The Internet Movie Database reports that “Undiscovered” was originally titled “Wannabe” but was renamed to match the title of a song that Ashlee Simpson sings in the movie. “Wannabe” and “Undiscovered” both work OK, but it would have been better if Ashlee had a song called “Dull Generic Crap Pile.”
Please understand up front that while I am no fan of Ashlee Simpson, nor of her retarded, buck-toothed sister, those opinions have nothing to do with my assessment of “Undiscovered.” This lazy late-summer throwaway, from music video director Meiert Avis and new writer John Galt, is an innocuous “Fame” wannabe that would be just as bad if it were Ashlee-free.
Ashlee’s only a secondary character anyway (though that doesn’t stop them from wedging TWO songs sung by her character in at the end). Our hero is Luke Falcon, played by Steven Strait, which marks the first time I can think of that an actor with a porn-star name has played a character with a porn-star name. Strait was recently seen in “Sky High,” but apparently his real ambition is to rock and/or roll. He fronts a band in real life; here he plays a fairly talented, if scruffy (he looks like a gardener) singer/songwriter who moves to Los Angeles to make it big. His brother Euan (Kip Pardue), also a musician but not quite as serious about it, moves to L.A., too, I think just to make fun of him.
Luke becomes friends with Ashlee’s character, an actress/singer named Clea, and with Clea’s pal Brier (Pell James), a dappled blond model-wannabe-actress newly arrived from New York. Luke has a crush on Brier, but she has a policy of not dating musicians, learned from experience with her sometime-boyfriend, rock star Mick Benson (Stephen Moyer).
So instead of dating Luke, Brier has an idea. She and Clea use the Internet and their social connections — Brier’s agent (played by Carrie Fisher) knows a few people — to create a false “buzz” for Luke, who’s been performing regularly at a dingy bar. They shill for him on blogs and message boards, and soon impressionable young people, believing him to be a big deal, are treating him like he’s a big deal.
This attracts the attention of a weaselly record exec named Garrett Schweck (Fisher Stevens), who signs Luke to a contract and urges him to forget his friends and focus on the money, the way agents in movies always do. Luke promptly begins snubbing his brother and behaving like a jackass, and the perils of fame are once again demonstrated.
Ah, but I have made the film’s plot sound more cohesive than it is. In truth, it wanders over several paths, all of them familiar and uninteresting. Is it the story of Luke and Brier’s relationship? Is it about the high price of fame? Is it about chasing one’s dreams? It is actually all those things and less, with every thread given only cursory attention. The whole thing feels like an outline for a movie, not a movie.
Steve Strait, a forgettable but not-unpleasant actor, surely signed onto this film when it was laid out for him this way: “You get to sing songs that will appear on the soundtrack, and the movie is 90 minutes of other characters telling you that you’re really cute and you have a great voice.” Who WOULDN’T do a film like that?
Unfortunately for him and his music career, no one put much effort into it. It’s an afterthought of a movie, slow-paced and obvious, and a shameless grab at teenagers’ disposable income. Better they should spend their dough on an Ashlee Simpson CD. (It costs more than a movie, and the poor experience will teach them the value of a dollar.)
D (1 hr., 37 min.; )