In a summer crammed with remakes, it's nice to see a film with an original premise. Sky High is a comic book story about teenage superheroes trying to make it through high school. But with first loves, parental expectations, teen pressures, and the typical high school social scale, life for these freshmen is about to change.
At his first day of Sky High, Will Stronghold (Michael Angarano), the son of two of the greatest superheroes ever, Commander (Kurt Russell) and Jetstream (Kelly Preston), shocks everyone by exhibiting absolutely no superpowers. To make matters worse, Will inherits an archenemy and family foe in Warren Peace (Stevens Strait), who can shoot fire from his hands. But Will's ''Sidekick'' status is quickly upgraded to ''Hero'' when he realizes he possesses superhuman strength. Newfound status in tow, Will deserts his geeky pals and falls for Gwen (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a technopath who can control technology with her mind). But when Commander and Jetstream's biggest bounty, the villainous Royal Pain, comes back to threaten his family, Will and his sidekick friends reunite to save them, their friends, and the destiny of Sky High. It's a tough first homework assignment, but hey, that's high school.
Veteran stars Kurt Russell (Miracle) and Kelly Preston (Eulogy) give comical performances as real estate agents by day, superheroes by night, but it's the younger cast that steals the show. Lords of Dogtown's Michael Angarano, probably better known for his role as Jack's biological son Elliot on NBC's Will & Grace, flawlessly depicts an angst ridden high schooler dealing with teen pressures. Meanwhile, Mary Elizabeth Winstead (The Ring Two), who plays Will's love interest Gwen, gives a first-class performance as the most popular--and most hated--girl in school. But the heart and soul of the movie resides in the sidekicks: Layla (Danielle Panabaker), Ethan (Dee-Jay Daniels), Zach (Nicholas Braun) and Magenta (Kelly Vitz), who round out a young cast of lovable outcasts. Also look for some surprisingly delightful performances from Lynda Carter (the original Wonder Woman) as the school principal, cult favorite Bruce Campbell (The Evil Dead's Ash), as Coach Boomer, and Kids in the Hall trooper Kevin McDonald as Mr. Medulla.
Director Mike Mitchell, the man responsible for hilarious Rob Schneider comedy Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo and Ben Affleck's fiasco Surviving Christmas, strips this family comedy of the violence normally associated with characters that go ''ker-pow'' in the in dark alleys and infuses it instead with a old-fashioned comic book feel. As a scene changer, for example, he flashes the Sky High logo across the screen. And the special effects were surprisingly dazzling: Super strength is demonstrated by smashing the entire gym floor, and the flying bus that took them to and from school all add to the film's appeal. Everyone's power--whether it be flying, freezing, flaming, stretching, or speed--is shown seamlessly, which makes the film so pleasantly watchable. While the students may be ''saving the world one homework assignment at a time,'' Mitchell's comic-y touch is the key to the film's success.
With it's solid direction, a superlative cast and an uplifting message of inner strength, Sky High captures the struggles faced by pre-teens and adolescent during those formative high school years.