by Kevin Carr
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|| MOVIE: **** (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Michael Angarano as WILL STRONGHOLD
Kurt Russell as STEVE STRONGHOLD
Kelly Preston as JOSIE STRONGHOLD
Danielle Panabaker as LAYLA
Mary Elizabeth Winstead as GWEN
Directed by: Mike Mitchell
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Way back in the summer when I was looking at posters in a local cineplex, I noticed a cardboard stand-up for “Sky High.” Knowing nothing about this film aside from what I saw on that advert, I thought it would be pretty bad. After all, it looked like a cheap knock-off of last year’s smart, slick CGI film “The Incredibles.”
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Then my son started to see the trailers on our Disney DVDs. He was fascinated by it. He’s only four, but he still demanded that I take him to see “Sky High” when it came out. And I did. And he loved it.
Instead of being a rip-off, it was it’s own little movie, complete to itself with a very different – and refreshing – direction.
“Sky High” features a family of superheros, led by Kurt Russell (aka The Commander) and Kelly Preston (aka Jetstream). They have a son named Will (Michael Angarano), who hasn’t developed super powers yet. Feeling the pressure of having the two greatest superheros on the planet as his parents, Will’s not handling things well. To make things work, he’s about to start high school – and we all know how traumatic that can be.
However, his high school is no regular high school. It’s Sky High, a special academy for superkids. Here, the kids are taught the ropes of the superhero life. One of the first things they do when they arrive is to be labeled a hero or a sidekick. (Basically, if your powers are lame, you’re a sidekick.)
On first blanche, this film seems to be something you might find as a “Disney Channel Original Movie.” All they had to do was trim the budget, drop in Lindsay Lohan or Hilary Duff, and you’d have the right formula. However, the film goes in a different direction, focusing on the struggles of a teenage son instead of a quirky teenage girl.
In addition to changing the focus from standard Disney Channel flair, the film adds a superior level of irreverence that reminds me of films like “Galaxy Quest.” While it tells a story with real enough characters, it also serves as an awesome satire of the entire superhero genre. On one hand, it shows the characters with these incredible powers, and on the other hand it makes fun of the fact that no one recognizes the Commander in his secret identity because he wears glasses.
Much like the “Harry Potter” films, “Sky High” takes the real struggles of an American teenager and puts them against a fantastic backdrop. But even with super powers and crazy gadgets, adolescence can be a real pain in the butt.
The cast is great, not because they’re awesome thespians, but rather they get it. They understand the tone of the film and the underlying humor in everything they do. The supporting cast features some hilarious bit parts played by Bruce Campbell, Lynda Carter and “The Kids in the Hall” alums David Foley and Kevin McDonald.
The DVD has a nice selection of features, including bloopers and an alternative opening of the film. There are also two featurettes and a music video in the bonus menu. The most interesting behind-the-scenes doco is the “Breaking Down the Walls” featurette that explains how the filmmakers employed practical effects instead of overdoing it with computer animation.
When I took my son to this film, he loved it. Heck, I loved it too. I found myself laughing at all the right parts and really getting into the characters. Sadly, “Sky High” was somewhat overlooked in the theatres, but it’s really a great little film.