Sky High (2005)PG

CapeCapeHalf a capeHalf a wrecking ball

Disney, increasingly aware by '05 that Pixar is becoming a competitor rather than a partner, tries to do The Incredibles, supplemented with a little Vitamin X. Except they go with live actors — probably a wise choice given how lame and weak Disney has been so far at intruding into Pixar’s computer-animation territory. The plot concerns a teenage child of two superheroes attending a special high school for those with super powers, which allows them to horn in on a little Harry Potter vibe while they’re at it. And the protagonist, see, he hasn’t told his parents that he’s got no powers at all...........

Does anybody believe he’ll still have no powers by the end of the film? Anyone? Or that he won’t have acquired a girlfriend?

In re the manner in which a girlfriend is acquired, i.e. she’s been under his nose all along, I’m told that this is an extremely overused cliché of after-school TV movies and similar teen swill. Fortunately, I never watch any of those, so I didn’t know that this was what always happens.

So that’s the setup: the advertised premise tells you pretty much how the story’s going to go, they use lots of standard formula along the way... how did something like that end up turning out this cool? I mean, damn, this is actually quite a fun little movie. It’s never dull, it’s often funny, the plot has some surprises, the ways they create gags and situations out of the premise of super-power school is constantly inventive... and the secret behind the bad guy is fiendishly clever. It is not a twist you’ll see coming.

And the cast is fun. Like, they got Bruce Campbell as the school’s main P.E. teacher. Now that tells you that somebody is doing their job right. And the kids are played by age-appropriate actors (unlike a certain big-budget movie series that includes a school for kids with superpowers), who all manage to be pretty likeable. (The standouts are Steven Strait as the Bad Boy and Danielle Panabaker as the protagonist’s best friend.) And when they go through the paces of their necessary formula bits, they get a lot of it out of the way in the first half, instead of pretending it’s some big payoff for the conclusion. And the first half is also where most of the good jokes are. The superhero premise is one which offers plenty of scope for creative humor, and it’s this more than anything else which makes this film work.

So what it adds up to is a movie that, if you want to find grounds to criticize it for formula Hollywoodism, you can, but if you don’t, you might have plenty fun.