‘Sky High’ floats above most young adult fare
Only a killjoy would take a fun, innocent and fast-paced film like “Sky High” and call it “derivative” by choosing to focus on its many influences including, “The Incredibles,” “Harry Potter” and “X-Men.”
The fact that “Sky High” succeeds in such an engaging and creative way while also borrowing a lot from John Hughes’ ’80s movies — namely “Pretty in Pink,” “Sixteen Candles” and “Weird Science” — while adeptly addressing teenage angst and high school cliques, illustrates more depth than some highbrow critics and even the blas? trailer would lead you to believe.
The film combines veteran actors — Kurt Russell (who along with Dennis Quaid continues to nab father-of-a-high-school kid roles well into his 50s), Kelly Preston, (“The Cat in the Hat,” “Jerry McGuire”), cult favorite Bruce Campbell (“Army of Darkness”), and Wonder Woman herself Linda Carter, along with a host of new young talent including Michael Angarano.
As Will Stronghold, Angarano (“Seabiscuit” and “Little Secrets”) is the son of legendary superheroes The Commander (Russell) and Jetstream (Preston). He’s destined for Sky High, a school for the kids of superheroes that will mold them into the future defenders of truth, justice and the American way. But Will’s superpowers have yet to surface, and instead of living up to his dad’s legend, he’s relegated to a class of “Sidekicks” — those obliged to live in the shadows of the more gifted “Heroes.”
Here is where the film makes subtle commentary on racism and class and does so carefully but obviously, while never forgetting its primary motive: To keep the action moving and asides dropping. One of the film’s best sequences involves the new students arriving at gym class and having to demonstrate their superpowers to determine their class level. One student can shape-shift, one can clone herself, while another can only turn himself into a puddle and another only into a guinea pig.
Of course we know those “sidekicks” with the “lesser” powers will get their moment in the comic book-colored sun, sure as we know that the bombshell student body president must have an ulterior motive when she makes her move on nerdy, powerless, freshman Will. (A more interesting movie might have emerged if Will never developed superpowers at all but had to rely on his humanness to save the day.)
Still, “Sky High” is played both for its camp and its charm. For a film to have as its target the 10- to14-year-old demographic, and for it to hit a bull’s-eye without offending the values or intelligence of adults, the film must be respected. And speaking of the ’80s, the soundtrack is loaded with songs from that era covered by current artists.
Calculated marketing or clever inspiration? Who cares, really? “Sky High” proves that corny can be cool.
Rated PG for violence