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Movie Review

Raise Your Voice

MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements and language

Reviewed by: Lacey Mical (Callahan) Walker

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Family, Teens, Adults
Drama, Performing Arts, Romance
1 hr. 43 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
Copyright, New Line Cinema
Copyright, New Line Cinema
Copyright, New Line Cinema
Copyright, New Line Cinema
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Copyright, New Line Cinema
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Featuring: Hilary Duff, John Corbett (Raising Helen, My Big Fat Greek Wedding), Rebecca De Mornay (The Trip to Bountiful, Backdraft), Ashlee Simpson, Jason Ritter (TV’s Joan of Arcadia), Rita Wilson (Runaway Bride, Sleepless in Seattle), Oliver James (What a Girl Wants), David Keith (Daredevil, Behind Enemy Lines)
Director: Sean McNamara
Producer: Sean McNamara, David Brookwell, A.J. Dix, Sara Risher, Anthony Rhulen, William Shively
Distributor: New Line Cinema

“Don’t hold back. Don’t give up.”

“Music is a higher revelation than any wisdom or philosophy.”—Ludwig Von Beethoven

These words appropriately precede the opening credits to this film which is based on glorifying the musically-inclined artists in our society.

Terri Fletcher (Hilary Duff) is a good-natured, all American high school girl with a big dream—she wants to step outside her small-town world of church choir and school music productions and become a professional singer. While her protective father (David Keith) is constantly putting up walls in order to keep her at home, her mom (Rita Wilson) and adventurous Aunt Nina (Rebecca De Mornay) encourage her to pursue her dreams.

We quickly learn that the most important person in Terri’s life is her older brother, Paul (Jason Ritter), who seems to be the driving force in her life, constantly telling her to aim high and never give up until she reaches her goal. An important step for Terri is her application to attend the Bristol-Hillman Conservatory in Los Angeles. Terri is caught in a dilemma—if she is accepted to the prestigious music school, should she follow her heart and listen to Paul’s promptings, or obey her father’s wishes in order to please her parents as has been characteristic of her throughout her childhood?

Terri’s world is turned upside-down when tragedy strikes and Paul is killed in an auto accident. A beautifully constructed, effective montage shows the family dealing with this loss. Terri does not want to sing any more. She feels responsible for her brother’s death, and she no longer wants to enjoy her life. When her acceptance letter arrives in the mail from Bristol-Hillman, she merely crumples it and tosses it aside.

After heavy persuasion from her mom and aunt, Terri reluctantly agrees to attend the school, mostly because it is what Paul would have wanted for her. The three women conspire to keep this a secret from Terri’s father, whom they know would never allow her to go. So, while Mr. Fletcher believes his daughter is going to stay with her aunt for the summer, Terri boards a Los Angeles-bound train, and the adventure of her lifetime begins.

The acting in this film is, for the most part, very bad. Especially ineffective are the few opening scenes with the Fletcher family. David Keith and Jason Ritter deliver their lines as though read from a teleprompter. Their lack of talent is distracting and gives the film an amateurish feel.

The headliner of this production is Hilary Duff, and unfortunately I was left feeling that the movie would have been much more enjoyable had this ’tween-idol starlet possessed the acting and singing abilities to make her role more believable. This part required someone with much more maturity. Hilary’s singing voice is only “fair,” and obviously requires the help of technology to make it sound worthy of even a flash-in-the-pan pop star recording contract. While Miss Duff proves to be a perky, sweet actress, she seems to lack adaptability. A syrupy, girl next door, “Lizzie Maguire” persona can’t quite do justice to a serious leading role on the big screen, and Hilary would do better playing supporting parts until or unless she learns to break the mold in which she seems to be trapped.

Morality Issues

Near the beginning of the film, a boy in Terri’s high school who is infatuated with her reaches for her hand. She extends hers, and they exchange a handshake. As the boy retreats down the school hallway, Terri’s friend laughs, saying something like, “He’ll be worried for the next month that he just got you pregnant!”

