By Jason Lee
February 8, 2010
Stale pretzels and lukewarm sodas aside, in-flight movies provide a great opportunity for you to catch up on some of films that you didn't get to see while they were in theatres. Besides, what else are you going to do during your flight? Stare at the seat in front of you?
In-Flight Entertainment brings you the movies now playing at a cruising altitude of 45,000 miles in the air. So put your tray table up, buckle your safety belt, and let's go.
Now Playing on Westbound American Airline flights in February: Fame
You would have thought that the 2009 remake of the 1980s classic, Fame, would have been exactly what struggling MGM needed. With network television and their adolescent viewers fawning over shows like Glee and So You Think You Can Dance, having been weaned on American Idol and High School Musical, a cinematic extravaganza celebrating a group of teenagers devoting their lives to the performing arts (music, dance, acting, film, etc.) would seemingly be a box-office slam dunk. A worry-free investment for any producer or film studio. Or so you would think.
Released at the end of September last year, Fame struggled to find an audience. It opened in third place with a mediocre $10 million weekend gross, and ended up with a final total that only barely doubled that number. Clearly, fame does not require legs.
But, of course, with this column, the question is: is this movie worth two hours of my time while I'm stuck on a crowded, loud airplane? The answer is sadly, no. I know that my past two reviews for In-Flight Entertainment have been extremely negative, but Fame gives me no reason to change my mood.
Granted, the film opens with a pretty spectacular sequence. Thousands of aspiring young artists dutifully line up, complete with safety pins attaching their printed audition numbers to their chest, in hopes of landing a spot in the NYC Performing Artist High School incoming class. Over 10,000 auditioned, or so says their strict-but-caring principal, but only 200 got in. Sheesh, with odds like that, they should just apply to law school.
The audition sequence is dazzling. We are treated to an array of talented singers, dancers, actors, and musicians. It's like A Chorus Line as produced by The Disney Channel. The singers sound strong, the dancing and choreography is eye-catching, and the classical musicians are wonderful to listen to. There are a couple of oddballs – strangely non-talented hopefuls of the sort that would be gleefully featured on American Idol's audition week episodes – but for the most part, the competition seems pretty cutthroat. The sequence is overly long (approximately 20 minutes), but it's by far the best thing in the movie.
Then the actual plot kicks in, and the movie grinds to a halt. For one thing, we quickly find that the non-talented oddballs have actually been granted admission to the school. Excuse me? Next, we see the freshman class begin their rigorous class schedule and are treated to scenes of inept dancers struggling to learn partnering skills, singers that have no clue what they're singing, and pianists that can't stick to the sheet music. Excuse me? How the hell did these kids get in? The audition process was grueling and you only admit 2% of applicants – why are you wasting your time on these dunderheads?