The legacy of Fame is a bit of a joke. The original movie and TV show might have been groundbreaking at the time but their memory has been reduced to gags about legwarmers and impromptu street dancing in 'I Love The 80s' shows. I'm sure there must have been more to it than that.
The fact is, I bloomin' love the new Fame because it did have more.
The first thing you notice is the style - you can really wallow in its loose, documentary feel. It's exciting, even urgent, after the shiny Disney polish you get with those other stage-struck kids Troy and Gabriella. The music is punchy, vibrant, belted out, feeling more heartfelt than by-the-books-Broadway. The teen issues, whilst perhaps of least interest to the film-makers, also resonate a fair whack. When Kevin, a dancer, is told he's not gonna make it (in an awesome scene that uses Sam Sparro's 'Black & Gold'), his response hints at a gut-wrenching loneliness.
In case you didn't know, Fame is set at the New York School Of Performing Arts. Starting on Audition Day, we're introduced to a group of disparate wannabes - Jenny the actress, Marco the singer, Denise the pianist, amongst others. As they rise from freshmen to seniors, we watch them date, dance, act, rebel, try to work out just what their future holds - all in the space of 100 minutes. Film-wise, it might have been better to set this over one year, rather than four, so frenetic is the pace. But then of course, you wouldn't get graduation or the stress involved with moving on after college.
The bittiness of the many storylines is tough at first but everything soon comes into focus. From then on, it's a home-run. Sure there are cheesy moments - and we love films like this because of them - but it's still surprisingly un-glamorous. This is New York through and through; brassy, ballsy and blunt. You can almost smell the pretzels on the street and feel the heat from the steamy sidewalks. It's a crucial element to the film, reminding us that this is a tough city and a tough industry. Showbiz isn't all smiles and jazz hands.
Performances are all fine enough and Kay Panabaker (Jenny) and Asher Brook (Marco) do make a ridiculously cute couple. Teachers, including Kelsey Grammar, Charles S Dutton and Megan Mullally are likeably brash too.
Who knows if, in a post-Step Up world (which basically re-did Fame 4 years ago), there's still an appetite? With Bandslam tanking only weeks ago, maybe not. But the way director Kevin Tancharoen has captured that unscratchable itch to see your name in lights, an itch that never goes way, is done with a fresh looseness that shows some real flair.
It's out 25th September.