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May 12, 2006 |

By Phillip Stephens | Film | May 12, 2006 |

I’m at a loss concerning the recent Hollywood love affair with comic books. When did the stereotypical fanboy’s passion become such a lucrative cinematic fad? Was it the Internet’s expansion of nerd culture, the advancement of computer graphics, or are we Gen-Xers finally just getting old enough to dominate the box office demographic? The answer probably lies somewhere betwixt these factors. It’s not that I’m complaining, mind you, it’s just interesting to see the mass-marketing of something I thought would forever be confined to the grainy pages of the serial comics I wiled away the time reading when my mom shopped at Safeway.

Of the films that have made the leap onto the big screen, only a handful have really been successful at capturing the adolescent fantasy without being ridiculous. For every Batman Begins, there’s a disgrace to humanity like Catwoman or Elektra. It seems that the bloated kitsch of some of these comic-book crossovers hasn’t succeeded in wowing die-hard fans or mainstream audiences when done poorly, but most of the blame can be placed on the writing, which completely eschews what comic books were really about: adolescence.

Which brings us to Sky High. Rather than creating a story from an existing comic arcanum, Sky High merely posits an ordinary world of which superheroes are part and parcel. The story doesn’t really focus on being a superhero, per se, but rather the ordinary life of teenagers who happen to have super powers. Think The Incredibles meets X-Men. It was a good move for the writers to shift the focus to the coming-of-age metaphors rather than laser vision and super-powered fisticuffs. The main character, Will Stronghold (Michael Angarano) is embarking on his first year of (superhero) high school and faces all the predictable problems: bullies, insecurity, girls, and a superhuman chip on his shoulder, considering his parents (Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston) are the most famous superpeople around.

For the most part, the metaphor works well, without devolving into “O.C.”-like teenage melodrama. But if it doesn’t take itself seriously, Sky High doesn’t really command much to discourage a view’s apathy, either. The plot is too predictable to be exciting, and young Angarano just isn’t a very interesting actor, yet. It’s ironic considering another recent coming-of-age fantasy, The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3D, relied too heavily on convoluted metaphors while Sky High doesn’t hit them hard enough. Then again, it’s a tough balancing act when people are flying around and shooting laser bolts out of their faces.

Overall, Sky High isn’t that bad, considering how disappointing fantasy and teen flicks can be. Kids should be able to enjoy it; adults can tolerate it. For the most part though, this is throwaway kiddie fare that should only be watched on a lazy Saturday afternoon while channel-surfing in sweatpants. But should you find yourself in that situation, there’s some fun to be had.

Phillip Stephens is a movie critic for Pajiba.

Sky High / Phillip Stephens

Film | May 12, 2006 |

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