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Laramie Movie Scope:
Sky High

A cute retro superhero spoof

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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July 31, 2005 -- “Sky High” is a sly spoof of superhero movies with cute retro style and plenty of in-jokes. Like last years “The Incredibles” it is a story about a family of superheroes, but it is also a story about a boy trying to live up to his family legacy, and trying to adjust to high school life and young love all at the same time. It is also about prejudice. It is not as good a movie as “The Incredibles,” but it is not bad. It is certainly a lot better than you might expect it to be from watching the previews.

Michael Angarano of “Lords of Dogtown” stars as Will Stronghold, the son of the world's two greatest superheroes, The Commander (played by Kurt Russell of “Miracle”) and Jetstream (Kelly Preston of “The Cat in the Hat”). Will has fooled his friends and parents into thinking he has inherited his father's super strength, but in fact, he has no super powers. During his first day at Sky High, a special high school for superheroes (sort of a high-tech, funnier version of Hogwarts), his lack of superpower is revealed in a humiliating placement test conducted by the sadistic gym teacher, Coach Boomer (Bruce Campbell of “Bubba Ho-tep”). Those who don't have superpowers, or who don't have powers that are impressive enough to be heroes are relegated to “sidekick” status and placed in “hero support” classes. Of course the sidekicks are also labelled as losers by the kids with superpowers.

Will takes his place along the other sidekicks, including his longtime friend, Layla (Danielle Panabaker). Members of the group become fast friends. Layla has a crush on Will, but Will has a crush on the cute class president Gwen Grayson (Mary Elizabeth Winstead of “The Ring Two”), a girl with the power to control technology with her mind. Will finds himself torn between his friends in the sidekick class, and his new girlfriend, who scorns all of Will's sidekick friends and who is jealous of Layla. If this sounds familiar, it should be. It is the basic plot of many high school-based stories. This is all part of the retro theme of the movie, being based as it is on the popular John Hughes teen films (like “Sixteen Candles”) of the 1980s, complete with a soundtrack from that same time period. The costumes and production design are also very retro-looking, befitting the film's Disney company heritage, including films like “The Absent Minded Professor,” “The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes” and “The Strongest Man in the World,” starring a very young Kurt Russell.

The retro theme is carried through to the cast, including Disney veteran Russell, Lynda Carter (who once played superhero Wonder Woman on TV) as the Sky High principal, Bruce Campbell, star of the tongue-in-cheek “Evil Dead” movies, Nurse Spex, played by Cloris Leachman (who starred in the funniest horror movie spoof of all time, “Young Frankenstein”) and others.

The broad outlines of the plot are familiar and predictable, but the amiable cast, good production values, lighthearted script and all those in-jokes keep the film funny, lively and upbeat. The characters are well-rounded and interesting, including the dangerous Warren Peace (played the lead singer of the musical group “Tribe”), and the friendly school bus driver Ron Wilson (Kevin Heffernan of “Club Dread”). This is a very bright, amiable, warmhearted Disney family film that is hard not to like. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2005 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)