Februrary 4, 2013

Sky High (2005)
Starring Kurt Russell, Kelly Preston, Michael Angarano, and Bruce Campbell


Comments:    As a rule, I generally can't stand "family movies."  Because as we all know, a "family movie" is more or less just code for "here is a stupid kid's movie that parents have to sit through too."  In fact, if you look at how much the concept of family movies has changed over just one generation, you will be pretty amazed to see what used to pass for "a movie for the entire family" about thirty years ago, and what passes for one today.

Thirty years ago, a movie like The Spy Who Loved Me (James Bond) would have been a perfectly acceptable family movie.  In fact I think my parents took me to it when I was six.  After all, what is so unwholesome about James Bond traveling around the world, shooting bad guys, nailing hot women, and trying not to have his jugular severed by Jaws?  I'll tell you what was so unwholesome about that.  Nothing.  That was a perfectly acceptable family movie around 1980.  

But nowadays, in 2013?  Well a family movie nowadays has significantly less James Bond and significantly more Kevin James dressed up in a gorilla costume.  In fact I will say it right now.  Family movies nowadays are dumb.

My kids were born in the years 2000 and 2002, and I spent the next six or seven years after that stuck at home watching nothing but family movies.  And oh how did I loathe that genre.  Most family movies nowadays are skewed so young, and are so stupid, that after a steady diet of them you just want to go outside and start screaming.   In fact you generally have to do something afterwards like go watch a Sam Kinison video on Youtube or something just to get your grownup edge back.  I do not recommend being stuck at home and being force fed a steady diet of family movies nowadays to my worst enemy.  That is a hell that I wouldn't wish upon anyone.

But wait a minute.  I just remembered something.

Now that I think about it, there was one really GOOD family movie that came out in the mid 2000's.  In fact it was so good that I think it is an insult even calling it a family movie.  Because this isn't just a good clean movie for kids and parents, this is a flat out well written and very funny comedy movie.  In fact, I would rank it among any of the better comedies of the 2000's

Yes, I can only be talking about Sky High.  One of my favorite comedies of the 2000's.  And, naturally, a movie that was considered a pretty big flop when it originally came out.

Seriously, what is wrong with you people in America?  This was a Disney movie.  A really funny Disney movie.  It was perfect for everyone.  How could a movie like this have barely made a profit?

Sky High is the story of two superheroes.   Their names are The Commander (Kurt Russell) and Jetstream (Kelly Preston).  And they are basically the Superman and Wonder Woman of their day.  They are the two most famous superheroes in the world, they are the two most invincible superheroes in the world, and they are known and beloved around the planet as the two greatest defenders of truth and justice.

Naturally, of course they are also married to one another.


Jetstream and The Commander

Well The Commander and Jetstream are married, and they happen to have a son named Will.  

Will Stronghold.  

Will is just your average ordinary teenager.  There is nothing particularly amazing or extraordinary about him.  He is just some random awkward teenager who attends high school and who doesn't even have any sort of a super power.  He is like pretty much any dorky awkward kid you passed in the halls every day when you were in high school.

Will Stronghold

Well this is where the movie gets fun.  

When children of superheroes reach a certain age, they are expected to leave high school and start attending a "special" high school.  Apparently there is a school up in the clouds that is only available to children of superheroes.  You know, since these kids will likely develop into world class ass-kickers and savers of the world someday, it is best that they go to a special school that can cater to their unique needs and that can steer them in the path they are supposed to go.

And that is the premise of the movie.

Sky High.  The high school for teenagers who will one day be superheroes.

Even superheroes like Larry

If the plot of Sky High sounds familiar to you, well it should.  It is basically the exact same storyline as Harry Potter.  Kids with special powers get whisked away to a special school that only they can see and only they can attend.   And there they meet wacky teachers and have crazy classes in a world that is somewhere between real life and comic book.

Sky High is a LOT like the first Harry Potter movie.  I won't even try to deny it.  It is almost the exact same movie.  In fact the only difference I can see is that Harry Potter went for whimsical and dramatic and aimed really high for what it was trying to do, and Sky High didn't.  Sky High just sits down and says "Okay this is a comedy.  Get ready to laugh."

I guess what I am trying to say here is that yes there is room in the world for a movie like Harry Potter and a movie like Sky High.  Just because they are similar doesn't mean they are the same.  Sky High is what Harry Potter would have been if J.K. Rowling thought she had been writing a comedy.

