The Hilary Duff enterprise is back in business with her starring turn in the film Raise Your Voice. But is she stretching it a bit playing a sixteen-year-old accepted into a prestigious music school?
Sixteen-year-old Terri Fletcher (Hilary Duff) dreams of going to the Bristol-Hillman Music Conservatory in L.A. to win a scholarship. She sends in an audition CD, but when she tells her dad (David Keith) and mom (Rita Wilson), dad freaks out and tells her she's absolutely not allowed to go to L.A. by herself. Terri's Aunt Nina (Rebecca De Mornay) is on her side, and so is Terri's older brother, Paul, who gets grounded (he's about to graduate high school, and he gets grounded) for arguing with his father for being an idiot about letting Terri go. But that night, Terri and Paul want to go see a rock concert, so Terri convinces Paul to sneak out of the house. And that's when tragedy strikes…their car. Terri wakes up from a coma (looking pretty well-healed) to learn brother has gone bye-bye. She soon after learns she's been accepted to her conservatory…what she DOESN'T know is that before his death, her brother sent in a DVD of her singing and performing for him in front of the camera…and it's THAT, not the vocal demo, that gets her in (Very American Idol. You know, personality sometimes wins over voice). Personally, before he dies, I found the brother's obsession with the videos he's shot of his sister—particularly in the bathroom--a little unnatural. But either way, daddy won't let her go. So mom and Aunt Nina come up with the perfect plan. Terri will be going to "stay with Aunt Nina" for a few weeks to get over her brother's death.
So Terri's off on her secret excursion, which will involve phone conferencing that makes it seem like she's actually on a second line at Aunt Nina's. As soon as she gets to L.A. young female viewers learn a very important lesson—if you go to a big city, someone walking casually down the street will steal your jacket the minute you get there. She also soon learns that at this conservatory, being a musical freak protégé is normal, and if you look like a normal all-American girl, you're a freak. She has an angry-young black girl as a roommate (of course that changes to avoid any stereotyping). She meets a cute punk looking boy named Jay who has an evil ex-girlfriend who wants him back and will naturally try and sabotage anything he has going with Terri. Then there are a few more talented musicians Terri befriends as she struggles to prove she can actually sing. She somehow gets a solo, despite the fact that she can only croak every time she opens her mouth, due to her guilt over losing her brother. So she does a lot of praying, going to church a few times to remind us of the climate of our country. In fact, I was shocked and offended when Jay is depicted as having gotten drunk at one point, and I was all ready to sit down and write my congressman. Meanwhile, Terri also has a tug of war with her teacher (John Corbett of Sex & The City), who insists that she's amazing while she swears she will never sing again. But how can she resist finding her voice, when freaks are dancing and jamming all over the campus at any given moment of the day? Hard as I tried, I couldn't find LeRoy or CoCo in the crowd, but I'm sure they were there. Anyway, as Terri comes to terms with her brother's death and begins to raise her voice (get it?) her final performance to win the big scholarship gets threatened by—you guessed it—her father finding out she is in L.A. and heading there to get her. Will Terri get her chance to perform before daddy drags her away kicking and singing…I mean, screaming? And even if she does perform, will a girl with no vocal training who can't even sight read a piece of music beat out young seasoned celloists, pianists, etc?
Understand that From Justin to Kelly is in heavy rotation in my DVD player, and I'm actually listening to a dance mix of So Yesterday as I write this, so no, I'm not going to bash Hilary as a talentless teenie bopper, or say this is just a hokey money-making piece of drivel. It's just drivel. The musical moments are lame and uninspired. The dramatic moments are filled with an obnoxious melodramatic swelling musical score that would put Titanic to shame. And every single moment of the movie is predictable. But on the bright side, the pre-adolescent girls who will be watching this movie know none of that, and will probably worship it. Parents, just be warned that you'll be reciting every line along with them after they've watched it repeatedly for a week straight.
The film is anamorphic 2:35:1 (with a full screen version on the flip side). For a new film, I was surprised to see some specs on the print, but nothing major. The Darks are a bit overwhelming in this transfer. Even so, the colors are rich, although the faces are periodically somewhat pale (how can they compete against the black levels?). Edges are crisp with few signs of enhancement, and the film has nice depth.
The 5.1 surround sound (there's also a simple "stereo surround" option) aggressively abuses the back and left right travel for a very fulfilling surround experience. The bass during music numbers is also clean and deep.
Visually, the menu is so incredibly dull for this DVD, which is surprising. Aside from 21 scene selection breaks and subtitles options in English or Spanish, on the widscreen side of the disc, you also get:
DELETED SCENES—there is a play all option, which is always a good thing. 5 deleted scenes are actually mostly extended scenes that were just shortened in the final product. I could have taken or left these. I don't think 13-year-olds will be all that impressed either.
OUTTAKES—four minutes of flubs and bloopers, some funny, some not.
BEHIND THE SCENES—7 minute featurette in which the kids talk about working together and bonding on the set, about the director, and about the music.
ORCHESTRAL SEQUENCE—Less than 2 minutes of footage of the orchestra recording the score for the movie, accompanied by clips from the film.
MUSIC VIDEO—Hilary Duff sings "Fly," a simple video that is pretty much an onstage performance. The sound is 2.0, and it's not so great. The bass is muffled, and there are no highs.
ORIGINAL TRAILER—it's full framed.
MORE FROM NEW LINE—trailers for other films, including Son of the Mask, A Cinderella Story DVD and CD, and more.
INTERACTIVE JAM—a clumsy little feature. You select instruments from a list, and the program tells you what type of music it will play, then plays the song with those instruments, then allows you to hear a "Bristol-Hillman" professor discussing that type of music.
DVD-ROM CONTENT—you have to install a player on your PC to use this. It's not worth it. You get a photo gallery form the movie, and a couple of links to related websites.
Finally, there's a little Easter egg. In the main menu, if you arrow down over the New Line Cinema icon and click on it, you can see credits for who put the DVD together.
Raise Your Voice will strike a chord with young female viewers. If they love Hilary, they'll love this. It has very wholesome messages, from religion to dealing with death and being true to your heart, and has just two objectionable scenes: the aforementioned drunk scene, and a short make out session—but rest assured it's a boy-girl make out session, so the natural order of things aren't being challenged by any damn liberals. Personally, I don't see this movie becoming the classic From Justin to Kelly already is with its hot pop songs and dance numbers. But, despite the uninspired musical routines in this film, it should make young girls happy for a few weeks…until Hollywood finds the next Hilary Duff.