Sky High

Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston play two of the least convincing and least interesting cinematic superheroes you’ll ever see in Sky High.  He’s Commander, an arrogant, self-absorbed strong man and she’s Jetstream, a high-flying long-haired babe.  His costume looks like it was made for a rejected character named Chess Nerd.   And hers?  Not enough cleavage.
 
They’re a married couple who also work as real estate agents.  (Remember, every superhero has to have a secret identity and crappy cover job.  And yes, they both wear specs.)  Their teenage son, Will (a sadly miscast and charisma-free Michael Angarano), is in a panic.  He’s about to start attending Sky High, a special school for wouldbe superheroes, and he doesn’t know if he has a superpower or not.  He keeps his dilemma a secret for fear of pissing off his parents.  Commander has great ambitions for him and he wouldn’t want to let him down.  Fortunately, they’re both dumber than dirt so he has no problem keeping them in the dark.
 
Why is this secondary institution called Sky High?  Because of its location.  A bus driver named Ron (Kevin Heffernan) takes them to and fro every school day in his flying orange spaceship.  Sky High is literally a floating island unto itself, always moving around to avoid detection by nefarious baddies.  (An underground lair would probably be safer, but never mind.)
 
Keep in mind this is a school for good guys.  (More on that in a moment.)  During gym class, Sonic Boom (a wasted Bruce Campbell) informs the new recruits that they have to demonstrate their special abilities in order for him to determine what kind of training they’ll be receiving.  If they have a really cool superpower, they get the Hero training.  If it’s lame, Sidekick or Hero Support.
 
Because Will’s power hasn’t materialized, he joins his pals in the Sidekick class.  There’s glow-in-the-dark Zach (Nicholas Braun), shapeshifting Magenta (cute Kelly Vitz), nerdy ass-kissing Ethan (Dee Jay Daniels) who turns into a puddle and redheaded Layla (lovely Danielle Panabaker) who secretly pines for longtime pal Will.  Layla might have the lamest superpower of them all.  She can make dead plants come alive again (and vice versa, depending on her mood).  Watch out, weeds.  Your days are numbered.
 
Meanwhile, Will finds himself mesmerized by Gwen (the exquisite Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Sky High’s overly friendly student body president and head of the homecoming committee.  However, long before the complete truth is unveiled, her motives are completely transparent.  But wouldn’t you know it, not one person clues in about this.  (Why are our heroes written so stupidly?  And didn’t we see this plot in Teen Wolf?)
 
Remember how I mentioned that this is a school for good guys?  Well, for some unknown reason, the place has bullies.  (Gee, that’s not suspicious.)  Speed (Will Harris), the fastest fatman, and Lash (Jake Sandvig), a jerky teenage Plastic-Man-type, love tormenting the sidekicks.  Principal Powers (a still ravishing Lynda Carter) doesn’t exactly go out of her way to protect the freshmen students, so these assclowns have their run of the place.  They have a snooty cheerleader pal who can clone herself six times and who loves Will’s friends about as much as Hitler loved the Jews.  In other words, not so much.
 
During a cafeteria scene, Will learns about the son of one of his father’s old enemies, the fireball-throwing Warren Peace (talk about excruciating).  Holding a grudge, Warren makes it clear that vengeance is on his mind which leads to a remarkably unexciting fight sequence, instigated in no small part by Lash and Speed.  Near the end of it, Will’s paternal genes kick in and soon, he’s transferred to the Hero class where Gwen continues to weave her spell on him.
 
As Gwen and Will become closer, Layla can’t hide her feelings for him anymore.  She confides in Warren (played by Josh Harnett soundalike, Steven Strait) who, unsurprisingly, isn’t as bad a guy as he lets on.  He agrees to pretend to be her date for the Homecoming Dance (where Will’s parents are scheduled to receive a special award) in order to drive Layla’s unrequited love crazy.
 
Shocking as it may seem, Sky High got great reviews upon its commercially successful theatrical release in the summer of 2005.  How depressing.  This is a plodding, uninvolving, mostly unfunny failure.  (Kevin McDonald’s big-headed scientist is the only funny character.)  The heroes are boring, their superpowers are unoriginal, the villains are lame, the story is predictable, the costumes and set design look bad, all the romantic pairings lack chemistry and most importantly, no one looks like they’re having much fun.  I can see why.  Sky High is no different than real high school.  Even Dave Foley, playing one of the teachers and Russell’s old sidekick, All-American Boy, can’t bring the funny.  (And what’s the deal with alll those retro cover songs on the soundtrack?  Too cheap to shell out for the originals, Disney?)
 
Have things in the movie business gotten so bad that ripping off Teen Wolf and other similiarly themed films become accepted as true creativity?  Where’s the imagination, the heart, the big laughs, the originality?  They’re all on vacation, apparently.
 
This is one of those times where you also question the sanity of professional film critics.  They’re supposed to be jaded towards formulaic dreck like this and generally have builit-in bullshit detectors.  How can the majority of them who praised this awful movie look themselves in the mirror and believe that this is fine entertainment?
 
Sky High could have been something special in the hands of more courageous and talented filmmakers.  It wouldn’t look so cheap and bore so easily.  What a waste.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
3:34 p.m.
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Published in: on February 20, 2008 at 3:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

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