Publicity Stills of "Sky High"
(Courtesy from BVI)

Genre: Family Comedy
Director: Mike Mitchell
Starring: Kelly Preston, Lynda Carter, Michael Angarano, Danielle Panabaker, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Bruce Campbell, Dave Foley, Steven Strait, and Kurt Russell
RunTime: 1 hr 40 mins
Released By: BVI
Rating: PG

Opening Day: 3 November 2005

Synopsis :

When you’re the son of the world’s most legendary superheroes The Commander (KURT RUSSELL) and Jetstream (KELLY PRESTON), there is only one school for you - SKY HIGH, an elite high school that is entrusted with the responsibility of molding today’s power-gifted students into tomorrow’s superheroes. The problem is that Will Stronghold (MICHAEL ANGARANO) is starting with no superpowers of his own and, worst of all, instead of joining the ranks of the “Hero” class, he finds himself relegated to being a “Sidekick.” Now he must somehow survive his freshman year while dealing with an overbearing gym coach (BRUCE CAMPBELL), a bully with super speed and an dangerous rebel with a grudge (and the ability to shoot fire from his hands)…not to mention the usual angst, parental expectations and girl problems that accompany teenage life. But when an evil villain threatens his family, friends and the very sanctity of SKY HIGH, Will must use his newfound superpowers to save the day and prove himself a “Hero” worthy of the family tradition.

Movie Review:

Colorfully directed by Mike Mitchell is notable for taking the blueprint of a bittersweet teen comedy and putting a spin on it by having the high schoolers be superheroes in training. This inspired twist aside, the film sticks close to formula, but if said formula has continued to work for decades and is treated with at least a certain amount of intelligence and style, why change it? It may sound like the essence of faint praise, but Disney's superhero-themed comedy Sky High turns out to be much better than expected. This reasonably diverting cross between a teen film and Saturday morning cartoon overcomes a beginning of entertainment for the kiddies and grown-ups alike with its imaginative premise, tongue-in-cheek wit and energetic pacing.

In a world where skilled crime fighters are the accepted norm, 14-year-old Will Stronghold (Michael Angarano), son of famed married heroes Commander Stronghold (Kurt Russell) and Jetstream (Kelly Preston), has one problem: he hasn't yet discovered what his special power is, or even if he has one. Without the heart to tell his proud dad the truth, Will begins his first day at Sky High with best friend Layla (Danielle Panabaker). Once there, he is promptly placed in the sidekick classes (as opposed to the more illustrious hero classes) after he is unable to perform for tough-nosed gym teacher Coach Boomer (Bruce Campbell). While Layla grows ever more jealous when beautiful senior Gwen Grayson (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) takes a liking to her lifelong pal, Will must fend off the brooding Warren Peace (Steven Strait), whose archenemy father was once defeated by Will's parents, and come to terms with possibly never being the man his parents hope for him to be. Meanwhile, a mysterious cloaked villain with a grudge and a cackling sidekick jester plot an uprising.

Don’t easily be put off by the kidish package. It's a pretty good satire; the division of students into "heroes" and "sidekicks" - cliques which the parents and teachers give tacit acknowledgment, even if they say they don't approve - is a clever reflection on the divisions that form in actual high schools - or at least the 1980s high school movies from which the soundtrack, at least, takes its cue. Despite the fantastical setting, though, the kids are grounded and believable. It's also nice that they are, well, relatively innocent Disney teenagers rather than ironic, quip-ready Whedon types. They'll occasionally say clever things, but they sound more like kids than like screenwriters.

And for once, it’s not based on any previously published material, comic book or otherwise. Sky High is one of the first of its kind (after 2004's "The Incredibles") - a completely original superhero movie concocted from the minds of screenwriters Paul Hernandez, Robert Schooley and Mark McCorkle. As such, it is a pretty good one, complete with a string of different and interesting superpowers—everything from super strength, to flying, to liquefying, to technology creator, to turning into a guinea pig—and visual effects that range from excellent to purposefully cheesy.

Will Stronghold as played with boundless charm by Michael Angarano, is the consummate protagonist—likable, caring, naturally starry-eyed, and worth rallying behind. It is Angarano, called to appear in nearly every scene, who grounds the picture in a fantasy-laced reality and gains the most mileage out of going through the frequently seen motions of a movie teenager growing up, finding his calling, and ultimately falling for the girl who has been standing by his side all along.

As for the rest of the kids, they can definatelly act; they're thoroughly believable and likable, easily building natural connections with the plot. This is a huge relief, because even if it was the fun adult cast who sold me on the movie, it belongs to the next generation, as it would have to with that name. Still, the grown-ups are a blast: Kevin Hefferman is lovably dorky as a somewhat star-struck bus driver, while former sidekick Dave Foley's dorky is a little more creepy and off-putting. Kelly Preston and Kurt Russell are tons of fun as the parents, as enthused about their cover as real-estate agents as they are about being superheroes, with neither of them as important to them as being parents. The aforementioned Bruce Campbell is note-perfect as sonic-powered Coach Boomer, often playing off Kids In The Hall's Kevin McDonald as a former supervillain turned science teacher. And even though their parts are small, Lynda Carter and Cloris Leachman are great too.

Sky High is brightly entertaining and goes down with ease, its honest heart mostly making up for a plot trajectory that hinges decidedly heavily on cliches and stock figures. More development could have also been beneficial toward its idea of the world inhabited by characters accepting superheroes and daily attempted villainous taking over the world as easily as morning rush hour traffic. Taken on its own terms as a teen superhero comedy, the picture is a fun, undemanding experience, certainly deserving of a sequel to further explore such potentially interesting areas if this one catches. Sky High is spirited enough throughout and exciting enough in its action-laden finale to put to shame recent junky fare. There is an undeniable vision and energy in what director Mike Mitchell has put together that those other half-hearted efforts so sorely lacked.

Movie Rating:

(The trials and travails of a coming-of-age (and coming-of-superpowers) teen comedy for everyone. Enroll in Sky High NOW!)

Review by Lokman B S

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