Hilary Duff's "Cinderella Story" wasn't as bad as I'd expected it to be, but that was largely due to a fine supporting cast. That film was basic, wish fufillment/cotton candy cinema for Duff's target audience - it didn't pretend it was something it wasn't. However, "Raise Your Voice" tries to become something out of its grasp - a Hilary Duff inspirational drama (the movie starts off with a quote from Beethoven. Let me repeat that again, because it needs repeating. A Hilary Duff movie starts off with a quote from Beethoven.) Like "Cinderella Story", "Voice" is pretty much comfortable and predictable, lacking any sort of edge.
The picture stars the Duff as Terri Fletcher, an Arizona teenager with musical talent. However, her father (Keith David) doesn't want her to attend a center for the arts because he doesn't want his daughter going out to California. However, her brother sees her talent and sends a recording of her performances to the center, right before he gets killed in a car accident when he and Terri snuck out to see a concert.
Her mother (Rita Wilson) and aunt (Rebecca DeMornay) want to see Terri live her own life, however, and put together a scam to allow Terri to go to Los Angeles without her father knowing. Once she gets there, the other kids are snooty to the poor Duffster, but the planets align by the end of the movie and the rest of the kids realize what an extra special superstar Terri is. For no particular reason, there's also a mime prominently featured in one scene.
Okay, I'm taking things a little too far here, but "Raise Your Voice" is occasionally rather ripe for goofing on. The film's attempts at comedy seem corny, while the drama is melodramatic, sappy and occasionally, unintentionally funny. Terribly overscored, the film can't seem to go a few minutes without a song on the soundtrack or some overly manipulative piece of score. Already a bit overlong at 107 minutes, the picture could have lost its bunch of musical montages. The characters aren't much better - Keith David gets stuck playing the thankless role of Angry Dad (the character is supposed to be "protective", but he just seems mean), while the students at the center are all one-dimensional types.
Even after all that, oddly enough, the picture isn't a total loss (It's not Hilary Duff's "Glitter", in other words.) Duff is once again the weak link, and again there's an effort to try and surround her with a halfway decent supporting cast. Duff, Wilson and others (John Corbett plays her teacher) do give it a try, but the material is pretty second-rate. Duff needs to display greater range and select much finer material than this. If she doesn't, I suspect her 15 minutes are about up.
VIDEO: "Raise Your Voice" is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 pan & scan on this dual-sided disc, which has one single-layer side and one dual-layer side. The picture quality is perfectly fine, with sharpness and detail that remains very good, but not quite great.
Some scattered flaws were present in the transfer, but nothing of great concern. Light edge enhancement is present in a couple of scenes and a few minor traces of pixelation were spotted. The print appeared to be in excellent condition, with no specks, marks or other faults. Colors looked a tad subdued, but were nicely saturated and presented no concerns.
SOUND: "Raise Your Voice" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. Aside from a weird and gimmicky bit of surround action during a musical montage early in the picture, the film's audio is pretty forward-heavy. Audio quality is perfectly fine, with clear dialogue and music that sounds full and crisp. Still, nothing ambitious about the sound mix - it delivers exactly what you'd expect, given the material.
EXTRAS: There's 5 deleted scenes, a "behind-the-scenes" featurette, outtakes and an orchestra sequence, the film's trailer, promos for other New Line titles and a Hilary Duff music video ("Fly"). Finally, a $6.50 movie cash ticket for "Son of the Mask" is also included.
Final Thoughts: "Raise Your Voice" isn't terrible, but it's a pretty sappy bit of fluff from Duff, who doesn't prove herself capable of handling drama. New Line has put together a fine DVD edition, with good audio/video quality and a handful of supplements. Fans of the movie or Duff may want to look into the DVD.