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Overall Rating

Awesome: 21.69%
Worth A Look55.42%
Average: 20.48%
Pretty Bad: 1.2%
Total Crap: 1.2%

9 reviews, 29 user ratings

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Sky High (2005)
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Mildly amusing, but a missed opportunity."
3 stars

Some of the best superhero movies aren't based on existing comic books. Movies like Sam Raimi's 'Darkman' and Brad Bird's 'The Incredibles' had no four-color mythology to be faithful to and no comics fans to appease, so they used their imaginations freely.

At the other extreme, of course, you have uninspired misfires like Hero at Large and The Return of Captain Invincible. Disney's Sky High falls somewhere in the middle. A fun enough mishmash of Spy Kids, X-Men, and your typical John Hughes flick, the movie stays aloft when it considers the pleasures and pains of being a superpowered teenager, but hits some turbulence when the script's focus turns to whether our young hero will ask the perfect senior girl to the Homecoming Dance or his best-buddy gal pal, who adores him.

I suppose that might have been an interesting, though far less flamboyant, movie -- a teen comedy that keeps the superpowers in the deep background. But Sky High tries for both thrills and teen-movie character beats, and it turns out there's a reason that we only catch a glimpse of the nonheroic goings-on in the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters in the X-Men films. The scenario is better suited to an ongoing series, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which deftly balanced its teen angst and world-saving. Indeed, Sky High feels like a long pilot episode for a TV show or cartoon, though it would have plenty of competition in that field, from Teen Titans and the like.

The movie does have an amusing cast. Kurt Russell, who returned to his Disney roots with 2004's Miracle and seems to enjoy being back home again, turns up in what amounts to a supporting role as The Commander, a famous superhero who, under his regular-guy alias Steve Stronghold, sells real estate with wife Josie (Kelly Preston), who can also fly. The union of two superheroes has produced fourteen-year-old Will (Michael Angarano), who is sent to Dad's alma mater Sky High, a school exclusively for budding heroes. Will's problem is that his powers haven't manifested yet, and he's not sure they ever will. The school divides the kids into Heroes and Sidekicks (they prefer to be called Hero Support) based on their powers, and Will gets stuck with the Sidekicks, who befriend him.

The wittiest casting is in the teachers' lounge: Bruce Campbell is the contemptuous Coach Boomer, whose job it is to consign "losers" to the Sidekicks table; erstwhile Wonder Woman Lynda Carter is the school principal, and two Kids in the Hall -- Dave Foley and Kevin McDonald -- are also on the faculty. None of them gets to do much, though; they've been cast to please fans. Most of our time is spent with Will, who's torn between the unassuming, mildly rebellious Layla (Danielle Panabaker), who can create plant life, and class president Gwen (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, looking like Lucy Lawless' kid sister), who can control technology, which might explain why Spandau Ballet's "True" kicks in on the soundtrack whenever Will ogles her. (Actually, it's a cover version of the song -- the soundtrack is full of new versions of '80s pop tunes, a sacrilege to fans of '80s music that seems to have no connection with the movie itself. At least when 50 First Dates did it, the covers were all reggae-flavored and appropriate to the movie's setting.)

Sky High's big lesson is that you should be true to yourself and not look down on your less fabulous classmates, a speech that teen movies apparently never tire of delivering, though the teenagers most likely to benefit from the message wouldn't be caught dead at a Disney flick about superheroes. The movie is colorful and amusing when it sticks to the superpowered kids and their ways of dealing with their powers, less so when we actually get the cobwebbed scene of poor Layla stood up at a Chinese restaurant while Will hangs out with perfect Gwen. The classroom scenes are fresh, particularly the "Save the Citizen" competition and Dave Foley's bits as a former Sidekick who teaches the nuances of proper Hero Support.

If this had been done as a mockumentary following the faculty as they attempt to get through to their oblivious, hormonal students -- difficult enough without throwing superpowers into the mix -- it would've been a useful, satiric antidote to the comic-book movies we've already gotten too many of. Instead, it's just kind of a mildly entertaining footnote.

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originally posted: 01/04/07 15:00:20
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User Comments

11/07/17 Carol Baker See the movie and form your own opinions. 3 stars
10/28/13 Sissy Gifford One of my absolute favorite superhero movies. Light, clean fun! 5 stars
11/18/09 suriya good 4 stars
4/15/08 Mrs. Cena Steven Strait is very attractive. I want to have ice powers!!! 4 stars
12/18/07 Paula Michael Angarano puts in a fantastic performance, I love this film. 5 stars
5/18/07 lydi cheezy yet fun, good job actors, keep up the good work, there is not return, 4 stars
3/25/07 sarah Grodzicki Warren Peace is so HOT!!!! 5 stars
3/21/07 dude very average 3 stars
12/07/06 Browncoat Better than I thought it would be.(FYI: I disliked Gwen Grayson from the start.) 4 stars
8/17/06 tonya awesome. Very fun. 5 stars
6/22/06 drydock54321 very fun to watch. entertaining 5 stars
3/15/06 Dk Good fun if a lttle predictable 4 stars
12/06/05 tatum Cute enough stuff 4 stars
11/30/05 Jeff Anderson Terrific with a fun & spirited cast. It's great to see Campbell & Carter in the same film! 5 stars
11/16/05 PAG Good solid family film. 4 stars
10/01/05 ron the most enjoyable movie i've seen all year. what a surprisen and what a treat! 5 stars
9/25/05 Aaron Smith Great little superhero film. 5 stars
8/28/05 Fred the nooyorker Really funny. Great writing. A movie kids can watch and adults will enjoy. 4 stars
8/13/05 Mark Surprisingly enjoyable, in a light way. Kids loved it. 4 stars
8/12/05 Gail S. Sorry to waste money and sorry I took grandchildren 2 stars
8/10/05 billyshears Really liked it a lot 5 stars
8/09/05 KingNeutron Very formulaic, but the villain has a good acting career ahead. 3 stars
8/08/05 Rolando I LOVED this movie! This one is definitely a keeper when it gets to DVD! 5 stars
8/08/05 Michael Great fun! Hope for sequels! 5 stars
8/05/05 jcjs33 my first 'total crap'..Kelly Cult Preston in a 'Harry Potter' wannab..horrid piece of junk 1 stars
8/03/05 William Vollmer a good movie; not exceptionally great but not exceptionally bad either 3 stars
8/01/05 michaelb14 suprisingly good, kooky fun 4 stars
7/30/05 Bill Fantastic! 5 stars
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  29-Jul-2005 (PG)
  DVD: 29-Nov-2005



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