REVIEW: Sky High [2005]

“Did I mention she’s not just her twin, but her ‘evil’ twin?”

What a nice surprise this movie is. The trailer always piqued my interest, but I just never had Sky High at the top of my movie to see list. I must now do the shameless plug of OnDemand television; it is a great little technological advancement allowing me to finally see the flick. It was an entertaining ride, skewering the “hero” genre while also sending it up. Each character served a purpose to the end means of the plot, and the audience really gets to see how they evolved from sidekick to hero.

As with all superhero stories, this one is a far-fetched yarn pitting an evil nemesis, long-thought dead, against those who defeated him. Or more correctly, the offspring of those victors. We are given a Hogwarts type training ground for the young kids learning how to control their powers. However, we aren’t given the serious side of the spectrum like Potter; we are shown the light side, people who can do incredible things and enjoy showing their abilities off to do so. Sky High is a pulp comic, heightened from reality and bent to that extreme rather than trying to ground itself into the “real world.” High school has never been cattier or more cliquish, as the heroes beat up on the hero support.

While the kids are the focal point of the film, it’s the adults that really shine. These actors, most with very little screen time, bring comic relief as they parody the genre and sometimes themselves. Everything we know about superheroes that makes us laugh and think of the absurdity of it all comes through. Dave Foley and Kevin McDonald are wonderful as aloof teachers trying to relive their youth of crime fighting vicariously through their students. The nervous-twitched, orchestrated personas from their long-running sketch based “Kids in the Hall” is used to nice effect here as they never made a mark during their careers, but try to act hip and popular now. Kevin Heffernan is memorable as Ron Wilson – Bus Driver. I hope that this is sign for future parts sans the rest of his Broken Lizard troupe as he is a real funny actor. Lynda Carter has some fun with her Principal Powers, at one time even referencing her famous role as ”Wonder Woman”. Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston work well as the greatest heroes in the world. Their crossover between real estate agents and saviors is handled well with nice moments of discussing parenting problems while dispatching of villains. Even the Clark Kent glasses disguise is poked fun at, at Russell’s expense. Lastly, on the adult front, one can’t not speak of the incomparable Bruce Campbell. His Coach Boomer is the loud and obnoxious role we love and expect from Campbell. I love the laid back ex-jock façade, especially when he calmly eats his cake while all hell breaks loose around him.

The kids also do a decent job in the film. They do have to carry the story on their shoulders, and might not be as successful as needed, however the cameos from the seasoned vets discussed above help lessen the burden. Michael Angarano does a nice job as our protagonist showing teen angst as well as genuine feelings and emotions when called upon. Danielle Panabaker is good as the bestfriend/love interest; she appears to have a good career ahead of her with this and HBO’s Empire Falls, she just hasn’t broken out yet and appears a bit stiff at times. Steven Strait annoyed me towards the beginning of the film, as it seemed he could only do gruff and pissed off, even when trying to be soft-spoken. I eventually warmed up to the performance though when he takes a turn reminiscent to Heath Ledger’s in 10 Things I Hate About You. Probably the best of the high schoolers is Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Gwen Grayson. She plays the femme fatale nicely, is very attractive, and was good at being both sweet and conniving.

Overall, Sky High is well worth a look. On the surface it is a kids movie, but really has a little something for everyone; it’s a parody of the hero cannon while also containing all the elements we love from it. (Having the logo fly by for cuts was a bit of overkill, old school ”Batman” style.) The effects were surprisingly good and not overly flashy and even the soundtrack was enjoyable. Consisting of 80’s era hits all covered by current bands, the music helps add to the John Hughes coming of age feel. Besides the awful Bowling For Soup remake of I Melt With You, each sounds so much like the originals that I didn’t quite know they were all covers until the credits.

Sky High 7/10 | ★ ★ ★

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