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Sky High Review

By Shawn McKenzie 07/29/2005

I don’t know if the producers of Sky High knew about The Incredibles when they produced their movie or if they had always intended to make a movie about a family of superheroes anyway, but it doesn’t matter to me, because I liked it.

Will Stronghold (Michael Angarano) is a normal kid who goes to Sky High school.  That that’s the problem though…he’s normal.  He is the son of renowned superheroes Commander Stronghold (Kurt Russell) and Josie Jetstream (Kelly Preston), the protectors of the planet.  Will’s parents are Steve and Josie by day, a couple of real estate brokers for Superior Realty.  Otherwise, they fight villains, like giant robots, and the Commander’s arch-nemesis, Royal Pain (voiced by Patrick Warburton.)  For Will, he has the pressure of hiding the fact that he has no superpowers, and he does so by pretending that he lifts huge weights in his bedroom.  His best friend is next-door neighbor Layla (Danielle Panabaker), a girl whom Will confides in.  She does have superpowers, which is the ability to control nature, but she doesn’t like to broadcast it much.  He and Layla go to school (which is located in the clouds) on the first day, and they are transported by Ron Wilson (Kevin Heffernan), the bus driver of a flying school bus, who unfortunately has no powers himself (he is the son of two superheroes, but he never ended up getting powers growing up.)  In the school gym, Coach Boomer (Bruce Campbell), who has the power of emitting a loud sonic boom, gives all of the students Power Placement tests, where they will be either “heroes” or “hero support”…a.k.a. sidekicks.  The heroes are kids like Warren Peace (Steven Strait), a human flamethrower who is bitter because his mother was a hero and his father was a villain, who was coincidentally captured by Commander Stronghold.  Also considered heroes are Student Body President Gwen Grayson (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a pretty girl who is a technopath (she controls technology); bullies Lash (Jake Sandvig), who can stretch to any length, and Speed (Will Harris), who is super fast; and Penny (Malika and Khadijah), a cheerleader who can instantly multiply herself.  Little Larry (Loren Berman), who can turn into a rock giant, is also a hero, but he is a little nerdy, as opposed to the popular hero kids.  The sidekicks include Ethan (Dee-Jay Daniels), who can turn into a puddle of liquid; Zach (Nicholas Braun), who just glows (he needs it to be very dark though); and Magenta (Kelly Vitz), who is a goth girl shape-shifter…but only into a guinea pig.  Boomer assigns both Will and Layla to the sidekick class as well, and Mr. Jonathan Boy (Dave Foley), a.k.a. All-American Boy, a former sidekick of the Commander, is their teacher.  Mr. Medulla (Kevin McDonald), the mad science teacher, whose head is extremely large, is also a teacher to the students.  Since Will hasn’t discovered his powers yet, he bonds with the sidekicks.  He is a little bummed out though, and consults with Nurse Spex (Cloris Leachman), the school nurse who has X-ray vision, to see if he will ever get his powers (it’s it that times that she tells Will about Ron and the whole lack of powers thing.)  Unfortunately, Will gets into a fight with Warren, but despite destroying the cafeteria and being sent to the detention room by Principal Powers (Lynda Carter) where they aren’t able to use their powers, Will finally gets them.  This makes his dad very happy, since Will’s power is superstrength, like his dad, and he invites Will to check out their secret sanctum filled with cool stuff, like a ray gun called The Pacifier, which turns bad guys into babies.  Boomer reassigns Will to the hero class, where he becomes a popular kid, alienating his former friends.  Gwen suddenly takes an interest in Will, and they go to the Homecoming Dance together, which ticks off Layla, because she has a secret crush on him.  At the Dance, supervillains plot to take over the school, and Will must join his sidekick friends in order to save the day.

The movie is a little predictable, because you know that the good guys are going to beat the bad guys and they will all learn a valuable lesson about friendship and teamwork (this is a Disney movie after all), but that didn’t matter to me.  Director Mike Mitchell has constructed a fun live action version of The Incredibles, even if that wasn’t his intention.  The movie also slightly rips off X-Men in the school of superpowers arena, but again, I didn’t care.  Mictchell’s only two previous feature films have been 1999’s Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo and last year’s Surviving Christmas.  I liked Deuce, but I haven’t seen Christmas yet (I plan to once the snow starts falling again and I’m in a seasonal mood.)  I liked both Deuce and this movie though, so Mitchell is another director I might be looking out for in the future.

There is a lot to love about the casting.  Russell finally returns to his old Disney comedy stomping grounds, but this time he plays an adult character.  Preston looked hot in her costume, but she really didn’t do much.  Angarano was memorable as Sid in Lords of Dogtown, and he made an effective lead here.  This is Panabaker’s first theatrical role, and she is striking.  This is also Strait’s first movie, and he reminded me (just physically, not character-wise) of Criss Angel, the goth magician who has that new show on A&E called “Criss Angel: Mindfreak.”  The other sidekicks didn’t really stand out to me.  The other supporting characters were fun, if only to be there as references to old TV shows and movies for the parents.  Campbell was the square-jawed hero Ash in the Evil Dead trilogy.  Carter was of course Wonder Woman from the old 1976-1979 CBS TV show of the same name (she uses an obligatory “WW” reference, but that was going to be a given.)  Non-hero cast members include “Kids in the Hall” alums Foley and McDonald, and Heffernan, who was a founding member of the Broken Lizard comedy troupe.  All of them were funny in the movie.

Sky High was definitely a traditional Disney movie.  With Russell in it, it reminded me of the old family films of the ‘60s and ‘70s, but with cooler special effects.  This is one that the whole family can see, and both parents and their kids won’t be bored.  Even the soundtrack works for both; all of the songs are ‘80s classics covered by new musicians of today.  I’m sure that you will all have a super good time at the theater (okay…even that pun was too cheesy for me.)


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