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Sky High: DVDetails
Reviewed by Martin Thomas, © 2005

Format: Movie
By:   Mike Mitchell (director)
Genre:   Superhero
Released:   November 29, 2005 (DVD release date)
Review Date:   December 12, 2005
Audience Rating:   PG
RevSF Rating:   7/10 (What Is This?)

It was just about this time last year when The Incredibles was released, and the Fantastic Four movie was just a few months into production. You just know they had to have one day where the entire Fantastic Four crew rented a theater just to the see The Incredibles and scope out their "competition." Could you imagine how demoralizing that must've been to watch a cartoon (more or less) upstage you and so perfectly point out just how low-rent and painfully unimaginative your entire project has been?

The credits end, the house lights come up and after a long, eerie silence, the producer (who has been nervously assuring everyone everyday that all the problems can be fixed in post) is the first one to say something:

"Uh . . . um . . . What say we just strike the set, sell all these props on Ebay and call it a day. Who's with me?"

Oh, sure, some of you may cry that it wasn't fair because The Incredibles is animated and they can do anything without budget constraints.

. . . mmmMaybe.

But it doesn't explain how FF still got its butt kicked by the live-action Disney movie, Sky High.

The titular "Sky High" is a high school that floats above the clouds and attended by the offspring of superheroes. It's the first day of school for Will Stronghold and big things are expected of him. After all, he is the son of the world's two greatest superheroes: The Commander (Kurt Russell) and Jet Stream (Kelly Preston). Only thing is, superpowered "puberty" hasn't yet kicked in for Will like it has for his friends, and so far he's inherited neither his father's super strength nor his mother's ability to fly. As such, when it comes time to sort the kids — those with bigger, more impressive powers are to be "heroes" — the powerless Will Stronghold is typed as a "sidekick."

From here you could imagine the rest of the movie centers on Will's eventual discovery of his powers and claiming his legacy. Thank God it wasn't.

That part of the plot takes up less than the first quarter of the movie. Will has to deal with his own archenemy (a fellow student whose dad was an enemy of his dad's) and the return of The Commander's #1 nemesis, Royal Pain. But coping with these two villains is nothing compared to securing a date for the school dance or maintaining his relationship with his sidekick friends after becoming a popular hero.

As you can see, there isn't much to Sky High that's original. I've seen this same idea in a few comic books recently (most notably PS238), and throughout you can spot elements borrowed from so many other places such as The Incredibles, Space Ace, The Tick, Harry Potter, etc. But Sky High, in much the same way as Harry Potter or even Pulp Fiction, gathers familiar yet seemingly disparate cliches, sews them together and speaks them back all in a unified language. The result is a product that is far more than the sum of its parts.

Sky High boldly wears its metaphors on its sleeve. Puberty is getting your superpowers and being popular or unpopular is being a hero or a sidekick. Once Will Stronghold's powers kick in, Sky High becomes a straight up John Hughes (Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club) movie. It's practically a remake of Pretty In Pink with superheroes. Even down to having an all-hits-of-the-'80s soundtrack (unfortunately remade by current bands).

What really pushes Sky High over into the category of Geek's Wet Dream is the casting. Having grown up watching Kurt Russell play a teenager in old Disney movies (The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, The Strongest Man in the World), it's a true delight to see him return to his roots, but the supporting casts consistantly steals the movie: fan fave Bruce Campbell as Coach Boomer, using his sonic power to yell out "SIIIIIIIIIIDEKICK!"; Cloris Leachman as the school nurse with X-ray vision; Kids in the Hall alums Kevin McDonald and Dave Foley as science teacher Mr. Medulla and Mr.Boy (formerly the Commander's forgotten sidekick American Boy).

The cherry on the top of the sundae is the still very sexy Ms. Lynda Carter in the role of the school's principal, Ms. Powers. Is she supposed to be Wonder Woman? Hmmn . . . well, you know there's no way Warner Bros. was gonna let their rival Disney borrow their intellectual property. . . .

. . . but trust me, "She's Wonder Woman!"

All in-jokes, nods and winks aside, Sky High is a very clever, funny and well-acted 90 minutes of entertainment. It's clear that everybody working on it was in on the joke and knew how best to achieve it. Despite it looking almost like a Disney Channel movie — there's no mistaking that it had a modest budget, probably half of the Fantastic Four's — it delivers more than it promises.

The Fantastic Four still owes me an apology.

DVDetails

I admit the bonus features on DVDs very rarely impress me. With Sky High I was thoroughly impressed . . . with how woefully unimpressive the extras are.

Super Bloopers: Really nothing more than young actors flubbing their lines. Big whoop. Between Ed McMahon having run that into the ground back in the '80s and Jackie Chan giving us bloopers with painful stunt mishaps, there's no longer a place for this.

Stunts of Sky High: The only thing impressive about any of the stunts is that they didn't look more fakey than they do. This is just the teen actors on wire harnesses and giggling.

Alternate Opening: It's the initial clash of The Commander and Jet Stream against Royal Pain. Not only is the scene bad but poorly timed, and it is much better when it's described rather than shown. Cutting it was a good idea.

Bowling for Soup Music Video: They sing the old Modern English hit "Melt With You" along with scenes from the movie. *yawn*

. . . Uh . . . that's all there is.

When I say that Sky High kicked the Fantastic Four movie's butt, I'm speaking creativity-wise. At the box office Fantastic Four was a surprise hit while Sky High probably barely made its money back. As such, Disney seems to have wanted to include no more than the regulated bare minimum of bonuses. I dare say if you bought a bootleg copy from a New York street vendor it might have more extra material on it.

The Movie: 7 out of 10

The DVD Features: 2 out of 10

When RevSF Contributor Martin Thomas attended Sky High, his superpower was to turn into a hamster. When he graduated, his parents bought him a copy of Dr. Seuss' Oh, The Places You'll Go. On the inside cover was a special note from his mother, and a picture of Richard Gere.

 
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