OK—that's a bit harsh. On second thought, no, it's not. Struggling teen queen Hilary Duff's newest installment in the I-need-to-find-myself genre of eye-rolling cloying girly-ness cinema (yes, there IS a genre) is such treacle you'd have to be a serious fan to get through the thing without losing your lunch.
Especially for me who can withstand and occasionally embrace the tripe cinema of teenage girls, observing hack directors stumble around their sexual appeal and sassiness while supposedly not looking like perverts. Need I remind people how much I enjoyed the Dual/Death Star moguls The Olsen Twins New York Minute? Must I admit to the ridiculous melodramatic value in both Britney Spears' Crossroads and Mandy Moore's A Walk to Remember? Yes, I must.
Nevertheless, Raise Your Voice holds little interest in my teen movie viewing. It's not charming by any stretch of the imagination; it's just too musically terrible (aside from some classical music you'll actually hear); and its melodramatic moments are boring and prissy: No one's losing babies or having sex for the first time or murdering people. Instead, we've got David Keith sour faced and so pissy he looks to be holding a ten-year bowel movement and little Hilary attempting to get along with others after her brother dies, which in it's high drama slo-mo scene, makes us laugh.
Duff plays 16-year-old Terri Fletcher, a hometown gal from Flagstaff, Arizona, who becomes despondent after her older brother Paul (Jason Ritter) gets munched in a car accident. Paul was her best friend and biggest fan (yes, Ms. Duff plays a talented singer in the film). He, along with their groovy Aunt Nina (Rebecca De Mornay—whom we'd really wish would get in her Hand that Rocks the Cradle mode: "You're a Retard!") constantly pushed Terri to get out of Flagstaff and into art school. But grumpy dad, Simon (Keith), won't have it—there's a ludicrous back story involving Simon and his best friend's football scholarship resulting in the friend dying from the evils of Los Angeles. Did they talk to Hank Williams Jr. while writing this? He firmly decides to keep his daughter safe and bored in their little hamlet working as a waitress. But unbeknownst to Terri, Paul had sent in a videotape of his sister to the illustrious Los Angeles' musical arts school, Bristol-Hillman, for their summer program. The tape shows her brushing her hair, singing in the bathroom dancing around her bedroom while brother Paul almost manically records her—is it me or is that slightly creepy? Actually, had he not died and Larry Clark took over the project, the constant sister watching could become intriguing. But this is a nice movie and of course Terri is accepted and of course she's going to go, no matter what daddy says! Through the mutual agreement of her mother, Frances (Rita Wilson) and Nina they allow Terri in without Simon's knowledge—oooohhhh so bad! Their lame excuse involves something about Terri hanging with Nina for a while.
So Terri enters the summer program (she takes a long cab ride through LA, which in real life, would mean the cabbie was fucking with her) and is, at first, a blonde, pert misfit (you know, LA is so adverse to jailbait blondes with big tits). But she slowly makes friends and begins a romance with the school lothario, Jay (the kinda-ugly and British—Oliver James). While training her voice and getting serious about music, she also embarks on a final project with Jay and incurs the wrath of his ex-girlfriend. What? You didn't think she'd have a nemesis? In this case, it's a girl who's easy and wears revealing clothes. Go figure.
With a lot of supposed Los Angeles color (including a mime! A mime! No one in LA would endure that) and some life lessons (drinking is bad!—unless you're watching this movie), the film drags on to its inevitable, predictable conclusion. Hmm…You think daddy's gonna find out? Though Duff isn't an embarrassing actress and does actually convey a few somewhat convincing dramatic moments, she's such a fakey sweet honey-pot that you'll want to throttle her five minutes into the picture. Or better yet, imagine skinny and much more hip MK Olsen (she'd have fun in music school) on her chubby ass. But to be fair director Sean McNamara gives his characters little room to grow beyond square stereotypes of what is supposedly cool or inspiring or heartwarming or whatever-the-hell. And there is NOTHING cool about this movie, which means it's not geared for teens but, rather, dumb 11-year old girls. I mean, I shouldn't be surprised that this film is so square, but it's just painfully so. And if I never see another musician rock out on a violin, I will be a happy girl. I didn't even see that crap in Fame.
Read More Kim Morgan at her blog Sunset Gun