And if Harry Potter had Bruce Campbell

Now I don't want to tell you what happens when Will gets to Sky High.  This movie is too fun and there are way too many great scenes and powers and characters.  If I told you what happens when he gets there it would ruin half the fun of the movie.  And this is a really really fun movie.

What I WILL tell you about Sky High is this.

The teachers in this movie are all awesome.  Every single one of them.  From Kevin McDonald, to Dave Foley, to Bruce Campbell, to... well... Wonder Woman herself (Lynda Carter).  There are very few movies with as many scene stealing side characters as this one.  Heck, you can even throw in Cloris Leachman as the school nurse and Kevin Heffernan (Officer Farva from Super Troopers of all people) as the school bus driver.  Every single one of them will steal at least one scene at some point in this movie.

Lynda Carter as Principal Powers

Take all of those scene stealing actors, throw in some awesome scenes when the kids first get to school (the "Save the Citizen" game is a personal favorite, and so is Coach Boomer with the sorting hat hero placement), and this movie is just chock full of fun scenes just one right after the other.  There are so many great scenes and so many great one liners and so many great background jokes when the kids get to Sky High that it is the type of movie you absolutely have to watch more than once just to catch all of them.  

By the way, here is my favorite thing about Sky High.

When you read reviews of this movie, most every one (the good ones anyway) will say it is a cross between The Incredibles and Pretty in Pink.  Or Harry Potter and The Breakfast Club.  Basically they will always say it is a cross between a modern hero movie and an 80's John Hughes movie.  And there is a very good reason why people say that.

The reason this movie gets compared to a John Hughes movie so often is because the soundtrack IS MADE UP ALMOST ENTIRELY OF FAMOUS 80'S SONGS.  That's right.  Sit back and enjoy Sky High and enjoy the soundtrack.  There is a reason it feels like a John Hughes movie.  It feels like that because most of the songs were originally used in John Hughes movies.  This movie is kind of a loving 80's John Hughes homage.

And so there you go.  Sky High.  One of my favorite comedies of the 2000's, and a movie that puts an end to the notion once and for all that a family movie also has to be stupid.  I can guarantee that if you are around my age (30's to 40's), you can sit back and watch it and you will enjoy all the references and in jokes to other teen movies.  This movie is just chock full of them.  In fact, in a way, it is kind of like a gentler version of Not Another Teen Movie (another favorite of mine.)  

Oh, and it also has a buttload of references to other super hero movies.  And come on, casting Lynda Carter as the principal of the school?  That is just perfect.  At one point she even claims that she can't solve everything, because she's not Wonder Woman.

"I'm not Wonder Woman, ya know."

By the way, I only mentioned a few of the actors in this movie, but rest assured that the kids playing the teen superheroes are all perfect too.  They are all absolutely perfect for their roles.  And of course so are Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston as the Commander and Jetstream.  If you like Kurt Russell (and most people do), this is one of those absolutely perfect roles for him.  He just completely nails the cheesiness of it.

Sky High is one of those movies that I honestly can't say a single bad thing about.  And I can't even imagine how anyone wouldn't like it.  I would have to sit here for twenty minutes before I could come up with a reason why you wouldn't recommend this movie to someone.  And no, "because it is too similar to Harry Potter" doesn't count.  If that is the only reason you have refused to see this movie, you have really been missing out.  Sky High is flat out awesome.

And yes, it's true.  It is also for some inexplicable reason a family movie.  You can watch this movie with your five year old and he or she will like it too.

I don't understand how those two genres can still actually cross anymore (hilarious comedy and family movie), but apparently in Sky High they did.

Sky High.  The Incredibles meets Pretty in Pink.  Or Harry Potter meets Ferris Bueller's Day Off.  You decide.  In any case, I really love this movie and I wish that everyone else did too.  I honestly can't think of a single bad thing I could possibly say about it.

* My favorite IMDB user reviews about Sky High:

Great idea carried out well - 29 July 2005
Kurt Russell went back to his Disney roots with Sky High, a fresh take on the superhero craze. The story revolves around Will Stronghold (Michael Angarano) who is the kid of two superhero parents, The Commander (Kurt Russell) and Jetstream (Kelly Preston). Will is off to be a freshman at his dad's alma mater- Sky High, a school for superheroes where they can find their powers and learn how to use them. High school angst is then thrown into the mix as Will and his new group of friends, headed up by the typical girl best friend Layla (Danielle Panabaker), are told they don't fit the superhero mold and become sidekicks, otherwise known as the losers of the school.

