Raise Your Voice (2004)

logoWhat’s more fun than this movie? Picking your nose, eating glass, listening to a Hillary Duff song, hell even watching a Paris Hilton movie. What is so incredibly laughable is that the director is so intent on giving Duff a respectable boost, he forgets that the truly sensible audience will just laugh it off. There’s a hilarious quotation from Beethoven before the movie begins that is extremely presumptuous paying too much homage for what we are about to see, and what we’re about to see is more horrific than anything we’ve seen in horror films in the past ten years. It’s not so much that “Raise your Voice” is an awful film, but it’s more that this is so insanely, brutally melodramatic and manipulative it would make the writers for day time soaps cringe. As always we watch Duff in every single frame of this god forsaking movie, and she doesn’t help this film at all.

Originally set to be a more mature, original film, it was toned down, watered down, and dumbed down, not to mention completely lobotomized in to this mess. So, Terri is a young girl who is a singer and has an older brother who loves her and films her doing everything and she wants to be a professional, but her father won’t let her. After a major family crisis, Terri heads out on her own to the big city to the music school and blossoms in to a great lip syncher. Now, anyone who is surprised by the sudden death of the major character are either a) young, b) brainless, c) has not seen films for the past forty years, or d) all of the above. I choose d. So, Terri is so broken by her brother’s death, she doesn’t want to sing. Gah, what a blow to the culture!

So, she sneaks off to school much to the obliviousness of her father whose intent to hold her back is never justified thus making him more of a villain than a two dimensional character. Duff has a lot of charisma, appeal, and looks (which accounts for 85 percent of her fan base), but she has ZERO talent. Duff once again displays an incredible ability to show how unable she is to be a remotely watchable actress in both comedic and dramatic outlets. Duff has nothing to her performance here, she’s goofy when trying to be serious, wooden when trying to be emotional, and loves to chew the scenery with her attempted emoting, and the director doesn’t hesitate to flaunt her as much as possible (and seems to even dwell on her looks too often. Is it any wonder this director has directed many of her vehicles?).

Especially through her “singing”. Watch the scene where Terri discovers the real reason she got in to the school. With the right actress cast that could have been heartbreaking but it is so botched, I was just groaning in disgust. But Duff does show some incredible ability–to lip synch, and delivers the notes–like a master ventriloquist. And it’s often very giggle inducing to watch people fawn over her “ability” including the fun John Corbett who really pulls off looking amazed at her faux singing. As for one of the minor qualities of this that kept me interested for the first half was Jason Ritter. Ritter is great in this. It was a saving grace he dies in the beginning. Oh, don’t pretend I ruined this for you. It’s not like this is Tolstoy or something. Either way, Ritter is fun to watch in the first half giving the charisma lacking by Duff and could have worked well had he survived.

There is such a large amount of talented actors scattered throughout this film from Rebecca DeMornay, and Jason Ritter, to John Corbett, and even Rita Wilson all of whom are wasted, and Duff doesn’t seem to absorb their ability at all giving the worst performance of her small irrelevant career. With the right leading actress, this could have been so good, but Duff’s casting is painful. She has zero range with her audience, and zero ability to add depth and emotion to a character that should have, and the fact I had to sit through her while reading Evan Rachel Wood was set to star originally, is an insult to injury. To paraphrase Chris Rock, “If you want Evan Rachel Wood and all you can get is Hillary Duff–Wait!”

The attempts at melodrama are forced, rigid, and clunky, take for example when the character Paul confronts Terri’s father. Had the writers spent more time on the relationship with Terri and Paul, we could have felt his death more and it would have had a more emotional impact on its intended audience, meanwhile was there really a need for a bitch antagonist if that sub-plot doesn’t really go anywhere? Besides that, there could have been much more focus on the better more interesting characters. That type of hackneyed plot mishandling showed what could have been good ended up just falling to waste. The dialogue is criminally clunky with many lines that are just groan inducing including the inevitable “This is the most amazing/scary/exciting moment of my life!” Meanwhile the real actors look bored while around Duff. And there are many, many forgettable musical numbers! Who knew music students gathered on the front of their school every day and broke out in to impromptu orchestral and music sessions?

Meanwhile everyone in the school are snobby as you would expect, and it takes time for them to warm up to her, about the time it takes for the second half of the film. There are your usual cast of characters, the bitch, the snob, the idiot savant, the punk rocker, the rapper, the artistic bohemian, all to blatantly appeal to the general audience it seeks to pander and talk down to. There’s nothing to this film, there’s no originality, no warmth, no plausible or even remotely bearable plot, and in the end it’s just another vapid Duff vehicle. Duff is fun to look at, and Ritter really breaks out from everyone else, but in the end this is a really bad movie. I imagine in ten years Duff will glow about this while on “Hollywood Squares” or “Celebrity Scrabble”. Meanwhile there’s nothing here. Vapid story, shallow concept, bad acting, unoriginal characters, and a climax so cheesy I had to shut it off to keep from kicking in the screen.