Stock characters are choreographed to a reggaeton beat as they cover familiar territory in “Feel the Noise,” a music-fueled drama with far less substance than most CD liner notes. The first pic from the film division of Sony BMG Music Entertainment, which co-produced with Jennifer Lopez’s Nuyorican Prods., this trifling time-killer isn’t likely to remain in heavy theatrical rotation for long. It may play better when viewers can fast-forward through narrative banalities and cliche-crammed dialogue, and get in the groove with pulsating musical performances and modestly steamy dance sequences.
R&B singer Omarion Grandberry comes off as charisma-challenged in the lead role of Rob, a Harlem teen whose budding career as a rapper is rudely interrupted when he runs afoul of a local gangster. Borrowing a page from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” his fretful mother ships the young man out of town for his own good. Specifically, she sends Rob to Puerto Rico for safe haven with his long-estranged father, Roberto (Giancarlo Esposito, doing much more for the pic than it ever does for him).
Rob initially is icy toward Roberto, but he quickly warms toward his father’s stepson, Javi (Victor Rasuk), a young man with own musical ambitions. Javi introduces his half-brother to the sultry sound of reggaeton — a muy caliente mix of rap, hip-hop, reggae and salsa — and the wild nightlife of Puerto Rico. Rob is suitably impressed, particular when he meets the sweetly sexy C.C. (Zulay Henao) during a night of clubbing.
In turn, C.C. is impressed when she hears some of the reggaeton–flavored songs composed and performed by Rob and Javi. She encourages them to cut a demo — “My neighbor has his own studio!” — which she gives to a record company exec (James McCaffrey) who just happens to be staying at the hotel where she just happens to be a dance instructor. The exec, it should be noted, does everything but sprout horns and twirl a pitchfork to suggest his intentions toward C.C. aren’t entirely honorable. But he does come through with an offer to hook Rob and Javi up with a record producer — back in New York.
Much like reggaeton is a mash-up of musical styles, Albert Leon’s script plays like a mongrelized mix of gritty urban drama, dreamy teen romance, “Afterschool Special” and Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland musical. Zoran Popovic’s grainy lensing provides the only hint of edginess in a pic where violence, language and sexuality have been conspicuously tamped down to secure a PG-13 rating. (Even when villains viciously beat people, they do little lasting damage.)
Argentine-born helmer Alejandro Chomski, here making his U.S. feature debut, keeps everything keyed toward pic’s target demographic. But even the youngest ticketbuyers may experience a distracting sense of deja vu during the predictable proceedings.
A few sequences that dwell on the dirty dancing known as perreo are vibrantly sultry, and the soundtrack showcases enough tasty reggaeton cuts to ensure soundtrack CD sales. Which is probably the main reason “Feel the Noise” was greenlit in the first place.