Too few films have addressed the very real problems of children with superhero parents. Is there proper funding at their high school suspended in the clouds above earth? What about the bullying of students enrolled as sidekicks? And what if a child’s own superpowers simply never develop properly?
|Fun: In this variation on “Harry Potter” and “X-Men,” the children of superheroes are sent to a special high school to develop their own superpowers. The tongue-in-cheek approach and the appealing cast make this fun, if way too broad.
Rated: PG rating is for subject matter.
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These issues are faced with unflinching frankness in “Sky High,” a new Disney movie on this very subject. All right, so it’s not an Afternoon Special – it’s a comedy with a lot of goofy touches.
Will Stronghold (Michael Angarano, from “Lords of Dogtown”) is beginning his freshman year at Sky High, and the expectations are daunting. His parents are merely the Commander (Kurt Russell) and Jetstream (Kelly Preston), everybody’s favorite superhero couple.
Unfortunately, much like a kid late for puberty, Will has no superpowers. On the first day of school, he’s humiliated when gets shunted off on the sidekick track. How will he tell his folks?
When his powers finally show up, he’s adopted by the cool kids. Ah, the old high school dilemma: to stick with the loyal nerd friends or listen to the siren call of moving up a level.
In its own lightweight way, “Sky High” kicks this stuff around, and has a reasonably fun time doing it. Its tongue-in-cheek approach (the Commander and Jetstream are never as heroic as they think they are) sometimes pays off, and sometimes just lies there, but at least it gives the adult audience something to chuckle at.
For the kids, there are special effects fights and fumbling forays at first love. Will is torn between a loyal best friend (Danielle Panabaker) and a scheming senior (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), both appealingly played.
The nerd posse is funny too, with one kid whose “power” is glowing in the dark, another whose ability consists of shape-shifting into a hamster.
Former “Kids in the Hall” comics Kevin McDonald and Dave Foley add laughs as Sky High instructors, and cult star Bruce Campbell plays a loudmouth gym-teacher type called Sonic Boom.
Kurt Russell was an inspired choice as the Commander, a guy who’s just a little too pleased with everything he’s ever done. Russell plays it broad, but he gets all the indulgent-dad shtick just right. (Russell was a child star in Disney movies of the ’60s, so he must have felt right at home.)
Everything’s pushed a little too far in this movie, which barely bothers to hide its debts to “Harry Potter” and “X-Men.” But perhaps it was intended as a parody of those pictures, aimed squarely at 11-year-olds, in which case it hits its target reasonably well.
Kevin McDonald (above) and Dave Foley are instructors at “Sky High.”