Cinema: Hey Kids...

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Directed by Alan Parker Screenplay by Christopher Gore

Put it this way: Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland are conspicuously absent from Fame. And they are missed, along with those innocent movies where someone cried out: "Hey kids, I've got an idea — let's put on a show!"

There is plenty of eagerness and ambition and, at least in the early reels, high spirits in this movie, which traces a group of teen-age actors, dancers and musicians from auditions through graduation at Manhattan's public High School of Performing Arts. But there is much else, so much that one begins to wonder if anyone connected with the production gave a thought to the virtue of maintaining stylistic and emotional unity within the work. If that sounds like something a fussy old English teacher might say, so be it. They could have used a stickler on this picture.

Take the matter of style. Basically the picture has a grimy, documentary look to it. But every once in a while what appears to be the entire student body pours out into the street to do song-and-dance numbers, some of which are cheerful enough, but all of which break faith with the film's realistic premise. Then there is the question of plot development to consider. In Fame nothing ordinary happens to people. Does the best comedian in the class get a job in a club before he graduates? Then you may be sure he succumbs to dope. Does a young actor betray uncommon sensitivity? Then homosexuality is his inevitable lot. The dancer with the greatest natural gift? His poverty and illiteracy make him prone to self-destructive violence.

The film is full of attractive young performers. And there is a low-keyed conflict between them and a faculty that is trying to discipline their exuberance without stifling their spirits. If the film had concentrated on that instead of on hokey melodrama, it might have been far more engaging and truer to life.