Raise Your Voice

There is a death at the beginning of Raise Your Voice that is supposed to catapult its main character into a depression that affects her for the rest of the film. Among other things, it causes her to not want to sing. After coming to terms with her loss, Terri Fletcher (Hilary Duff, A Cinderella Story, Cheaper by the Dozen) will be able to want to sing again, and everything will be shiny and happy. It's too bad that this event does not fit in with the rest of the film. It is shamelessly there to be emotionally manipulative. Director Sean McNamara (Race to Space, Treehouse Hostage) knows that nearly everybody in the theater will be little girls, and this will make them cry. Then, when everything is sunny at the end, they will cry some more. He takes Raise Your Voice from the typical bland movie and manages to make it worse.

Terri wanted to go to a prestigious summer music academy in Los Angeles, but this event and the fact that her father (David Keith, Daredevil, Behind Enemy Lines) is adamantly against it prevent her from doing so. Her mother (Rita Wilson, Auto Focus, The Glass House) thinks that the change of pace (they live in Arizona) will be a good thing, so they conspire with Terri's aunt (Rebecca De Mornay, Identity, The Right Temptation) and pretend that Terri is staying with her. In Los Angeles, Terri is finding things really hard to adjust to. Her roommate Denise (Dana Davis, No Prom for Cindy) is standoffish. Oh, and she's hip and black, like all roommates in these kinds of movies. She likes Jay (Oliver James, What a Girl Wants), but the rumor is that he is a major player. His ex, Robin (Lauren C. Mayhew) seems to hate her immediately. The only friendly person is her vocal teacher, Mr. Torvald (John Corbett, Raising Helen, My Big Fat Greek Wedding).

All of the students at music camp need to come up with some piece of work by the end of the summer. And, Terri needs to sort out her feeling for Jay, her lying to her father, and the other thing that is really pretty pointless. Take out the event at the beginning, and the film may actually be stronger. What follows is a Fame redux, with lots of random jamming outside the halls, and lots of stupid bonding. And, Duff manages to fall down a few times. The acting is on par with other movies of this ilk; it is really mediocre if not bad at times. Things would help if the various actors could perform and sing, but again, it's all bland. It's hard to believe that at a very prestigious summer camp, Terri would perform a song that sounds exactly like a bland Hilary Duff pop song. Sure, all the little girls will love it and buy the soundtrack, but come on. Denise is mean, then she's nice. A Goth girl is ignores everybody, then becomes a good friend.

Duff's personality turns everybody good! Duff's career is going nowhere, but she is far from a goner. She is at that age where she can still coast along, do the same thing, and retain her fans. But this can only last a few more years. She just needs to be a little more judicious in what she chooses. There are such things as good 'tweener movies, but they are few and far between. Here, Mitch Ritter and Sam Schreiber offer very little of anything in their screenplay. It seems like a huge marketing ploy where they come up with a reason for Duff to sing, and then put it in the soundtrack. There are at least three mini 'videos' contained within Raise Your Voice, including a particularly bad sequence over the closing credits. Take a look at Keith. He looks a bit uncomfortable, like he doesn't know what he was doing there. Very appropriate.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 43 minutes, Rated PG for thematic elements and language.

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