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Stars: Asher Book, Kristy Flores, Paul Iacono, Paul McGill, Naturi Naughton, Kay Panabaker, Kherington Payne, Collins Pennié, Walter Perez, Anna Maria Perez de Tagle, Debbie Allen, Kelsey Grammer, Charles S Dutton, Bebe Neuwirth, Megan Mullally

Director: Kevin Tancharoen

Movie musicals are now a near defunct genre unless you count Disney’s sanitised-for-white-bread teenagers offerings like Hannah Montana and High School Musical. Which is an excellent reason to welcome this exhilarating ‘reinvention’ (happily not simply a straightforward remake of Alan Parker’s seminal 1980 film and its TV series spin-off) which, while using the same basic story of an assorted bunch talented young dancers, singers and actors learning the business of Show Business at New York’s famed High School of Performing Arts, really does rework the whole with enough electricity to light a large city, leaving the original firmly rooted in its cinematic era.

ItÂ’s not Disney-esque either: the show is pleasurably gritty (in relation to the certificate) where it needs to be in characterisation, acting and delivery.

The unfamiliar faces of the likeable and talented young performers add welcome realism within the artificiality of a show business movie while their adrenaline-fuelled performances give the film a genuine freshness, effervescently potentiated by choreographer-turned-first-time director TancharoenÂ’s sparkling handling of the inventive dance numbers, as well as the several storylines about the passions and ambitions, successes, setbacks and disappointments, competitiveness and teenage romances of the would-be entertainers during their four years training.

The adult cast, including various tutors, are well chosen, too, with Grammer, Neuwirth, Dutton and Allen (from the 1980 film) as pupils' parents handling their assignments credibly and without upstaging the youngsters. Fame fizzes with energy and to spare, the dramas are credible without being overbearing in context, while comedy is enjoyably interlaced into the rousing musical numbers whose inventive choreography and spot-on editing make a second viewing welcome. It may not be ‘art’ as we know it, Jim (and doesn't pretend to be) but it is near-perfect entertainment for its prime target - teenage audiences.

Alan Frank

USA 2009. UK Distributor: Entertainment . Colour.
107 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 24 Sep 2009