The Good

The Bad

Hilary Duff stars as Terri. A young girl, with a great voice, who is very much still under the wings of her parents, especially her overbearing father(David Keith). After the death of her brother(Jason Ritter), Terri heads off to Los Angeles at a popular music school. While there she meets an encouraging teacher(John Corbett), a cute guy(Oliver James) and while at first not knowing who she is, or what she is really doing there, young Terri eventually finds her voice.

This film is a true, unabashed feel-gooder of a movie. One could probably figure out the entire movie just by watching the trailer, but I don’t think that really takes away from what this film is. I had an epiphany many months ago whilst flipping channels. I came across a performance by Ashley Simpson. She was singing one of her songs and the camera showed some girls in the audience. Some of them were singing along, others were holding hands and few were crying. CRYING. Now, why do I bring this up?

Well, I got to thinking and it hit me that there is a reason why these movies, singers, etc. exist. Sure it has a lot to do with making money(when you’re spending millions of dollars how can it not?) but the point I am trying to make, is that regardless of what I may think of a movie, Raise Your Voice has a reason to exist. It speaks to something in people. It lets them escape or it allows them to believe that if you want something bad enough you can make it happen. As cliche as that may sound, I do in fact believe it.

That is why I think this is a good movie. Sure, we have seen it all before, but there is very little pretense here. Miss Duff is a young actress who I am sure people are pinning a lot of their hopes on(by people I mean executives who stand to gain by her continuing to be successful), and it stands to reason that the people in charge aren’t really out to test her range just yet. Sorry, you’re not going to see her in a Larry Clark film anytime soon(or probably ever). Movies like Raise Your Voice are meant to be a showcase for Miss Duff at this age. People don’t have many expectations for her yet. They want to see her act a little, sing a little and basically be happy. On those accounts, Raise Your Voice is the perfect vehicle for her to do this. Chances are, as she gets older, we’re going to see her get older on screen, but there is certainly a good chance that like the movie First Daughter, we might see Duff doing these types of roles into her early 30s.

What I really found refreshing about this movie is that it wasn’t all by the numbers. Seeing Terri deal with the Jay(Oliver James) character and especially Mr. Torvald(John Corbett), I didn’t feel that everything between them was a typical moment. There was a depth and resonance to the performances that I feel made this movie a cut above other teen fare. Sure, there are obligatory scenes of Terri walking around feeling sad about things or just being genuinely upset(all set to music that could best be described as “mall emo”), but hey they are trying to make money here and we do have soundtrack dollars to consider. I just think that in a day an age when much of the movies and music we get is seemingly put into the same blender, Raise Your Voice seems to do everything it can to rise above.

I do have a question though, is it just me or has Hilary Duff been 16 for 2 or 3 years now? This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me as she’s got to be at least 19, if my math is correct but as I stated earlier, as long as she continues to look the part, that seems to be all that she’s going to get. Now, while that’s all fine and good, eventually she will not be able to do films like this. For now however, Hilary Duff seems to be doing a fine job of not letting the break from Disney do anything to hurt her career.

Features

Behind the Scenes Featurette

Pretty standard stuff here, although I did find it interesting that Miss Duff was making this movie while touring to support her record on the weekends. I mean talk about sweatshop conditions! Now I know that for Hilary Duff, her life will NEVER be that bad, but truthfully this is a young girl(see my age comment above) and all of this running around cannot be that good for her.

Also, I think it might be sort of refreshing in these featurette’s if the people didn’t always fawn over one another. I mean, many times a featurette is just an EPK to promote the film, but I wonder what might happen if Jason Ritter said, “I hated Hilary Duff. She’s a primadonna.” Or something along those lines to shake things up. Then again, I am willing to bet that many of these performers are just happy to be working so why rock the boat, huh?

Deleted Scenes and Outtakes

Very impressive with how many there are of all these things. It is as if the people making this DVD don’t forsee a special edition because there are 5 deleted scenes alone. This may not sound like alot, and the scenes in of themselves were seemingly cut for good reason but this is still a pretty fair amount for a simple teen movie. Not to degrade it at all, but I can think of many films that were much worthier of their deleted scenes being added and their’s nothing on their DVDs but the movies theatrical trailer.

Orchestra Sequence

Basically, this is is a very quick montage of the orchestra putting the music together throughout the film. It is a rather quick little ditty that mainly shows the players playing, and then we see how some of the music impacts the scenes. I once heard that you can put any music to any scene and somehow that will work, but the scores here are tailored made and they serve to underscore the drama on sceen. They are so right on that I don’t know how much the music was really needed because we already what is happening to character or how the character is feeling..

Music Video “Fly” and Interactive Music Game

I was unable to find the music video on the DVD but I quickly realized that the disk is a DVD-ROM that once inserted into your CPU will allow you to view the video and it also includes a music game. While I did not play the music game this seems awfully cool. One can compose their own song and then get it critiqued by a professor. I am not too sure how this works but it sounds cool, and if I was young kid coming up and interested in singing and making music, I’d by the DVD for that alone.

Video

This film is presented in the widescreen format preserving the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio of it’s original theatrical exhibition. It is also enhanced for widescreen TVs. One can also watch it in Full Screen if they are so inclined. I almost did that but I decided against it. These transfers to DVD look so clear it’s scary. I know that these movies are compressed when they put in this format but looking at this film you would never be able to tell that. Everything about this DVD from the menus, to how it is laid out is very well put together. There is such an ease of use and when one realizes that it is targeted to the teen market, that makes this DVDs chances all the better of being a success with young people and parents alike.

Audio

English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound. Now for a film of this nature this is mandatory. One could even watch it in Stereo Surround Sound. When you realize that we are dealing with a movie about music and singing, I think that it obviously behooves the DVDs creators to make sound of paramount importance. And it is here. All the music was very well chosen without being that overbearing. Sure there are the classic moments, like when Terri sees Jay kissing another girl and music cues up, but while I may not be that huge a fan of music telling us how to feel, for probably everyone else it will sound just fine.

Package

There are no less then 5 pictures of Hilary Duff on the cover but then how else are you going to sell this movie? Right now, people aren’t going to look at this movie as A Star is Born but you never know, 10-15 years from now, this could be the movie that actors talk about when they discuss what has inspired them to pursue the careers they have chosen. The artwork is non-threatening and I would say beefs up the “Hilary Factor” more then the original one sheet of the movie did. The colors are easy on the eyes and overall the DVD looks like a fresh confection fresh out of the studio oven.

Final Word

Raise Your Voice is very good movie. It’s not great and it certainly isn’t the best teen movie out there(my tastes are more in line with movies like Mean Creek) but for what it is, the movie is quite good. It hits all the right notes and when all you want is a movie to give you a little lift, Raise Your Voice delivers.

I often wonder what might happen if movies like this weren’t made by a studio comittee. Basically, what kind of movies might we get if they weren’t developed to death. If there was little or no studio interference, if there weren’t the story notes, if there was just the goodwill of the people involved, making the movie as they saw fit. I seem to think that we wouldn’t get a movie that is that much different then the final product that Raise Your Voice is.

All in all...a good show!

Raise Your Voice was released August 10, 2004.