While at the Conservatory, Terri forms a romantic relationship with a fellow student, Jay (James Oliver). After having an argument with Terri and leaving the campus, Jay comes to Terri’s dorm in the middle of the night, intoxicated. She does not let him come inside, but helps him stumble up to the roof of the building, staying with him overnight so that he won’t be caught and removed from the school. There is no inference of this being a sexual encounter, but the disturbing part is that alcohol consumption by a minor is not portrayed as a bad thing, rather it seems to be normal and natural for Jay to have used alcohol to numb his hurt feelings.

Two other students, Kiwi and Sloan, also form an attachment. Kiwi (Johnny Lewis) has a crush on Sloan (Kat Dennings) because he finds her physically attractive, and he tries from afar to capture her attention. Eventually, his ardor is rewarded in a bizarre scene where the two suddenly begin kissing passionately, moving all over a room while toppling things over and eventually sinking to the floor, where the scene ends.

There are five religious exclamations and nine additional offensive words.

Spiritual Issues

In several scenes, Terri is shown in church, yet she never mentions God and does not seem to incorporate Him into her life. Jay mentions that music became his religion, and as their conversation continues Terri says, “So, music is like, your “Higher Power.”” He agrees as she nods approvingly.

As in the line from Beethoven quoted at the beginning of the film, the idea is promoted that “music” is an entity to be worshipped, rather than a vehicle through which we can worship our Creator.

“Neglect not the gift that is in thee…” -- I Timothy 4:14

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” — Colossians 3:16

These verses indicate us that whatever musical gift we may be blessed with should be used to the glorification of God. Unfortunately, the characters in this movie spend a lot of time thinking and talking about their musical ability as though it were some self-indulgent artistic power to be wielded at will, and they presume themselves to be very deep-thinking and wise.

“Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.” --I Corinthians 3:18

Bottom Line

The idea is original. It could have been done better, but it is not entirely a waste of time. It would be boring and, in my opinion, inappropriate for children. Probably too juvenile for adults. Older teens may enjoy it, though armed with Biblical knowledge they will discard the ideas presented as humanistic mire.

Violence: Minor / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: Mild

About the DVD version

“The Raise Your Voice” DVD release date is February 15, 2005. Special features include deleted scenes, outtakes, a behind-the-scenes featurette and a music video for the hit single “Fly.” In addition, enclosed in each copy of the DVD is one child admission ticket for the upcoming New Line Cinema film, “Son of the Mask,” in theaters February 18, 2005.

While a number of teen stars that kids look up to are letting us down, Hilary continues to be a generally wholesome role model, and retains that image in this relatively family-friendly movie. While it’s not a faith-based movie, it is one that is friendly to faith. Of course, its main purpose is to entertain, but while doing so, it does hold up the idea of moral standards and values.

About Hillary Duff

Perhaps best known for her titular role on TV’s “Lizzie McGuire” and in “The Lizzie McGuire Movie,” Duff continues to be a role model for youngsters and teenagers worldwide. Parents, moreover, have taken to her charm, as she has so far generally maintained her image and provided her audience with interesting characters. During its theatrical run, “Raise Your Voice” received the Seal of Approval from the Parents Television Council and won an Award of Excellence from the Film Advisory Board, Inc..

In May 2003, Duff brought her title character to the big screen in the hit comedy “The Lizzie McGuire Movie.” That same year, she starred opposite Malcolm in the Middle’s Frankie Muniz in family adventure “Agent Cody Banks” and appeared in the blockbuster comedy “Cheaper by the Dozen” starring Steve Martin, Ashton Kutcher and Bonnie Hunt. She was most recently seen in “A Cinderella Story.”

Duff also enjoys popularity as a singer and won the award for “Favorite Female Singer” at the 2004 Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards. In addition, Lizzie McGuire was voted Favorite Television Series in both 2002 and 2003. Duff was named “Choice Breakout Female Movie Star” for The Lizzie McGuire Movie at the 2003 Teen Choice Awards and was recently honored with the “Rising Star Award” by Big Brothers, Big Sisters.

Viewer Comments
Positive—This movie is great from beginning to end. Hilary Duff shines at her very brightest in this outstanding motion picture. Her acting is her best yet, and her singing is top-notch. She brings the house down with “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “Jericho,” and her hit single “Fly.” She doesn’t disappoint her fans and is sure to win over nearly every viewer of this movie.

