Feel The Noise
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Rob Vega (Omarion Grandberry, YOU GOT SERVED) is a Harlem teen who dreams of being a big-time rapper. After financing his entry into a rap contest by stealing some rims off a local gangster who then tries to shoot him while he's onstage, his mom (Kellita Smith, THREE CAN PLAY THAT GAME, ROLL BOUNCE) ships him off to Puerto Rico to stay with the father he's never met until things cool off.
All of this occurs during the opening credits of FEEL THE NOISE (2007), which then becomes the story of how Rob meets his father, Roberto (Giancarlo Esposito), his stepmother Marivi (Rosa Arredondo), and his stepbrother Javi (Victor Rasuk), and how Rob and Javi combine their musical talents to create a hybrid of hiphop and Reggaeton (a combination of reggae and Latino rhythms) to produce a demo they hope will take them places.
Along the way Rob hooks up with a beautiful dance teacher named C.C. (Zulay Henao), who has her own artistic aspirations. When a sleazy record producer in a white leisure suit (James McCaffrey) comes on to C.C. with a request for "private" dance lessons, she introduces him to the guys and before long they're all on their way back to New York with the lure of a recording contract. But not only do Mr. Record Producer's promises prove shaky at best, but Rob has to deal with the fact that there's still a pissed-off gangster running around who wants to give him a one-gun salute.
The direction and cinematography by Alejandro Chomski and Zoran Popovic are as good as they need to be in a film that isn't trying to dazzle us with fancy imagery or camera moves, even in the strobe-lit club settings where another director might be tempted to show off. Some nice Puerto Rican locations are an asset, as is footage shot during the Puerto Rican Day celebration in New York (in which co-producer Jennifer Lopez makes a fleeting parade appearance). The songs are good but not particularly memorable, the best being the catchy centerpiece tune "Coqui" which was co-written by Wyclef Jean and features Reggaeton star Julio 'Voltio' Ramos, who plays himself in the film.
As for former B2K member Omarion, he isn't a great actor but he wisely underplays his part and comes off okay. Giancarlo Esposito (DO THE RIGHT THING and "Homicide: Life on the Street") as Rob's estranged father brings a quiet dignity to the role, while Rosa Arredondo, who recently played a small part in the brutal action flick ROCKAWAY, does a good job as Rob's caring stepmother. Victor Rasuk and Zulay Henao as Javi and C.C. round out the ensemble with likable performances. And then, of course, there's Kellita Smith, who is one of the top contenders for my "MILF of the Year" Award for 2008. Thankfully, Albert Leon's script doesn't require any of them to emote their way through a bunch of artificially contrived situations.
Funny that in a movie called FEEL THE NOISE, the quiet moments are the best. The cast makes us care about their characters and the relationships between them. Their interplay is a lot more subtle and realistic than in most modern music movies, which often tend to be loud, flashy, and superficial. Here, the musical sequences serve the story, with no overproduced song-and-dance setpieces to compete for our attention save for a couple of forays into the club scene.
I guess the biggest debit of this movie is that it comes and goes without leaving much of an impression, failing to really follow through on what it's started. Subplots such as Rob helping an important neighborhood figure evade the police or Mimi's crazy ex-boyfriend Nodde (Charles Duckworth) declaring war on Rob and his family don't go anywhere.
Even the "Rocky goes the distance" ending fades out as soon as it has served its purpose to the story, leaving us to finally get to hear Rob and Javi's song in its entirety during the closing credits. While FEEL THE NOISE manages to engage the viewer to a certain extent during its running time, the dramatic and emotional potential of its various elements are never fully realized and the resolution is much too convenient. But it's a pleasant diversion that I enjoyed more than I thought I would.
Added: Tuesday, April 08, 2008
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