In a summer with few surprises, "Sky High" proves to be a buried treasure - a clever take on the teen-high school genre. This live action Disney film is a throwback to the studio's string of hits in the '60s and '70s and even manages to employ one of its stars from that era - Kurt Russell.
Russell plays Commander Stronghold, the world's most popular super hero who is married to fellow crime fighter Jetstream (Kelly Preston). When "Sky High" begins, the couple's son Will (Michael Angarano) is about to embark on his first day of school at the prestigious Sky High - a school reserved for future super heroes.
Will desperately wants to live up to his family name, but struggles to find his identity, until an old nemesis threatens the family.
"Sky High" works thanks in part to a very smart screenplay and some inspired casting. Paul Hernandez, Bob Schooley and Mark McCorkle concoct a story that uses its comic book frame to capture the angst of high school. I liked the touch of having the cool kids be super heroes and the nerds being forced to learn how to be sidekicks.
The story is aided by a talented cast peppered with some fun cameos. Russell and Preston are obviously having a lot of fun and appearances from Lynda Carter, Bruce Campbell and "Kids in the Hall" alums Dave Foley and Kevin McDonald only heighten the film's entertainment value.
But in a film like this, the child actors are critical and fortunately "Sky High" has a cast that's up to the task. Angarano is very good as Will and there are nice performances by Danielle Panabaker as Will's best friend, Layla, and Steven Strait as the Bo Bice of the school.
"Sky High" is slightly predictable, but that is part of its charm. It takes pleasure in being a straightforward family film and as a result manages to soar high above my expectations.
Discount dandy of the week
This week's discount dandy is "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" (B-) the adaptation of the popular book that features some beautiful cinematography and solid performances by a talented young cast.
"Pants" follows four friends during one life-changing summer apart.
Lena (Alexis Bledel) goes to Greece to learn about her family. Tibby (Amber Tamblyn) stays at home and is content with working on her documentary, until she meets a young girl (Jenna Boyd) who changes her outlook on life.
Carmen (America Ferrera) spends the summer with her dad, but is frustrated to learn he has moved on and is about to remarry; while Bridget (Blake Lively) heads to soccer camp looking for romance.
Director Ken Kwapis does a decent job of balancing the four plots. Some stories work better than others, I liked Carmen and Tibby's narratives the most, but all are interesting.
The entire cast does a very good job, providing performances that makes "Pants" more than a teen chick flick.
"The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" opens Friday at the Plaza 6, where all movies are $1.50.
- Sportswriter/ movie reviewer Micheal Compton must be in a generous mood this week (after all he did give a positive review to a movie about pants). Now might be a good time to hit him up for a loan. Drop him an e-mail at email@example.com. Who knows? Maybe he'll send you a check in the mail.