The supporting cast is great. John Corbett is excellent as always as Hilary’s teacher. Oliver James who previously starred in “What a Girl Wants” gets a better role and handles it like a pro. I had never seen Jason Ritter before, but I will be looking for his movies from now on. His portrayal of Hilary’s brother is truly great!

The story is actually quite dramatic. This should not be classified with “Duff Fluff.” The basic story is about a girl who has a tragedy in her life and tries to come to grips with it while attending a summer music program. The story is a lot more detailed than that, but I don’t want to include any spoilers. It sounds corny, but it comes off as very believable and genuine. There are light moments too, but the overall feel is that of a drama.

So, if it has a luminous star, cool music, great support, and a truly above-average story, why do so many people hate it? There are two main reasons.

The first is the star. Hilary Duff has a lot of people who hate her. A quick search of the Internet reveals dozens of sights bashing her in the crudest terms. I have heard nearly every interview she has ever done and several other interviews where other people talked about her. She is always cheerful and sweet. So, why the bashing? BECAUSE SHE ISN’T A TRAMP! Every performance she has given (and I’ve just about seen them all) has been completely clean. Her music videos are absolutely the cleanest on MTV in the past decade. A lot of people want tramps. That is why another former Disney star whom we all know has put out a video lately that’s going to give Britney a run for her money. I, for one, don’t think an actress should be hated because she ISN’T a tramp.

The other reason is very similar. The movie itself is very clean. The PG rating turns a lot of people off. Aside from one scene involving teenage drinking, this movie is very clean and has a positive message on dealing with grief. There is no sex, no violence, and only a little very mild language. I’m not saying that any movie that’s PG-13 or R is trash; I’m just saying that there is no reason to skip a great movie just because it’s clean.

Overall, this movie is a fantastic experience for everyone over about 10 or so. (I only say this because there are some “Thematic Elements” that might bother small children.) So, bring your family and watch “Raise Your Voice.” It’s very possibly the best movie of the year. ACTING 10/10—STORY 10/10—MUSIC 10/10—OVERALL 10/10
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
Negative—I was disappointed in this movie after reading the quote from one source that it came from a Christian worldview. I have to strongly disagree. The premise seems to be that the highest calling in life is to “follow your heart”—even at the expense of deceiving your own father. The daughter played by Hillary Duff seems to want to do right, but is persuaded by her mother to lie to her father and go to a summer musical conservatory. Then there are several “humorous” scenes as she tries to continue the deception. By the end of the movie, when her father discovers the truth, he ends up coming to her and admitting that HE was the one that was wrong.

To me this turns morality, right and wrong, on its head! So that those following their hearts at the expense of doing what is right—find all they hope for and all works out in the end! This is in no way a Christian worldview nor is it beneficial.

I can add briefly that the acting was poor, Hillary Duff’s singing was mediocre and the plot’s old.
My Ratings: [Average/2½]
—Joyce Shotts, age 43
Positive—This movie is probably one of the saddest that I have ever seen. I won’t say why it was sad, because I wouldn’t want to ruin it, but I was really surprised. It was definitely a cute movie for young girls, probably no younger than 10 or 12 though. I was not offended by anything, but that doesn’t mean anyone else was. Recommended, but parents, do your research first!
My Ratings: [Good/3½]
—Ashley, age 19
Positive—This was a really cute movie it showed what good influence could do to someone—also that parenting isn’t the easiest thing… bring everyone to it—cheers!
My Ratings: [Excellent!/5]
—Dorothy, age 34
Positive—This movie was awesome. Parents, I would advise you to monitor the maturity level of your teenager to make sure that they should view this movie. It’s really good, if you view it from a mature prospective. I love music, and I’m a vocalist/performer myself in college so, I really appreciate Hillary’s role and I can see how she really reached for the stars to find her dream. It’s amazing how far God can take you with music. He has done things like that in my life. Great movie, but use caution, with younger teens. I say this because their are some heavy making out scenes and some bad language. Other than that, it was a really good film.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—Lauren Fontaine, age 19
Positive—Let me quote Internet Movie Data Base: “Originally pitched as a “Christian Music Project” with Jaci Velasquez and Rachel Lampa suggested for the lead, and Kirk Franklin for the music teacher.” …When I saw the movie, I was sure that there was some Christian influence (without knowing that it was). But a lot of the plot is ripped off when most of the Christian message is taken out. Maybe this is what have happened with this movie? Somehow it was wired that Terry goes to the church to pray, when there’s not much to indicate that she’s a (born again) Christian. Anyway, we can see that the necklace to her brother is a cross—and play a big deal in the movie as a symbol. It touched me that she could not sing without it, even that the cross is a symbol for her brother in the movie (it could be also a symbol for Christ).
But think about, if the movie was Christian-made—and finished that way—it could have been really great, and with this in mind you can find a lot of moral in the movie. Anyway, the moral in the movie is a good moral if thinking the humanist way… It’s like you can se the places were the movie is edited away from Christianity… she pray, but it’s not mentioned that the prayer got answered. Her father could have been a strict Christian, and the movie is telling that too strict can be destructive for faith. Terry sings in the church—and she likes it… it could be because she loves to praise God—if this was a Christian movie).

