Reviewed by: Lacey Mical (Callahan) Walker
|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)|
|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.
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.
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
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.