I loved the idea of this movie and the people in it seemed to be having a great time. The roles were cast perfectly and it was easy to believe everyone. A few favorites were Warren Peace (Steven Strait), Layla and Zach (Nicholas Braun). Sure the plot was a tad predictable, both in the superhero plot and in the teen drama area but because of the setting and the mix it made it still worth seeing. Also, anything that has Bruce Campbell, who plays Coach Boomer, is automatically quirky enough to be given a chance. Of course the world ends up in danger and the underdogs must fight to save it, but for once I wasn't upset that I knew it all.

Disney needed a hit as the past few movies its put out that were live action failed to do much. I think Sky High is it. Action for the boys, cute boys and drama for the girls and Kurt Russell for the moms- great family movie. All I can end with is I can't wait for it to come out on video.

Sky High - made for young ins, yet hilarious to teens & 20s - 1 August 2005
Shy High might have been purposed for little kids, but like most good Disney movies (and only the really good ones) there are different levels of comedy. It was not necessarily the lines which made it great, but the actors who were saying them. There was also a lot of situational comedy, which I will not disclose, but there were times that I was laughing quite loudly through entire scenes. It was almost uncanny how accurate Sky High was to any other high school, just add super powers to the mix. All in all in was an extremely entertaining movie and the moment it was over my sister turned to me (she is in college) and said, "As soon as this comes out on DVD I am buying it!" It was hilariously fun, full of laughs and it actually had a good moral lesson. Go see it, you will love it, I promise! 

Light campy fun for both kids and parents - 30 July 2005
I took my kids to this movie expecting that I would not like it very much. In the end, I think I enjoyed it more than they did. It was light, campy, & tongue-in-cheek. There were some very funny performances by supporting cast members that made me laugh out loud.

Some reviewers have described it as "Breakfast Club" meets "The Incredibles". The theme of high-school misfits bonding was very reminiscent of John Hughes movies. The soundtrack contained covers of favorite hits from the 80's, so I think that is a very apt characterization.

I take my kids to lots of movies that they enjoy much more than I do, but with "Sky High" I walked out of the theater grinning.

Harry Potter meets the Incredibles. - 29 July 2005
I remember the days when I was a kid and loved Disney comedies. Son of Flubber, The Shaggy Dog, etc. Then there was the classic period after I got a little older with Kurt Russell Disney movies. Well those days are back and you can even take your kids. It is PG rather than the G of the old stuff but that is only because of violence and that violence is directed mostly at property. The characters are not killed or injured. (A lot better than the Bad News Bears which the theater had warnings up about being a STRONG PG 13). Anyway Kurt Russell is so campy in this one and (what a shock) so is Bruce Campbell. The plot and theme borrow a lot from the Incredibles (which is a good thing because I liked it the best of Pixar's flicks) Also you might think Hogwarts when you see the classes except the high school floats in the sky and rather than potions and avoiding the dark forces the student learn how to be superhero sidekicks and how to build ray guns in science class. Won't go any further on that except to say that those scenes are a hoot. Anyway the good guys win, the bad guys lose, the hero is taught lessons about life and everyone gets a laugh a minute as it all comes about.

Great movie, fun characters, hopes for a sequel - 18 October 2005
I've been a long time super hero fan, and know tons of useless information on the genre. I can say that, as an "expert", the characters in Sky High are some of the best I have seen in years, and the movie was an all-around blast.

How anyone could not like SOMETHING about this movie is beyond me. Even my wife, who seldom likes the same movies I do, enjoyed it, and my usually hyper 4-year old daughter was perfectly quiet (though she did freak at the rock kid when he first changed).

Among my favorite characters were Coach Boomer (I'm a long time Bruce Campbell fan, but it took me two days before I wondered if the "boom" was a way of referring to his other movies (boomstick)), Ron Jenkins-Bus Driver (hysterical!), Zak (one has to wonder if he's actually mildly radioactive) and (duh) Warren Peace (he was the spitting image of one my best friends in college, both in the way he looked and acted, though my friend didn't hurl fireballs).

I do hope there's a sequel, as I'd love to see where the villains' kids go to school (Royal Pain made it sound like there wasn't one, but I highly doubt that). I can see a villains' academy with a principal played by the WWE's Undertaker lording over a motley bunch of evil mutants, young monsters, and deranged geniuses all trying to recruit Warren.

