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.