The Best Movie Critic + Critic

Sky High

Time to advocate a movie!

I recently caught Sky High channel surfing and wanted to give it some props as a modern movie worth revisiting. In short, Sky High is a coming-of-age high school story about a boy, Will Stronghold whose parents are the most powerful superheroes in the world. Will is sent to super hero high school, but he has still not received his powers in addition to all the other pubescent awkwardness that occurs in high school.
The best thing I can say about Sky High is that it comes closer than any other movie I’ve seen to channeling John Hughes. This comes from the large well-defined supporting cast of characters, most of whom actually look high school age, dealing with age appropriate issues in age appropriate ways – also with super powers… These of course were all conscious decisions on the part of the filmmakers. The music selections illustrate this throughout with faithful covers of 80’s classics like, “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want,” “True,” and “I Melt with You,” to name a few.

The movie was a miracle of casting. The obnoxious gym coach is played by Bruce Campbell. Two kids in the hall, Dave Foley and Kevin McDonald appear as teachers. Lynda Carter is the principal. Kurt Russell is great as the semi-douchey Superman proxy. Michael Angarano who plays Will Stronghold does a good job balancing likeability and cockiness. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, the future Ramona Flowers in this summer’s Scott Pilgrim, plays a wicked sinister love interest.

Sky High does much to echo the best parts of Silver Age comic books - an emphasis on character development and personal problems beyond saving the world, light science fiction, and super hero action. At the time of its release, this movie had a few strikes against it. It was released shortly after The Incredibles, which had a number of similarities (in addition to also being awesome), and the target audience for the movie was never really defined. The trailers looked terrible. Comic fans don’t exactly line up to shell out for Disney movies (that may change now that Disney owns Marvel), and most tweens aren’t interested in family friendly fare. I think if it had been sold as Sixteen Candles with superheroes, it might have caught on. Maybe it ended up being for the better that it didn’t. Had this movie been popular, Disney had a TV series and sequels planned. Good thing it works quite well as a stand alone movie.

In the end though, this movie is somewhat baffling for me. On paper it doesn't look like I should like this. I cringed at most of the stills I found while looking for this. The director, Mike Mitchell, was responsible for Deuce Bigelow and this year's Shrek 3, which I am boycotting. Two of the three writers worked on TV shows based on Aladdin and the Madagascar penguins. The producers have worked on Sister Acts 1 & 2, the Freaky Friday remake, and the Race to Witch Mountain remake. Usually when I try to assign credit to a movie, it's to try to figure out who is to blame for it being awful, in the case of this movie I'm scratching my head and trying to figure out who to praise beyond the cast. But indications like that may also help to place the movie in the cult tradition that I know this movie will find one day.

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