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SKY HIGH

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Kurt Russell, Kelly Preston, Michael Angarano, Danielle Panabaker, Steven Strait, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Lynda Carter, Bruce Campbell, Cloris Leachman
Director:  Mike Mitchell
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio:  Walt Disney
Features:  See Review
Length:  100 Minutes
Release Date:  November 29, 2005

"That is SO unfair."

"Yeah, well if life were to suddenly get fair, I doubt it would happen in high school."

Film ***1/2

Sky High gives a whole new meaning to the concept of school for gifted students.  It's a place where the adolescent offspring of superheroes go to learn how to follow in their parents' footsteps!

This premise is ripe to deliver great comedy, terrific action, and fun special effects, and the movie doesn't disappoint.  As critic Stephen Holden remarked, it's like a cross between Harry Potter and The Incredibles.  One can only hope we won't have to wait for the class reunion to see these kids again.

The story focuses on Will Stronghold (Angarano), the only son of legendary superheroes The Commander (Russell) and Jetstream (Preston).  Dad is the mightiest man alive, and Mom can fly like an eagle...but Will is about to start his freshman year at Sky High seemingly powerless.

It doesn't disturb his lifelong best friend Layla (Panabaker), who has a gift for making vegetation do her bidding, but Will worries about how he'll fit into a place where all the students seem a lot more "super" than he is.

Every school has it's cliques, and in Sky High, if you're one of the good ones, you get to be in the group with the heroes.  If you don't fit the bill, you end up stuck with the sidekicks.  The sorting ceremony, led by Coach Boomer (the always affable Campbell), is a hoot in and of itself.

And of course, the powerless Will ends up with the rejected kids on the sidekick side.  How will he ever be able to tell his parents that he can't live up?  And worse, what will he do once the brooding Warren Peace (Strait), a kid who can not only summon and command fire, but whose father was a super-villain put away by Will's dad, makes Will his new enemy?

I kind of want to go into more detail, but the movie is fun largely because of how the story develops and what happens with these kids and their relationships to each other and to their parents, that to say much more would be to transform myself into the most horrific of super-villains Plot Spoiler.  And I don't want the freshman class of Sky High to come calling on ME.

Suffice to say there are great laughs, great sequences, and great moments of fun to keep you entertained from start to finish.  Lynda Carter playing the school principal is just one of the many magical touches (particularly her last succinct line to the school's incorrigibles).  There is a great confrontation at the end, of course, where the kids learn exactly what it means to be superheroes.  Just as good is a bit of business in the middle where the students play "Save the Civilian" in which they pair up against other kids who have to stop them from rescuing a dummy before it meets a terrible demise ("Remember when we used to use REAL civilians?" one teacher reminisces).

The young stars are all solid, and match up well with their experienced co-stars.  The concept is quite ingenious, and director Mike Mitchell and his screenwriters make the most of it.  Even a girl whose only super power is being able to transform into a guinea pig gets her moment in the spotlight.

Superheroes aren't just born, they're made...kudos to the freshman class of Sky High for reminding us that learning can be fun.

Video ****

This anamorphic transfer from Disney is positively super...you don't need hero vision to appreciate the bright, colorful and detail-filled offering.  Images are sharp and clear throughout, and I noticed no apparent grain or compression to mar the effects, even during the night shots.  A pan & scan version is available, but you'd have to be some kind of Joker to cheat yourself out of the film's full widescreen glory.

Audio ****

Superheroes usually equal super sound, and this 5.1 mix delivers, from the big action and crowd sequences to the quieter, more tender moments.  The song score of modern covers of 80s classic is especially crowd pleasing. 

Features **1/2

A cast commentary would have been great fun, but no dice.  There's a good collection of bloopers, an alternate opening, and featurettes on both the making of the film and the stunts.  Rounding out is a trailer, sneak previews, and a music video for "I Melt With You" by Bowling for Soup.

Summary:

Sky High gets an A.  No movie fan will be left behind from this fun filled comic romp in which any kid can be a hero.  Literally.

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