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  Publicity Stills of
(Courtesy of Shaw)

Genre: Drama/Comedy/Music
Director: Todd Graff
Cast: Alyson Michalka, Gaelan Connell, Vanessa Hudgens, Scott Porter, Tim Jo, Ryan Donowho, Elvy Yost, Lisa Chung, Charlie Saxton, Lisa Kudrow
RunTime: 1 hr 51 mins
Released By: Shaw
Rating: PG
Official Website: http://www.bandslam-movie.com/

Opening Day: 27 August 2009


Disney Channel superstars Vanessa Anne Hudgens ("High School Musical 1 & 2," "High School Musical 3") and Alyson Michalka ("Phil of the Future," pop duo Aly and AJ) join Gaelan Connell ("Chocolat"), Scott Porter ("Speed Racer") and Lisa Kudrow ("Friends") in the music-driven comedy "Bandslam." When gifted singer-songwriter Charlotte Banks (Michalka) asks new kid in town Will Burton (Connell) to manage her fledgling rock band, she appears to have just one goal in mind: go head-to-head against her egotistical musician ex-boyfriend, Ben (Porter), at the biggest event of the year, a battle of the bands.

Against all odds, their band develops a sound all its own with a real shot at success in the contest. Meanwhile, romance brews between Will and Sam (Hudgens), who plays a mean guitar and has a voice to die for. When disaster strikes, it's time for the band to make a choice: Do they admit defeat, or face the music and stand up for what they believe in?

Movie Review:

Perhaps the best way to tell you about what Bandslam really is is to tell you what it’s not. It’s not a High School Musical-wannabe, despite the casting of HSM-alumni Vanessa Hudgens and its very obviously HSM-inspired trailer. It’s also not a School of Rock-clone, in spite of some similarities in plot and genre of music. No, Bandslam is really a movie good, even great, enough to be in a class of its own.

Although one must admit, it’s probably quite hard to tell just by looking at Bandslam’s premise. Its setup of a lonely new kid moving into a new town and becoming the manager of a kick-ass band fronted by some of the not-so-popular guys and gals in his school may sound a little tired and clichéd; but rest assured that this movie is not. Instead, director Todd Graff (of “Camp” fame), who also co-wrote the movie, executes the movie with great spunk and verve.

Like some of the classic teenage movies of our generation (a la “Juno”), Bandslam possesses a bona fide youthful sensibility about itself. Through each of its characters- new kid-in-town Will Burton (Gaelan Connell), once-lead cheerleader Charlotte Banks (Alyson Michalka), and moody-outcast type Sa5m (Vanessa Hudgens), Graff explores the awkwardness and anxieties of adolescence. Will is a kid whose overprotective mom (Lisa Kudrow) tries too hard to compensate for the absence of his father; Sa5m is the cooler-than-thou girl who can’t quite fit in at school; and Charlotte is the popular pretty high school-type girl that the audience (and Will) find out later is not as simple as she appears.

Yes, this is a period of searching for one’s identity, of questioning one’s circumstances and of discovering one’s potential. All this Graff communicates with a great deal of heart and sincerity so that not Will, Charlotte nor Sa5m look or feel like one of those character stock-types that Hollywood likes to churn out.

It certainly helps that Graff and Josh A. Cagan’s script displays a surprisingly generous dose of wit and charm. One of the movie’s best lines is Will’s reply to his bespectacled nerdy-looking cello playing band member when she suddenly starts speaking in some unintelligible language. “No one speaks in conversational Elfish”, Will tells her matter-of-factly. Just as hilarious and yet surprisingly tender is Bandslam’s obligatory awkward-kiss moment between Will and Sa5m- one of the moments among many bound to bring a smile to your face.

Indeed, that delightful moment would have been much less so were it not for the lively performances of its cast, most notably Gaelan Connell. Connell is perfectly endearing as the shy, not so sure of himself Will, his most-common expression a look of discomfort and bewilderment. And Disney Channel superstars Hudgens and Michalka are also great fun to watch, the trio of them and Connell sharing a nice chemistry with one another.

But what would a comedy about music be without an appealing soundtrack to boot? Bandslam’s energy is matched, and in fact enlivened, by a wonderfully eclectic soundtrack from the likes of David Bowie to Velvet Underground to a rework of Bread’s “Everything I Own” (performed by Vanessa Hudgens). It’s apparent that a great deal of effort has gone into creating the music and sounds of the movie, and it truly pays off in Bandslam’s unique, infectious and very affecting rhythms.

With all its merits, it’s surely disappointing that Bandslam has not received the reception it ought to in the U.S., thanks to a wholly inaccurate marketing effort that tried to position it as the next High School Musical. This reviewer will categorically attest that this is no HSM, nor is it a School of Rock- the other movie it is bound to draw comparisons with. Quirky, cool, funky and full of spirit and heart, Bandslam is a feel-good smash that possesses its own unique voice.

Movie Rating:

(Don’t let its HSM-like marketing deceive you- this is one energetic, amusing and utterly charming comedy set to its own unique rhythm)

Review by Gabriel Chong


. 17 Again (2009)

. High School Musical 3: Senior Year (2008)

. Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist (2008)

. Sex Drive (2008)

. College (2008)


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