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Film review

Film's super power is laughter

Fun and profundity share the screen in Sky High, about an underachieving adolescent whose parents happen to be the world's greatest superheroes.

By MARTY CLEAR
Published July 28, 2005


  photo
[Photo: Disney]
In Sky High, superhero dad Kurt Russell, left, delivers a pep talk to son Will Stronghold (Michael Angarano), who just can’t seem to find his identity — or any special powers.

High school's really tough for Will Stronghold. I mean, it's tough for everybody, but poor Will's school is really rough.

Will is the only child of the world's two greatest superheroes, the Commander and Jetstream. He's their heir apparent, presumed to be the next savior of the world.

But as his starts his first day at Sky High, a school for the next generation of superheroes, Will hides a terrible secret: He's the only kid in his class who hasn't developed superpowers yet. He's tormented by bullies who can do things like burst into flames or run at supersonic speed.

To make things worse, he's in remedial classes, for kids training to be superheroes' sidekicks. He ends up in the geek crowd, alongside kids with seemingly useless powers. They can turn themselves into puddles or glow in the dark.

The result is one of the most sharp-witted and thoroughly entertaining movies in a long time. Sky High is equal parts Harry Potter and Fast Times at Ridgemont High with a dash of the Adam West version of Batman added to the mix.

Michael Angarano (he was the young Red Pollard in Seabiscuit) plays Will, a just-plain-kid who has grown up in the shadow of his parents, Kelly Preston and Kurt Russell (in one of the best roles of his long career). She flies and he has superhuman strength, but they maintain a suburban facade as high-powered Realtors.

Will's at the age where superheroes' offspring usually start manifesting powers of their own. His best friend, the hippie-ish Layla, can already command plants to do her bidding.

Director Mike Mitchell (whose biggest cinematic success so far has been the awful Deuce Bigelow: Male Gigolo) and a team of writers with mostly TV credits (Kim Possible, Hercules, etc.) could have been content to let Sky High be just another action comedy, and it probably would have been a commercial success.

There are plenty of fun special effects and silliness that will appeal to kids, but Sky High is also packed with cogent social and cultural satire for adults and teenagers, including the kind of wry observations about adolescence that we can appreciate only in retrospect.

But more than anything else, this film is just enormous fun, a 100-minute grin punctuated with outright laughter and an occasional pump of adrenaline.

Sky High

Grade: A-

Director: Mike Mitchell

Cast: Michael Angarano, Kurt Russell, Kelly Preston, Danielle Panabaker, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Dave Foley, Cloris Leachman

Writers: Paul Hernandez, Robert Schooley, Mark McCorkle

Running time: 99 min.

Rating: PG for action, violence and some mild language

[Last modified July 28, 2005, 12:24:02]


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