Hilary Duff, the “Marcia Marcia Marcia” of the Disney Channel generation, emancipates herself from the Mouse but not her made-at-Disney persona in New Line’s “Raise Your Voice.”

The movie, an earnest and eager “Fame” for the young and the tin-eared, showcases Duff in another one of her trademark “just believe in yourself” chaste romances. But just how many times can our cover girl play the put-upon but still best-dressed/best-looking girl in school?

“Raise Your Voice” does Duff no favors by plopping her in the middle of a music conservatory where her Disney-overdubbed singing is exposed for the wan piffle that it really is. Little Miss Lizzie McGuire has no pipes.

Duff stars as Terri, a 16-year-old from Flagstaff, Ariz., with singing ambition. Her boorish dad (David Keith) may not believe in her, but her brother Paul does. As played by Jason Ritter (“Joan of Arcadia”), John Ritter’s son, the older brother is a tad Angelina Jolie-creepy in his Terri obsession. But all that voyeuristic videotaping is for a purpose. He enters her in a competition to get her into the prestigiously fictitious Bristol-Hillman Conservatory in Los Angeles for the summer.

And then, on their way home from a Three Days Grace show, Paul is killed in a car wreck. Terri loses her will to sing just when she’s admitted to Bristol-Hillman. Mom (Rita Wilson) and cool Auntie Nina (Rebecca DeMornay) conspire to sneak Terri in, over Daddy’s objections, “because it’s what Paul would have wanted.”

The movie’s heart comes from the crippling loss Terri must overcome to succeed at Bristol-Hillman. She leans on her faith because most of the other kids at school ignore her.

The film’s tiny trace of hipness comes from its supporting cast, led by John Corbett, who channels his old “Northern Exposure” persona as a too-cool voice teacher.

Ignore Duff’s absurd makeup and lip-gloss budget, and it’s so far, so good. The movie goes wrong the instant it pushes Duff, a studio “singer” with a pleasant enough but – let’s be honest, “American Idol” first-round elimination – voice into the cream of the singing crop.

Oliver James, the bland young Brit who played Amanda Bynes’ love interest in “What a Girl Wants,” is the aspiring pop star who macks on her. He can’t sing either. Everybody else is presented as a concert-ready pianist, violinist, guitarist or horn player.

And then we go to voice class, where the pretty young things have three weeks to master “The Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah, and Duff and the other singers there plainly couldn’t pass for a competent high school choir. Duff herself overdubbed her vocal bits. It didn’t help.

As an actress, the just-turned-17 Duff hasn’t progressed beyond flipping her bangs and scrunching down her shoulders to show us how cute and insecure she is. Pedestrian direction from a “Fame”-imitating Sean McNamara (“The Even Stevens Movie”) didn’t push Duff much beyond her comfort zone, though the script gives her real grief to play for the first time in her young career.

And there are funny and lively bits around her. Dana Davis is the street-talking African-American roomie who plays a mean synth-violin, and Kat Dennings has the Ally Sheedy role, the Goth-girl pianist lusted after by the dweebie sampler-drummer, Kiwi (Johnny Lewis, a ham).

Corbett seems to be in his own movie, having fun, riffing on music as if Chris-in-the-Morning had left Alaska and gone to graduate school.

“Raise Your Voice” may hit the notes Duff’s fervent fans have come to rely on. They might even embrace its programmed “uplifting” moments.

But the rest of us will just reach for a pitch pipe. Or ear plugs.

Realizing their McDestiny

McDonald’s has a new music partner: Destiny’s Child.

The fast-food company announced Wednesday that the R&B group will play an integral role in its “I’m lovin’ it” ad campaign, which kicked off last year with Justin Timberlake in a starring role.

McDonald’s said it will sponsor the group’s 2005 worldwide tour and feature the trio in new commercials and special restaurant merchandising. Destiny’s Child also will make appearances on behalf of Ronald McDonald House Charities and other children’s causes.”We’re lovin’ the chance to work with McDonald’s and know that together we’ll create lots of fun and cool surprises,” Beyonce, founding member of Destiny’s Child, said in a statement.

Michael J. Fox supports Kerry’s candidacy

Michael J. Fox is returning to TV – in a commercial praising Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry for his stance on stem-cell research, reports The Associated Press.

“John Kerry strongly supports stem-cell research. George Bush is putting limits on it,” Fox says in an ad Kerry’s campaign unveiled Thursday. “Stem-cell research can help millions of Americans whose lives have been touched by devastating illnesses. George Bush says we can wait. I say lives are at stake and it’s time for leadership. That’s why I support John Kerry for president.”

The campaign said the ad would run in local media markets in states considered battlegrounds.

Fox, who has Parkinson’s disease, campaigned with Kerry in New Hampshire on Monday and filmed the ad after the event.

Three years ago, Bush limited federal funding of embryonic stem cell research to the 78 stem-cell lines in existence. Less than a third of those initial lines are available to researchers because of problems with the lines’ growth or their ownership.


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