Feel the Noise

2007feelnoise

Movie review by Greg Carlson

Despite whatever benefit studio marketers assumed they might reap for hyping “Feel the Noise” as material from “producer Jennifer Lopez,” the movie is a boring mess. An uninspired laundry list of common music movie clichés, “Feel the Noise” squanders its opportunities at every turn, managing to transform the infectious energy of the reggaeton genre it documents into a listless snoozer. Recording artist Omarion Grandberry demonstrates nothing so much as a grave need for more acting classes, alternating between angst and earnestness as Rob, a wannabe MC from Harlem who relocates to Puerto Rico after being shot at by local bangers with a grudge.

Grandberry is certainly not helped any by Albert Leon’s awful screenplay, which eagerly trots out every chestnut in the “we can make it if we try” canon. From the estranged father who harbored his own dreams of playing music (done much better in “Purple Rain”), to the step-by-step process of building a hit record from scratch (again, done much better in “Hustle & Flow”), “Feel the Noise” succumbs to predictability in scene after agonizing scene. One might feel the need to suppress a chuckle when Rob finds sonic inspiration in the chirp of a bird that provides his single “Coqui” with a hot hook. Despite the silliness, however, the song itself is not bad, even though it is played to death throughout the film.

Cinematographer Zoran Popovic makes the most of a small budget, striking suitably different tones for the glass and steel-dominated NYC and the sunny island life of Puerto Rico. Better than any of the storylines, the location photography offers a fleeting diversion from the tedium of the characters’ soapy dramas. Steamy club sequences, in short supply for a movie supposedly about an irresistible genre of danceable music, are nicely captured, but the movie’s PG-13 rating keeps the heat from the sexy dances in check.

Alejandro Chomski’s direction occasionally makes hash out of what should be easy work in such a connect-the-dots plot. Characters are introduced and then forgotten, and some scenes are so short and underdeveloped that we hear only fleeting snippets of dialogue before moving on to the next diversion. Half the movie plays like an extended preview of coming attractions. The idea that Rob might be able to relate to love interest C.C. (Zulay Henao) with anything approaching rational thought cannot compete with the genre’s requirement that the lovers must quarrel before reuniting. Equally annoying is the depiction of Rob’s frustration with Jeffrey Skylar (James McCaffrey, totally somnambulant) the sleazy, opportunistic record producer who has sexual designs on C.C.

Most regrettably, the always excellent Giancarlo Esposito, playing Rob’s quiet dad, is criminally ignored. The only cast member with sterling acting chops, Esposito mostly pops up whenever the story demands a father-son conflict scene. In the hands of a stronger director, Esposito might have been allowed to provide some much-needed depth of characterization. Instead, “Feel the Noise” skips relationships altogether, opting for a phony, feel-good resolution staged at New York’s Puerto Rican Day Parade, complete with an unnecessary cameo by J. Lo herself.

This review was originally published in the High Plains Reader the week of 10/8/07.

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