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Yawns may rise with 'Raise Voice'

RAISE YOUR VOICE — * 1/2 — Hilary Duff, Oliver James, David Keith; rated PG (mild profanity, violence, mild vulgarity); see Playing at local theaters for theaters.

If it's possible, each successive Hilary Duff film seems to become more formulaic than the one before . . . just as each has become more predictable and treacly.

There may be a youth audience that still will embrace a movie this by-the-numbers and safe, without so much as a hint of edginess. (Duff has proven, after all, that she has a devoted following that apparently enjoys such things.)

However, those who require a little more should avoid her latest calculated-to-offend-no-one musical-drama, which blatantly steals from "Fame" without so much as a thank-you.

Duff stars as Terri Fletcher, a musically talented Arizona teen whose strict father (David Keith) refuses to let her attend the music conservatory of her dreams (he's seen the "evils" that Los Angeles has to offer). However, Terri's brother (Jason Ritter) sends a DVD of Terri's performances to the conservatory, before his untimely death. The school is impressed and accepts Terri into its summer program. So her aunt (Rebecca DeMornay) and mother (Rita Wilson) concoct a scam that will allow her to go to L.A. without her father's knowledge.

Once she gets there, Terri finds that she really doesn't fit in. And she's also having a hard time recovering from the accident that took her brother's life. A fellow student, Jay (Oliver James), aims to change all that.

It's painfully obvious where all this is going. And the fact that you have people as talented as DeMornay, Wilson and John Corbett (as a rebellious, unconventional instructor) slumming in something like this only makes it worse.

As for Duff, there's an odd and somewhat creepy little-girl tone to her singing voice, and her performances both musically and dramatically aren't very compelling. At least she's not as bad as James, whose pseudo-punk hairstyle is even more obnoxious than his character.

Meanwhile, veteran television director Sean McNamara pads things out with an endless series of musical montages and shots of the L.A. skyline.

"Raise Your Voice" is rated PG for occasional use of mild profanity (mostly religiously based) and some mildly vulgar slang terms and a brief scene of violence (vehicular, mostly overheard). Running time: 103 minutes.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com