Roger Ebert has posted a fascinating letter he received from a crew member of the recent Fame remake "reinvention" who concurs the new version suffered from the constraints of its PG-rating (the original was rated R) and a Disney Channel-friendly running time of 100 minutes (the original ran 135 minutes).
"Name Withheld" wrote Ebert: "The movie had such a good vibe in the early stages before we actually started to shoot it ... it was a pity it ended up being cut-up/chop-chopped and as you said, 'sanitized'. There were a lot of scenes that unfortunately did not make the final cut. These scenes showed stories about true friendship, love, passion, relationships, sexuality, disappointments and successes in detail thru character development. Though the locked version was 'tamed down' because of the PG rating, a DVD directors cut would probably show the actual stories of the 10 different characters."
The overly bland tone of the new Fame was one of the main things I complained about in my review. The author of the letter hopes that a fuller, PG-13 rated cut of the film will be released on DVD. But considering how poorly the movie fared, I'd be surprised if distributor MGM puts much effort into its home video release.
The weekend the new Fame opened, I exchanged e-mails with Barbara Leshin, who lives in Weston and is the mother of Laura Dean, the actress who played the role of the dance student who contemplates suicide in the subway in the 1980 original (a scene I mentioned in my review). I asked Barbara if it would be OK to post her e-mails here. This is what she wrote:
My daughter, Laura Dean, played that part; and, even though she was sitting next to me at the 1980 preview, the scene was so realistic that I was scared to death she would be killed. By the way, she actually said "F--k it," not screw it; and, since she was only 16, I had to give permission for her to say the word.
Lee Curreri, who played Bruno in the 1980 Fame and the TV show, is married to my other daughter, Sherry, and Wednesday night they went to the Los Angeles premier of the new Fame. Sherry sent me her review after seeing the film and it was basically the same as yours. So again, I really appreciated your review.
The only part of the new Fame that was as good as the original was when the MGM lion roared at the beginning of the film. The most emotional part of the 1980 Fame, for me, was seeing my daughter standing on the stage as the orchestra warmed up for the graduation song, and then hearing and seeing her singing the first few bars of I Sing The Body Electric.
I was afraid that seeing somebody else in that spectacular scene would upset me. However, it never happened in the 2009 film, and the music for the graduation scene was so awful that it had no effect on me at all. The only music I enjoyed was Out Here On My Own and of course Fame which was treated so badly in this film.
I think this movie would have been better as a Lifetime movie of the week or an ABC Afterschool Special.
Replacing I Sing the Body Electric with some stupid generic song turned the Fame remake from a weak two stars into a one-star enterprise for me. Why would you not want to use the original song, which is eight shades of awesome?