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