The Barenaked Archives: Sky High

From 2003 up until 2007, I was lucky enough to have “movie reviewer” as my job description. As such, I’ve built up a *lot* of reviews for just about every movie that came out during those years, as well as reviews of classic movies.

The Barenaked Archives are reviews that I did for two previous websites. Sadly, they are both gone, so this is now the only place online you can see these old columns.

Sky High PosterOver the past couple of years, we’ve run the gamut of superhero movies. There’ve been the original ones and the comic adaptations; the good, bad, and downright ugly; the serious takes and the light-hearted, funny ones.

Sky High falls into the original, light-hearted take on superheroes. Between the very comic-esque names and the great opening and ending credits, it’s happily clinging to its genre as a summer movie.

Now, it isn’t exactly the most original of movies. By about thirty minutes in, you can guess most of what’s going to happen. However, unlike most movies which turn boring in their predictability, Sky High manages be a fun, entertaining movie that doesn’t overstay its welcome.

Will Stronghold is the son of the two most famous superheroes in the world, the Commander (Kurt Russell) and Jetstream (Kelly Preston), and he’s about to begin his freshman year at Sky High, the high school for superheroes.

There’s just one problem: Will doesn’t have any powers, which gets him relegated to the “Sidekick” track rather than the “Hero” track. To top it off, he has to deal with classes, homework, a new crush, an archenemy, and a plan to destroy the school. It’s just another day at Sky High.

It’s rare that a movie can have so much going against it and come out on the other side a relatively cohesive whole (that’s funny, no less), but Sky High pulls it off. There’s something innately interesting about the idea of a high school for superheroes, just as has been proven by a certain popular high school for wizards.

As a high school movie, you know what it’s going to involve going in (a popular crowd vs. an unpopular crowd, at least one party, and a climactic scene at a school dance), but throwing superheroes into the mix makes it funnier.

A fight in the cafeteria doesn’t just involve food, but fireballs and getting thrown through walls. Humiliation in gym class is no longer getting picked last for kickball, but having to show your powers in front of your whole class and being judged on it. Science classes require you to learn the difference between a “beam” and a “ray” when it comes to guns. And your entire social life throughout school is determined by whether or not you were powerful enough to be a Hero.

Also central to the movie is the father/son relationship between Will and the Commander (a.k.a. Steve Stronghold). Will doesn’t want to let his dad down, and Dad would like nothing more than to have his boy follow in his footsteps.

Kurt Russell is great as the Commander, and it’s even better when he tries to balance his need to be a good disciplinarian with his unbridled joy when Will gets his powers. (Note: they tell you that in the trailers. Ergo, not a spoiler.)

Sky High is also fortunate enough to have some awesome cameos by geek-adored actors. Featured most prominently in the previews is Bruce “Ash” Campbell as Coach Boomer, the gym coach who sorts the incoming freshmen into Heroes and Sidekicks. He’s just so good at being a condescending jerk, and it’s funny to watch his opinions of the students change as they demonstrate their powers…or lack thereof.

There’s also Lynda Carter, the original Wonder Woman, as Principal Powers, and Kevin Heffernan of the Broken Lizard comedy group (Farva from Super Troopers) as Ron Wilson, official Sky High bus driver. The enthusiasm with which he approaches his job is hilarious.

Sky High doesn’t try to take itself too seriously. It keeps it light enough to be a fun popcorn movie, but just serious enough that we actually do care about Will and his friends, and what happens to them. In the end, it’s just a fun, escapist movie that reminds you what summer should be about in the first place.

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