In "Raise Your Voice," Hilary Duff plays Terri Fletcher, a small-town girl with big-city dreams. Terri wants to make music, and she sees the route to her dreams through the Bristol-Hillman Conservatory in Los Angeles.
Hilary Duff as Terri Fletcher in "Raise Your Voice." (New Line)
But something stands in her way: her father, Simon, played by David Keith.
Simon can't let go of his only daughter, especially not after a family tragedy makes him want to hold her that much closer.
The film, which opens nationwide today, is essentially a "teen movie" with above-board values. About the only thing objectionable, though necessary to tell this story, is the deception into which Terri enters (with help from her mother and aunt, played respectively by Rita Wilson and Rebecca De Mornay).
She lies to her father and tells him she's visiting her Aunt Nina, when she's really attending the conservatory in the big city. That and the pressures of performing are the film's central conflicts.
The movie is the perfect vehicle for Duff, now 17, who loves to both act and sing. In "Raise Your Voice," she gets to do both, and Duff fans will no doubt love it.
Director Sean McNamara, himself a musician, puts together some impressive musical sets—everything from showcasing Duff to some "impromptu" jam sessions by the conservatory's students. The rhythm is infectious.
The city of Los Angeles is itself a character in the film, with frequent shots of some of the city's lesser known attractions. Some of those shots include Terri in church, seeking sanctuary from the confusion swirling about her as she tries to follow her dreams.
McNamara, who first cast Duff in "Casper Meets Wendy," has assembled a solid cast of young actors. Among them are Oliver James, who plays Terri's love interest; Dana Davis, who plays Terri's roommate and dedicated violinist; and Johnny K. Lewis, a drummer who provides much of the comic relief.
Parents who take their kids will enjoy seeing some of their contemporaries onscreen: David "An Officer and a Gentleman" Keith, Rebecca "Risky Business" De Mornay and Rita "Sleepless in Seattle" Wilson.
Rounding out the cast is John "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" Corbett, who plays Mr. Torvald, an eccentric teacher and driving force in Terri's journey.
The film also gives adults a chance to reconnect with some of that teenage angst that drives these kinds of stories—and often those kinds of dreams.
"Raise Your Voice" is also likely to have youngsters taking a second look at that piano, guitar, saxophone or some other musical instrument, for music is cool—and so are musicians.
Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements and language. Reviewer's Note: Two minor characters have a comic make-out session, and Jay gets drunk, which Terri denounces as stupid.
Director: Sean McNamara
Writer: Sam Schreiber
Cast: Terri Fletcher: Hilary Duff; Jay: Oliver James; Mr. Torvald: John Corbett; Denise: Dana Davis; Frances Fletcher: Rita Wilson; Simon Fletcher: David Keith; Aunt Nina: Rebecca De Mornay.
The movie's official Web site is here.