Image courtesy of www.impawards.com
Michael Angarano……….Will Stronghold
Kurt Russell……….Steve/The Commander
Kevin Heffernan……….Ron Wilson
Dee Jay Daniels……….Ethan
Loren Berman……….Little Larry
Mary Elizabeth Winstead……….Gwen
There’s a fine line between being a farce and being a satire. Not Another Teen Movie showed that parodying movies, instead of concepts, made for a lackluster movie viewing experience several years later. By parodying the present and fly by night movies, instead of the plot lines and concepts they revolve around, the relevance of what is being spoofed disappears years later.
Try watching NATM again and the realization that the movies it makes fun of were popular then, but have since faded. Movies such as Varsity Blues, Bring it on and She’s all that were forgotten almost as quickly as they were parodied, and there’s a good reason for that. The spoof was of the plot, but the schemata that it follows weren’t touched upon. Teen movies, most of whom follow teen movie plots spawned in the 1980s, haven’t had a good satire. It’s unexpected that one would emerge in the big-budget summer season in Sky High.
Serving as a combination of Can’t Buy Me Love, X-Men and The Incredibles, Sky High follows Will Stronghold (Michael Angarino) as he enters into the high school his parents did. But this is no ordinary high school: this is high school for superheroes, teaching classes on dialogue and costuming for example. This is a world where superheroes are accepted and commonplace, and for Will it’s hard.
He’s the son of the two greatest super heroes on the planet, Commander (Kurt Russell) and Jetstream (Kelly Preston), and has no powers of his own. With high expectations already, as well as arch-nemesis Warren Peace (Steven Strait) to handle, Will’s super powers don’t bloom early on. And in a rip on the clique nature of high school, he falls into the ‘sidekick’ category along with his friends Layla (Danielle Panabaker) and Zach (Nicholas Braun). The top performers are put into the ‘hero’ category. And when his super strength manifests itself, Will receives a promotion and the resulting popularity as well as the attentions of the student class president/perfect woman Gwen (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). As this goes to his head, he alienates his friends and eventually has to regain their trust in order to save the day. And it works because it taps into age old concepts and teen movie archetypes effectively.
Living up to a parent’s success and having a parent live vicariously through a child are commonplace in movies and life, and Sky High taps into this very well. While it does have the traditional roles and story structure of a teen movie, Sky High parodies many of the aspects of them while at the same time doing them well. It’s a great satire of a teen movie while being a great teen movie. And it starts with its’ father son combination.
Russell and Angarino form a quality father/son combination. Russell has gone from being the next big action star to being a B-list leading man rather effortlessly. He isn’t trying to steal scenes from his younger co-stars and plays a lot of comedy moments at his expense rather well. Russell isn’t the only bit of casting that is perfect; what makes Sky High great starts with its casting. Ron Heffernan (Super Troopers Rodney Farva), B-movie superstar Bruce Campbell, Lynda Carter (TV’s Wonder Woman), Kids in the Hall regulars Dave Foley and Kevin McDonald all join in as support players. The supporting cast really hams it up as well; for a relatively throwaway role, Campbell’s Coach Boomer is a dead-on parody with Campbell having a rip-roaring time in it.
Sky High is a triumph in casting and craft. While it doesn’t boast one current major star, it’s proof that a lot of minor actors doing their jobs very well can make the difference between a good movie and bad one.