Sky High (2005)

14 Apr

Sky High 2005

Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Sky High” is a pleasant surprise. It’s a smart, funny, utterly enjoyable family movie about superheroes and a school for superheroes. I never thought I would praise a movie with that admittedly-cheesy idea, but there you go. I would say that “Sky High” is intentionally cheesy and very well done. There’s a lot for me to admire about it.

Michael Angarano stars as Will Stronghold, the fourteen-year-old son of the world’s greatest, most infamous superheroes—the invincible Commander (Kurt Russell) and high-flying Jetstream (Kelly Preston). Will’s “superparents” look forward to Will eventually joining them in helping save the world. There’s just one problem—Will doesn’t have any superpowers of any kind. But because of his parents’ reputation as the greatest superheroes on the planet, Will is accepted at Sky High School—a secret high school for the new generation superheroes (the school also hovers in the sky, hence the name—get it?). Will and his friends—Layla (Danielle Panabaker) who can communicate with plants, Zach (Nicholas Braun) whose body can glow in the dark, brainy Ethan (Dee Jay Daniels) who can melt himself at will, and Magenta (Kelly Vitz) who can morph into a guinea pig—are freshmen and because of their unimpressive powers (or shortage of powers), they are listed as “sidekicks.” You see, like all high schools, there are cliques—the cooler clique at Sky High is the “heroes,” the students who have very impressive (I dare even say “super”) abilities.

As the ads for this movie made quite clear, Will does eventually get his powers (he’s super-strong, like his father)—he becomes part of the “heroes” and has a chance with the girl of his dreams, Gwen Grayson (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). But he is neglecting his old friends and becoming more of a neglectful jerk.

This film contains elements from other films (such as “The Incredibles,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” and a touch of “Harry Potter”), but has its own touches as well. They all work in this film, which lampoons the superhero genre while also becoming a member of it as well. I like the lesson it delivers that popularity is overrated and friendship is more important. (It’s not new, but it’s usually welcome if done right.)

I really like the writing here—a lot of in-jokes, suitable character names (such as “Warren Peace,” the name of the bully at the school), and lines such as “I’m not Wonder Woman, you know,” said by the principal of Sky High, coincidentally played by Lynda Carter (OK, maybe it’s not much of a coincidence after all).

There are some parts comedy, some parts action, and some parts drama. Each of them work well and it helps that the film continues at a consistently interesting pace. The special effects are impressive, the colors in the film are bright and good to look at around the school, the soundtrack is great (I like how Spandau Ballet’s “True” is used in certain scenes), and the film is innocent and for everyone—kids and adults. The PG rating is just right for “Sky High.”

“Sky High” also has an appealing cast—Michael Angarano is an appealing lead, Danielle Panabaker and Mary Elizabeth Winstead are effective as Will’s romantic-triangle subjects, Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston are brilliant as the superheroes who save the world in costume on duty and have secret identities as mild-mannered real estate agents and Will’s loving parents, Bruce Campbell and Dave Foley are amazing as two fun faculty members, Steven Strait strays far from the bully stereotype and becomes someone easy to like (when you don’t get on his bad side, that is—he’s a suitable bully for this movie), and Kevin Hefferman is just fantastic as the overweight school bus driver Ron Wilson. All of these actors look like they’re having a great time making this film.

“Sky High” is just a ton of fun. There are a lot of laughs and even more moments when I had a smile on my face. This is a fun movie with a sharp wit, a sense of humor, an eye for its fictional surroundings, and, again, a great sense of fun.

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