Terry, her mother and aunt lie to her father, and lying is wrong… If a movie like this was made Christian, it could be a lot better! And afterwards finding out that it was intended that way, just strengthened my suspicion about that the moral originally was Christian, but made more non-Christian when the label “Christian movie” was taken out…
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
—John, age 19
Negative—After being pleasantly surprised by “The Lizzie McGuire Movie” and “A Cinderella Story,” I took my daughters (ages 10 and 7) to see this movie. BIG mistake!! The mature themes and language were not appropriate for them. The car accident scene was very upsetting to them, the kissing scene between Kiwi and Sloane was way over the top, the scene where Jay arrives at Terri’s room drunk was totally inappropriate, the early reference to pregnancy was disturbing, the use of words like “jack-*ss,” “screwed,” “sucks,” etc. were disappointing—I am very sad that my two girls saw this movie! It might be OK for older teenagers, but if your child is under the age of 12, don’t take them to see this movie!!
My Ratings: [Average/2]
—Susie Martineau, age 38
Negative—…I couldn’t help but feel like they were bashing christianity the whole time… don’t send your kids to see this movie. It’s a dull, predictable movie with some seriously offensive bits in it, and it implies that it’s okay to disobey and disrespect your parents when you think they are wrong…
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/1]
—Lucy Madric, age 18

Comments from young people
Positive—I loved this movie!!! Yeah, maybe I am a little old for it, but I absolutely loved it. I found me and my best friend crying in the middle of it! Hillary Duff did a great job in this movie!!!
My Ratings: [Excellent!/5]
—Alayna Giddens, age 13
Positive—There is some sensuality such as: 2 scenes of making out (very short). Also the guy that Hilary Duff likes gets drunk, And some language. I STRONGLY disagree with a LOT of the viewers because this movie should’ve been given a better than average movie. I saw this with my mom in the theaters and we laughed we cried, overall this was a great movie! We have to look and see that this movie is not like the T.V show the O.C; its a cute movie that some girls got inspired by this movie!
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—Samantha, age 11
Neutral—I saw this movie at a birthday party, pretty cheezy, cute but cheezy. Has a good moral, but I wouldn’t watch it again; if you don’t like chik fliks then don’t watch this movie.
My Ratings: [Good/2½]
—Maria, age 13
Positive—I LOVED this movie! I really think whenever she used her late brother’s cross necklace for support, that it was really sweet and kind. I think Terri in this movie really reflected a Christian attitude towards everything. The thing that WAS objectionable was the fact that she lied to her father about leaving. I think movie producers realized that this may be objectionable, but doubted that any young person would lie to their parents and fly across the country without telling them. Plus, she had her mother’s permission. This movie made me cry a lot of times! I really liked her perseverance.This is a great movie! Go see it!
My Ratings: [Better than Average/3½]
—Emily, age 13
Positive—This movie was so good! There was a scene of making out, but I caught myself laughing (because it was funny)! There were some curse words, but very mild. Even if you don’t cry in very many movies, you will cry in this movie. There is a part in the movie where Jay gets drunk…
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—Samantha, age 10
Positive—This movie was the best I have seen in a while! There was the tiniest bit of language, and some making out in a music room, but me and my mom caught each other laughing because it was funny. I cried a lot. If you really like Hilary Duff as an actor you will love this movie!
My Ratings: [Good/5]
—samantha, age 10
Positive—My 50-year-old dad and I went to the theater not really knowing what to expect. A tragedy occurred in the beginning of the movie, which had my dad teary-eyed! This movie had an outstanding plot. I thought Hilary Duff did a really good job; not an Oscar performance, but nevertheless, the movie was very sweet. When something a little suggestive happened in the story, the movie usually made sure to later point out the wrongness of certain kinds of behavior, in order to teach a lesson. I don’t believe that the movie was trying to say that music comes morally anywhere close to Christ, but the film was just appreciating musical talent, which God gives. Terri (Duff) is also shown as a follower of God, and extremely faithful to Jay (James), for example watching over him all night due to his horrible alcoholic escapade to make sure that he is okay while he’s sleeping, and in the morning looks like she herself has sacrificed a whole night’s worth of sleep. Her loyalty is very impressive. This movie is a mix of “Sister Act” and “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” but “teen-i-sized.” It is definitely worth the money and worth seeing for the satisfaction it will bring to you.
My Ratings: [Good/3½]
—Kara, age 17
Positive—Something that was annoying in this movie was that Hilary is not skilled enough in singing to have been accepted into a music program of that standing. She was right when she said that there were other singers much better than her. I was not impressed with her best performance at the end. But there were other, very talented musicians there to make it interesting for others who, like me, would spend the entire movie wanting to tell Hilary to stand up straight when singing.

