Sky High (2005) / Comedy-Action
MPAA Rated: PG for violence and mild language
Running Time: 102 min.
Cast: Michael Angarano, Kurt Russell, Kelly Preston, Danielle Panabaker, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Steven Strait, Dee Jay Daniels, Bruce Campbell, Lynda Carter, Dave Foley, Cloris Leachman
Director: Mike Mitchell
Screenplay: Paul Hernandez, Bob Schooley, Mark McCorkle
Sky High is a lighthearted spoof of two popular genres among teenagers -- the superhero movie and the high school clique flick. Being a Disney film, one could obviously assume family entertainment geared at young and old, and that's certainly the case here, as there are jokes aimed at almost every age demographic. The soundtrack is just as revealing, peppered with music from the 1980s for the parents, although they are actually covers by contemporary artists that the kids will recognize. In-jokes, camp value, and some very nice casting turns what could easily have been. It's never great, but it does entertain, and should definitely fit the bill of most that are just looking for some cute, inoffensive, escapist fare.
Michael Angarano (Lords of Dogtown, Seabiscuit) stars as Will Stronghold, the only child of Steve (Russell, Miracle) and Josie (Preston, What a Girl Wants), the couple better known to the rest of the world as The Commander and Jetstream, the dynamic duo of superheroes that are frequently called upon to save the world. it's time for Will to go to high school, but being the offspring of superheroes means he will most likely get superpowers himself, and that means attendance at Sky High, the high school in the sky for tomorrow's heroes. The students are immediately divided into two camps -- heroes and sidekicks -- and since Will has no discernable powers, he is put into the latter group. This also means that he is treated like a second class geek by the kids that are to be heroes, although Gwen (Winstead, Monster Island), the sexiest senior in school, still takes a liking to him. The powers do eventually come, putting Will into the hero class, but he has made many friends that are to be sidekicks, and doesn't like the condescending treatment his new peers are showing.
There's quite a bit more to Sky High than my plot description shows, but most of these are of the teenage angst variety, where kids struggle with being hip and cool, and who to take to the homecoming dance. Underneath it all, there is a nefarious plot by a super-villain, although revealing any additional details will spoil one of the movie's more clever plot twists. While it is derivative at its core, the jokes and sight gags are often clever, and the writers use our familiarity with the subject matter to their advantage, applying the superhero angle to solutions for most teen problems, making a stale premise fresh with well-developed flair.
As you'd expect from a superhero movie, the special effects are quite good, and budgeted at about $60 million, it's a modest price to pay for good eye candy entertainment. The casting is also universally well done, with Angarano playing a likeable geek, while veterans Kurt Russell, Bruce Campbell (Serving Sara), and Lynda Carter ("Wonder Woman") seem to be having a great time having fun with their image for the sake of good-natured comedy. Many have compared the film with X-Men, Harry Potter, and the films of John Hughes, and while the comparisons merit mentioning, it must be remembered that Sky High is a spoof at heart, ridiculing and embracing its target at the same time.
Sky High isn't going to blow you away, and for a comedy, it doesn't really have any knee-slapping moments either. However, it is silly, likeable, and often infectious, such that it will probably be deemed a good time by almost all that view it. You may not be wiping tears away from laughter, but there's a very good chance that you'll still leave the theater with a smile.
©2005 Vince Leo