By Frank Scheck
October 8, 2007
NEW YORK — The genres may change, but the cliches of the inspirational music film remain the same as demonstrated by this first feature effort devoted to increasingly popular blending of Caribbean, Latin and hip-hop rhythms known as reggaeton.
This tale of a Harlem rapper who finds in Puerto Rico creative fulfillment, true love and the father he never knew he had strikes endlessly familiar notes but in an innocuous and entertaining manner that should please younger audiences and sell plenty of soundtrack albums.
R&B star Omarion Grandberry, formerly of the boy band B2K and usually known by just his first name, plays Rob, an aspiring rapper who is sent by his mother to Puerto Rico after he runs afoul of a local gang. His long-lost father Roberto (Giancarlo Esposito), along with his kindly wife (Kellita Smith) and stepson Javi (Victor Rasuk), welcome him into their home.
Javi, an online DJ, soon introduces Rob to the ways of reggaeton, providing a musical lesson both to him and whichever audience members might still not be hip to it. Besides describing it in musical terms, he explains, “It’s like music from the ghetto. It’s about our struggles, our dreams.”
It isn’t long before he and Rob are making music together, even if the latter finds it hard adjusting to the music’s faster rhythms. But he gradually gets the idea, even incorporating the sound of a bird’s cries into one of their songs.
Along the way, Rob and his father, a former musician himself, form a growing bond, and he also falls in love with C.C. (Zulay Henao), a beautiful dancer. When she meets a vacationing record company executive (James McCaffrey), he invites all three to come to New York to work for him, though his well-trimmed beard provides a clue that his motives, at least when it comes to C.C., aren’t entirely altruistic.
A melodramatic subplot, involving C.C.’s violently jealous ex-boyfriend who doesn’t take kindly to losing her, is handled in hurried, perfunctory fashion. Other story elements feel rushed as well, suggesting some shortening in the editing process.
Featuring dialogue both overly expository (“We’re the oldest colony in the world,” we are helpfully informed about Puerto Rico) and flowery (“This is not how dreams come true,” Rob cries when the nasty American record company producer tries to mess with their music), no one will mistake director Alejandro Chomski’s “Feel the Noise” for great drama. But there’s an undeniable sweetness to the characters, the performers are highly appealing, and the music sizzles. The soundtrack features many stars of the genre, including Voltio, Alexis y Fido and Tego Calderon.