Year Released: 2001
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 90 minutes
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The film Duets with Gwyneth Paltrow and Huey Lewis was an atrocious piece of Hollywood tripe that had almost everyone asking this simple question: Gee, rather than some star-laden, big-budget flick, wouldn’t it be more interesting to see a documentary about a karaoke contest? Well, it’s here and it’s called “Karaoke Fever.”
Anyone who has ever stood up to belt out a Sinatra or Elvis tune at a karaoke bar knows how harrowing the experience can be. Which probably explains why most of the participants stumble on stage completely drunk. I’ve done it myself and, it’s a lot of fun when drinks and friends are involved but would you believe that there is an entire subculture of people who take karaoke seriously? I mean, deadly serious. Directors Arthur Borman (“…And God Spoke”, “Shooting Lily”) and Steve Danielson spent 18 months documenting the “Survivor” of karaoke competitions in a film that offers insight into the minds and dreams of those bold enough to sing karaoke with a straight face.
This isn’t just any karaoke competition – this is THE Super Bowl of karaoke contests with $15,000 and a recording contract at stake. We meet a range of real people each entered into various sections of the contest from solo to duet. The film plays their stories with all the importance leading up to the big game. We witness the regional competitions at local karaoke clubs across California – the winners of these smaller contests will earn a spot in the finals. There are clear villains and people we want to root for. L.C. Stewart was born with a debilitating spinal disease and survived countless hardships as a child. He sees the contest as a way to express his emotions and some kind of redemption. Eric Draven and his partner A.D. have spent years perfecting their rap duo routine. But just two days before the competition, A.D. lands in jail and Eric has to find a replacement. Sy Shaheed is a widow who sings in honor of the memory of his dead wife. And he reminds the judges and the audience of this by placing her photo on a stool lit by a spotlight as he sings a somber tune, daring us not to cry. Dui is a woman spurned. A single mother with two kids, her boyfriend, who she beat in the regional competition, cheated on her and she expresses her pain through her singing. One of the cocky villains you’ll love to hate is Julien, who has won nearly every competition in which he has entered. And to top it off, his claim to fame is being the voice behind the Jack in the Box campaign for the Meaty Cheesy Boys. We want this asshole lose. We follow the lives of more than ten contestants in what becomes not just a singing contest — but a battle for their lives. You will be cheering, booing ands weeping by the end. It’s impossible not to get wrapped up in the real drama. The film has the kind of build up seen in the film “Hands on a Hard Body.” Borman and Danielson documented the finals as if it were a world class sporting event covering it with 10 cameras to catch not only the action on the stage but behind the stage and in the audience as competing singers reacted to the performances of their nemeses.
With a plethora of “socially relevant” documentaries, it’s refreshing to enjoy a doc made purely for entertainment. And “Karaoke Fever” entertains from beginning to end.
Read Film Threat’s interview with directors Arthur Borman and Steve Danielson>>>
Posted on December 12, 2002 in Reviews by Chris Gore
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