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SKY HIGH
U.S. Release Date: July 29, 2005
Distributor: Buena Vista
Director: Mike Mitchell
Composer: Michael Giacchino
Cast: Kurt Russell, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Dustin Ingram
Running Time: 1 hour and 42 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG (action violence and some mild language)

Commotion Causes Lost Connection
by Scott Holleran

Blatantly derived from The Incredibles, Sky High is hard to take on its own terms. Like Pixar's smash hit, the story centers on supernatural heroes with an emphasis on one family whose legendary mother and father have a past that plays into an evil conspiracy. This time, the action is live, not computer generated, which makes the picture less stylized, more sterilized and more noticeably frantic. Loaded with noise, gadgets and blasts of action and powered by too many characters and writers, the occasionally uplifting Sky High never takes off.

Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston portray superpower parents—he's strong, she flies—and they are joined by teachers, superheroes and sidekicks at a high school suspended in the sky (actually the modernist California State University, Northridge). This is where their son, played by earnest Michael Angarano, too realistic for this cartoonishness, may or may not discover the superhero within. The committee script is a mess, patching puppy love here, a menacing teen-ager there and aping the villain from The Incredibles. Mr. Russell is not given much to do but act boorish, parked in a part that's better suited to an episode of TV's Batman. Preston's barely there.

Seeking his father's approval, their son tries out for hero status at school and fails, winding up a sidekick and hanging with the less endowed, including a guy who glows in the dark, a girl who turns into a rodent and a nerd (spirited Dee-Jay Daniels). His friend since childhood (Danielle Panabaker) is a vegetarian whose crush on him is as predictable as the cookie-cutter conflict.

But super-son has eyes for a heroine (Mary Elizabeth Winstead in one of the movie's best turns), who's—gasp!—pretty, popular and proficient in science. The tension, with a Mighty Morphin' Power Ranger-esque villain looming, is resolved in time for Homecoming. Unfortunately, so are numerous other character conflicts, from a revenge of the nerds against a couple of bullies to a brooding busboy's redemption.

Sky High's rules, including a dictate against using one's powers outside the gymnasium, have no consistency. It's never clear why superheroes are necessary; despite a non sequitur that has a giant attacking a metropolis, the world generally seems to function fine, if not better, without them. Some students wear whatever they please while others—like Angarano's freshman—don the colors of their superhero parents. The writers pile on with gusto and they don't know when to knock it off.

Buried is a nice refrain about heroism being based on one's actions, stemming from one's character, though Sky High doesn't really aim upwards in playing that message. It's too busy scrambling for the next half-second scene, showing off gadgets and thin characters, which are the worst part of this innocuous blend of misfits and incredibles.

That's too bad, since Sky High's better prepared than the Pixar blockbuster to deal with the theme of awakening inner teen power. While it gets a second wind around Homecoming, parents and teachers are depicted as losers—parents are especially incompetent and teachers are zeroes—and that, coupled with the attention deficit script, leaves the students in mid-air.


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