Hilary did swear at least once, which was disappointing, but there was very little of it. There was also a scene when a couple was kissing, and I mean KISSING! It was a “comical” make-out scene, but none the less a make-out scene. Also, there a was part when Jay got drunk. She was mad at him and said that she hadn’t forgiven him yet, but few scenes later and they’re a couple again! Your boyfriend getting drunk should bring a whole new dimension to things. If there wasn’t time to show why/when she forgave him, than they should have rewritten that scene.

The fact that she lied to her father didn’t bother me as much. Having an emotionally abusive father myself, I know that sometimes you just have to. Some things are too important. Although, one shouldn’t be quick to keep secrets from their parent, and only after serious thought and prayer time. I think that God wanted her to go. The only thing I didn’t like about it was that her father really did love her, he just wasn’t good at showing it. He didn’t know how to let her grow. So I can’t completely agree that he deserved being lied to. I think she could’ve found a way to go without lying.

Those are the only things that I thought could be objectionable. I thought I should tell those first. Overall, I loved it. The music school looked wonderful! The scenes where a bunch of the students were just improvising was great! Paul, Hilary’s big bro, was just the kind of bro anyone would love to have. I like Hilary Duff because she makes cute, clean chick-flicks. This is a little different because it’s tear-jerker, which brings more than Hilary has brought to other movies. I would definitely recommend it for teenagers. I think parents should preview it before letting 10 year olds and younger see it.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/3]
—Lauren, age 17
Positive—…I cried a lot in this movie as did my three friends! I thought the movie was cute (although I didn’t like the fake singing Hilary did). OVERALL, I thought it was a pretty good movie! (for Hilary Duff fans I recommend “A Cinderella Story”!).
My Ratings: [Good/4]
—Cara, age 14
Movie Critics
…“Raise Your Voice” has broken a cardinal rule of family films: Moms can be trusted to provide guidance and do the right thing…
—Rhonda Handlon, Plugged In
…will strike a chord with any teen longing for self-expression… a teen melodrama within a loving, enthusiastic music-appreciation film…
—Jami Bernard, New York Daily News
…The movie is filled with that kind of goofy overstatement. David Keith, cast as Terri’s overprotective dad, has a toothpick in his mouth almost every time he pops up on screen…
—Randy Cordova, The Arizona Republic
…Don’t raise your expectations for this routine teen-singer melodrama…
—Luke Sader, The Hollywood Reporter
…wholesome… Christian worldview with moral elements…
—Dr. Tom Snyder, Movieguide