Although it doesn’t fully sink in until much later, Sky High is one of the rare films aimed at kids that doesn’t get its laughs on fart jokes and closeted homosexuality, to name a few commonalities in the world of adolescent hit-making.
This film is reminiscent of those late ‘70s, early ‘80s action/superhero movies they just don’t make this way anymore. Along the lines of the comparatively innocent Superman Buck Rogers and the 20th Century, Sky High doesn’t aim for depth and it never takes itself too seriously, which is why it is so entertaining.
Here is, finally, a summer movie that deserves to be here. One that should, if you’re patient enough to endure the clumsy beginning, entertain trapped adults and hopeful children alike. It’s Mighty Mouse meets The Breakfast Club. It’s The Incredibles meets Harry Potter but with none of the magic and insight. It’s a profoundly silly good time and nothing more than that.
Sky High begins with a cute but geeky teen about to embark on his freshman year of high school. As if things weren’t bad enough, Will (Michael Angarano) isn’t attending any ordinary high school but Sky High, the training ground for superheroes. And Will isn’t just any ordinary kid, he’s the son of The Commander (Kurt Russell) and Jetstream (Kelly Preston). One has super strength, the other can fly. What can Will do? He has no idea.
Will is accompanied by his best friend Layla (Danielle Panabaker) who can control nature. If only her super power included making Will fall in love with her all would be right in her world. But Will, upon setting foot on Sky High, falls for the pretty overachiever Gwen (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). His desire for her, his need to find his own super powers and saving Sky High from eternal damnation will be what Will has to deal with as a freshman.
At Sky High, the kids are divided into two groups, “sidekick” and “hero.” If you have astonishing powers (ability to make fire, super strength, etc.) you’re a hero. If you can only do something rather pointless like turning into a guinea pig or melting into a puddle of ooze you’re a sidekick. Because he doesn’t know what he can do or if he can do anything at all Will becomes, much to his dad’s horror, a sidekick.
But Will is destined for great things. He will come of age discovering what it means to be a hero – not necessarily someone with great powers but someone who knows how to use their powers wisely no matter what they can do.
Sure, it’s sappy, but hey, who can complain with Kurt Russell dressed up in a tight super hero outfit? Not to mention the ‘80s pop songs redone and peppered throughout. So it’s not rocket science, well, technically it is, but it’s a lot better than all of the films currently in the top five.
Dave Foley as the main sidekick teacher, Mr. Boy, is brilliantly pathetic, as are all of the sullen sidekick kids. As Will, Angarano is the stuff young girls’ eternal crushes are made on – nice, cute, can lift whole schools with his bare hands. What’s not to love.Sky High is a return to form for the fun summer movie – and especially appreciated after all of the disappointing releases this year. There is something to be said for a movie that can entertain with no violence and no sex (not that there’s anything wrong with that). There probably isn’t a single drop of blood shed in the entire film. And this is a world where kids don’t curse nor do they obsess on body parts big and small. Somehow, it manages not to seem squeaky clean either. It succeeds, in part, because it tells a universal story of what it’s like to find out who you really are.