A great mix of The Incredibles and Pretty In Pink - 30 July 2005
My mother, myself (24) and my ten year old brother all went to a matinée showing. I wasn't expecting much, since this was a Disney movie but I was very pleasantly surprised. When the credits hit I sat for a moment thinking "That was really good." The comparisons to a Hughes movie are warranted and deserved. Kids will love this movie but there is also a fair amount of humor that they might not get as well as the adults will. Some of the best lines were delivered quickly or slightly under breath. A second viewing might be required to catch them all. The actions sequences were acceptable and the super powers themselves were handled with a nice blend or realism and fantasy. I highly recommend this movie to any comic geeks, teen movie fans or anyone looking for something they can enjoy with their children.

Like Sky High itself, "Sky High" stays in the air throughout. - 7 August 2005
Way way back in the day (with apologies to the theme song for "Phil Of The Future"), Filmation made a live-action/animated series called "Hero High" about superheroic teenagers in their school days. Not that I'm accusing "Sky High" of filching this premise; this is far superior to just about anything Filmation ever did. It's also the summer's best superhero movie - more appealing than "Batman Begins," better written than "Fantastic Four," and more thrilling than either. It may not have instant cachet or Jessica Alba, but then again you can't have everything.

What this DOES have is co-writers Bob Schooley and Mark McCorkle, who along with primary writer Paul Hernandez show that their terrific "Kim Possible" was no fluke - this movie has all the virtues of what some wags dubbed "Alias: The Animated Series" (which is unfair; Sydney Bristow's adventures are less consistent and arguably less plausible, and nobody on the cartoon was as useless as Lauren or Nadia); likable young hero with overachieving parents, sharp dialogue, action to spare, and a refusal to let a situation devolve into stickiness. (The movie also has series cast member Patrick "Puddy" Warburton as the voice of one major villain.) In this case our hero (Michael Angarano) has two of the world's most beloved superheroes, Steve and Josie Stronghold (Kelly Preston and Kurt Russell, back in the Disney fold) as parents, a high school where everyone but him seems to have superpowers, and the curse of being relegated to Sidekick ("Hero Support!") status.

Like "The Tick" and "The Incredibles," the movie's view of a world where superheroes are a given allows for some amusing observations and fun at the expense of the regular rules of superheroics, and it also deserves credit for not making Gwen (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) automatically more of a bitch than the Lisa Simpson-esquire Layla (Danielle Panabaker). True, there are some slight story flaws (and the tendency to slip in Wonder Woman references into Lynda Carter's screen time is distracting), but "Sky High" has such a strong cast (and frankly, anything that has Bruce Campbell - "SIDEKICK!!!!" - has at least one thing going for it) and is so consistently funny without encouraging us to not take the story seriously (though somewhat retro, not least in its song choices - every time young Stronghold sees Gwen a cover of Spandau Ballet's "True" starts up - this movie wouldn't have worked if it had gone for the 1960s "Batman" approach and camped everything up) that you just don't care.

Throw in a rousing score by Michael Giacchino, the "Save The Citizen" game, an exciting finale at the Homecoming dance, and a realisation that the movie's standard "Be Yourself" message has been delivered with considerably more subtlety and less condescension than, say, Filmation ever would, and the result is a movie that really deserves to do better than it's doing now at the box office. Maybe it should have had penguins?

"The sidekicks are requested to stop ordering hero sandwiches..."

* My favorite trivia about Sky High:

* Actress Lynda Carter was initially given gold bracelets to wear as an homage to her 1970s The New Adventures of Wonder Woman role. Warner Bros., who owns copyright to the Wonder Woman character, didn't want the bracelets shown in a Disney movie so they were removed from Carter's wardrobe for the film. She did however get to say the line "I'm not Wonder Woman, you know" in one of the last scenes of the movie.

* The comment Mr. Boy makes about sidekicks not wearing costumes with colors that clash with their hero's is a jab at comics' most famous hero/sidekick team, Batman and Robin. Where Batman wears dark colors (blue and gray) Robin wears bright colors (Red, green and yellow)

* Actress Cloris Leachman also appeared in the television series The New Adventures of Wonder Woman, as Queen Hippolyte, mother of Wonder Woman (Lynda Carter).

* Gwen Grayson is a combination of two comic book names from two franchises: Gwen Stacy of Spider-Man (Marvel) and Dick Grayson (DC Comics).

* This film features two actors from the TV series The Kids in the Hall, both playing teachers. Dave Foley, who plays Mr. Boy, and Kevin McDonald, Mr. Medulla.

* My favorite scene in Sky High:

Nearly everyone picks the scenes with Coach Boomer, but I will say that I have always had a soft spot for Ron Wilson, Bus Driver.  Oh, and also, remind me to write about Super Troopers one of these days.

Loves shenanigans

Sky High at the IMDB

Sky High at Wikipedia

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