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Raise Your Voice

Raised on the Disney factory with a show ("Lizzie MacGuire," 2001-04) that spun off a movie (The Lizzie Maguire Movie, 2003), Hilary Duff has been groomed to become a teenage star, if not just a simple brand name. One could argue the later; she, like many of her synergistically motivated contemporaries (Lindsay Lohan, Mandy Moore, the Olsen twins) has dipped her toes in many pools, while showing little talent for one over the other. Besides acting, she's released an album and had her own line of clothing ("Stuff by Hilary Duff"). One imagines the makers of her clothing line to be of the sweatshop variety, and the same could probably be said for the writers of her movies. Unlike Lohan, Duff is a name-brand who hasn't taken on any artistic challenges, and Raise Your Voice (2004) — with a story by Mitch Rotter (whose sole previous credit was as a music supervisor on Run Ronnie Run) and written by Sam Schrieber (his first screenplay) — could have just as easily come from automated screenwriting software. The plot will be familiar to anyone who's seen Crossroads and the various films that movie borrows from: Terri Fletcher (Duff) has an overprotective father (David Keith) whose past keeps him from letting Terri live her dreams to be a great singer. But her brother Paul (Jason Ritter) makes a DVD of her performances and gets her into a summer workshop for musicians. However, Paul gets killed when he and Terri sneak out one night to a concert. Since her mother (Rita Wilson) knows this is what Terri wants, they devise a scheme to fool her dad where Terri pretends to live with her aunt Nina (Rebecca De Mornay) while going to her workshop classes. While there, she meets cute boy Jay Corgan (Oliver James), who has an ex-girlfriend who shows up at inappropriate times (and happens to be Terri's singing rival), makes friends with a multi-ethnic group of anonymous players, and finally learns to let her talent out and shows her dad that he needn't be afraid. That's pretty much the whole movie, except that when Duff is called on to really shine, her grief from her brother's death comes creeping in until the final act. One gets the feeling when watching films like this that the producers never lost anyone important in their lives, because these sort of plot-points feel like exactly that. As an actress, Duff is hopelessly artificial — she lays on emotions like deodorant. And, as to be expected, the music she makes is, well… terrible. New Line presents Raise Your Voice in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) and, on the flipside, pan-and-scan, with Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 Surround audio. Extras include deleted scenes (4 min.), outtakes (3 min.), a "making-of" featurette (8 min.), the uncut orchestra sequence, a music video, the theatrical trailer, and a game that lets you build your own song. Keep-case.

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