BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Will Stronghold, the son of world-famous superheroes, copes with the rigors of high school as a “normal”. Or is he?
PROS: Positive messages for kids; cool uses of special powers; good special effects.
CONS: Some predictable moments for adults; soundtrack of 80’s covers only made me wish for the originals.
BOTTOM LINE: A fun and entertaining movie for geek parents to watch with their kids.
We picked up a copy of the 2005 kids superhero movie Sky High this week. It tells the story of young Will Stronghold (played by Michael Angarano), the son of famous superheroes The Commander (Kurt Russell, again playing the strongest man in the world) and Jetstream (Kelly Preston), as he enters high school. But the kids of superheroes don’t attend ordinary high school. Instead they attend Sky High, a levitating high school that teaches them how to use their super powers and a bunch of other superhero-related stuff. Upon entry, each kid is deemed to be either a superhero or a sidekick. Will – much to the surprise of everyone – is declared to be a sidekick because he has not exhibited any powers. But is he a normal, or is he just a late-bloomer?
I consider a family movie successful if it appeals to both kids and adults. My daughter warmed up quickly to this movie. Who wouldn’t want to go to school on a flying school bus? I also have to admit taking a quick liking to this movie as well. The immediate appeal for me, though, was the real-world/comic-book hybrid feel it had. The idea of superhero kids in training is cool because it gives ample time to show a variety of super powers. The super powers on display here were super speed, the ability to stretch, the power to throw fireballs, plant control and shape-shifting, to name a few.
A longer-term appeal was the positive messages that it sent to kids. The main conflict in the movie is the jock/geek divide between the superheroes and the sidekicks. Will, who is originally bereft of powers – much to the surprise of everyone expecting a Stronghold to be super – is declared to be a sidekick. (This happens, by the way, in a hilarious set of scenes with Bruce Campbell as Coach Boomer, who has the power of a sonic boom voice. What/ no powers? “SIIIIIDEKIIIICK!”) But when Will develops his powers, he tries to break down the barriers between the heroes and the sidekicks, the message being that all people should be treated equally. There are also side stories (and more positive messages) about friendship and responsibility.
Of course, no superhero movie would be complete without a villain and Sky High is no different. While it will appear to younger kids that the villains lay mostly in the background, salivating over a mysterious weapon known as The Pacifier that is kept in the Stronghold’s Secret Sanctuary, adults will be able to see the large breadcrumbs of the story that lead to the final battle in the high school gym.
Parents will no doubt see other elements way before they are shown, but it doesn’t make the movie any less fun, especially when there are so many other moments to keep parents watching. Besides Bruce Campbell’s scenes, there is Principal Powers played by Wonder Woman Lynda Carter. There’s also a funny turn as a teacher by Dave Foley, who was once Mr. Boy, the sidekick of Will’s father. (I love the bit where he is surprised that Will hasn’t heard of their partnership whilst thumbing through the photo album keepsakes Mr. Boy made for him.) There’s also a mini Kids in the Hall reunion with Kevin McDonald as the science teacher, Mr. Medulla. Cloris Leachman also has a short scene as the school nurse who tells Will that sometimes the kids of superheroes develop no powers at all. All good stuff. However, the apparent attempt to appeal to parents by including an 80’s soundtrack would have been much better without the cover bands. Come on, Disney, you got the money to spend!
The end result is a movie that’s fun for geeky parents (like me) to watch with their kids. And the special effects are darned good, too.