culture outlet for young people undergoing the rigors and challenges of becoming performers.

I say "yet another" because American society has been inundated with movies and TV shows devoted to the heartwarming stories of unlikely youngsters overcoming the odds to excel at their chosen craft: singing, dancing, acting, playing an instrument, kabuki theater, what have you.

In this sea of product that has been influenced in some way by American Idol, how does a film like today's Fame remake have any chance of standing out?

It seems like a rare failure on Hollywood's part to strike while the iron's hot. While we were all waiting for the Fame remake as the least surprising "idea-that-would-eventually-transpire" of all time, dozens of other movies and TV shows were barraging us with the same material, inevitably blunting the impact an eventual Fame remake could have.

The actual movies riding this country's wave of renewed interest in the performing arts -- such as Save the Last Dance, Step Up, Center Stage, Step Up 2: The Streets, Take the Lead, the High School Musical series, etc. -- pale in comparison to what you can find on TV. In the last half-decade we've been force-fed all manner of performance competition-based reality programming, from the aforementioned American Idol to Dancing With the Stars to So You Think You Can Dance? to America's Got Talent to even a revamped (and short-lived) version of Star Search. And now this fall, a prominent fiction TV show -- Glee -- is also offering up a dance number and show tune every five minutes.

Again, how does Fame compete?

Answer: It probably doesn't.

Even though conventional wisdom might project a successful theatrical run precisely because America is inundated and obsessed with this stuff, I don't think that will happen. Instead, I expect Fame to be lost in the shuffle. Its thoroughly unmemorable advertising campaign -- the above image looks like a reject from an ipod commercial -- won't help.

Prediction: $40 million total box office take, tops. That's not a bad haul, but it's not what the studio expects from a brand with this kind of name recognition.

And it's half of what they probably could have gotten, say, five years ago.


Daddy Geek Boy said...

The original FAME is a dark, gritty, real drama. It had real characters and emotions. It was not glossy in the slightest.

The biggest mistake about the remake, from what I have read, is not the timing but rather the slick, glossy version of the movie that is being presented. You're right in that it has to compete with so much other like stuff out there. So instead of owning up to the original's roots and creating a deeper, more meaningful movie, the studio chose the easy route--which panders to the audience.

A few months ago, I ways saying that this movie was going to be a huge success, but it seems that they haven't been able to drum up enough support for it. And if you can't whip tween girls into a frenzy, you're just not trying hard enough. Or maybe you're trying too hard.

Vancetastic said...

It's almost like they're pandering in the wrong ways, too. If your goal really is to pander, put Zac Efron in the movie. As the young actors are mostly newcomers, it'll take this movie to make them famous, but it's hard to know whether that fame will come without the preexisting audience for those stars -- kind of a Catch-22.

Then again, I'm sure a lot of teens will tune in to see the reunion of Kelsey Grammer and Bebe Neuwirth, bringing back so many of their memories of Cheers circa 1988.