Because I have friends who see everything in theaters, I often get dragged to movies I would never normally see. I consider this a good thing; there’s always something to learn from watching even the worst movies. Sky High is the most recent against-my-better-judgement calls.

I don’t know if I’ve become less discriminating with my positive reviews of movies like Stealth — which in most realities I should have hated — but I have to keep the string of positive reviews going here on the site. Sky High‘s thumbs-up comes with a few caveats. First, it’s not so great that it can’t wait for DVD. Second, its target audience is really tweens (or junior high-aged kids, because that’s who cares most about high school’s sturm und drang). Third, it’s horribly by-the-book in terms of plot. Where Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (yes, I saw that too; don’t tell anyone) had the decency to take you a few unexpected places, Sky High merely disguises the ‘popular-kids vs. losers’ afterschool special. That it does so within a world of superheritude (superhero-ness?) is its saving grace.

It doesn’t take a Freud to point out the manifestation of super powers and puberty often coincide, going back certainly to Greek mythology and probably further. Sky High’s first act treads the same ground as the X-Men franchise, albeit with firmer tongue-in-cheek. Will, son of the world’s two most famous superheroes, must start his first day at a high school for superheroes knowing that he’s from an unlucky quadrant of their gene pool. But then, after being declared a “sidekick” instead of a “hero,” he ‘discovers’ he has powers after all.

Act Two, then, explores the dual-clique nature of Sky High, where Heroes are the bullies and mean girls and Sidekicks are the nerds and artsy kids. It occurred to me that not only is this a not-so-transparent rendering of how high schools actually are, it is also how adult life is. The teachers (the prime reason to watch this movie, imho), played by Bruce Campbell and Kids in the Hall‘s Dave Foley and Kevin McDonald, bear this out. They too are stuck in the heros-vs-sidekicks shame spiral.

Since this is a movie-making website, I need to also say a few things on the technical side. Number one: the score to this film killed a lot of the jokes. Often a score will kill a joke by over-emphasizing it, the musical equivalent of a rim-shot. In this movie, the score just plows right through the jokes, making them hard to hear and appreciate, setting the wrong mood. I don’t consider this bad composing; I consider it bad music editing. (Also, Lillian pointed out the numerous “bad covers” of 80’s songs. But isn’t 80’s music bad anyway?)

Number two: The effects, costumes and set design were cheesy and fun, supporting the tone of the movie. This movie also featured the most Dutch angles since Third Man and some crazy use of filters. I can’t figure out if the superheroes were given that special glow digitally, or just with the old trick of Vaseline on the lens.

Sometimes a predictable plot is just what the doctor ordered, because it allows you to lean back and enjoy the biopsy. Sky High has some nice scenery and a few laughs. It’s not as appealing to the whole family as The Incredibles or Spiderman, but it isn’t trying to be. The movie lives its moral: sometimes the Sidekick can be a Hero.