by Laura Kyle
I wasn't interested in RAISING HELEN, and I certainly don't want to RAISE MY VOICE, unless it is to scold Hilary Duff and the pitiful movie she is stuck in. I entered the theater with low expectations, and let's just say they were exceeded. These teen flicks have gotten out of hand. I do not feel like a critic anymore, I feel like a mother, who must inform her children of proper behavior. "Remember, when making a film, make sure you don't neglect directing it."Duff plays Terri, an aspiring young singer who has a strangely close relationship to her doting brother. Remember American Beauty, and that scene of Ricky Fitts (played by a brooding Wes Bentley) videotaping his half naked girlfriend Jane Burnham (Thora Birtch)? Well, picture Ricky as a bright-eyed, happy go lucky kid with a camera, and Jane, not naked, but blond and singing badly. And now imagine they are brother and sister. This is essentially the beginning of Raise Your Voice. Yeah. There could only be one reason for this odd plot element. When a movie opens up with obnoxious smiling faces, a choir shouting out an incredibly cheery song (Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog to be specific), and a brother/sister relationship that is so strong, it is borderline incestuous, it could only mean one thing. Somebody is going to die. Hint hint.
"Young American actress in desperate need of a high quality, original film."
After a sudden tragic loss, the details of which you should have figured out by now, we are thankfully fast-forwarded through the grieving process, to Terri disobeying her stern father, with the support of her mother and aunt, to attend a prestigious summer music program where she can practice her craft. The ensuing plot and lame finale is not worthy of discussion. But if you must know... there is more than one spontaneous gathering of music students, who - armed with their instruments and voices - burst into well choreographed songs that appear to be giving them orgasmic pleasure. And when Terri attempts to perform classic Italian Arias and timeless choral pieces in a pop style (without talent I might add), I knew Raise Your Voice was hopeless.
Raise Your Voice is another fish-out-of-water-who-wouldn't-normally-be-out-of-water-in-real-life stories, except this time around, horrid music is mixed into the formula. Raise Your Voice is also the kind of movie that is so brimming with cheese, Duff's celebrity rival Lindsay Lohan will probably take a group of friends to see, for a good laugh, and a sizeable ego boost. It puzzles me that superstar Duff cannot find more respectable work; perhaps Lohan has taken all the good roles.
Nonetheless, there are a few touching, earnest moments, and despite all the damage Duff has done to the movie industry, I still like her. Although she's hardly a musical performer (even though her real-life hit songs and teeny bopper fans imply otherwise), she's mastered the art of crying -- shedding tears and downright sobbing for a considerable portion of the film. What's more amazing though, is her character's permanent, perky personality never gets too irritating; that's quite a feat. Ultimately, whether one likes it or not, she is what carries Raise Your Voice. Her young co-stars are easily forgettable, and I am not really sure what David Keith (as Terri's father), and John Corbett (as her teacher), are doing in this movie, and I don't think they know either. I'm certain they weren't getting much help from director Sam McNamara, who had to draw most of his experience from work in television, and whose only memorable film projects were some of the Casper movies and P.U.N.K.S.
There was a story in here that McNamara could have told in a compelling and convincing manner. But he can't even manage to pull off the unoriginal film tactics, like the discovery of the "other girl," competently. I assume that if quality actors like Corbett, Keith, and Rita Wilson (playing Terri's mother) hopped on board, Raise Your Voice must have looked good on paper. I guess even they could not predict it would sound so awful. However, the young up-and-coming star Evan Rachel Wood (Once and Again, Thirteen), turned the job of playing Terri down.It's possible some pre-teens and kiddies will appreciate this PG dud, but I'm not making any promises.
link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=10979&reviewer=369
originally posted: 10/15/04 03:10:25