As we look at the current state of cinema we can see, for better or worse depending on your taste, that it is dominated by comic book culture. I love it. The superhero epics take me back to growing up in the golden age of the summer blockbusters (the 80s and 90s). Although this took off with 2008’s Iron Man some hits preceded it, such as the X-Men franchise, the Blade franchise and the Sam Raimi helmed Spider-Man movies. However, there was one 2005 superhero movie that flew under most people’s radars. It wasn’t based on an existing property, it was made with kids in mind and it was released by Walt Disney pre-world-domination. That movie was Sky High.
Sky High follows Will Stronghold (Michael Angarano) who is beginning his freshman year of high school at the titular academy. The twist here is that Will’s parents are the world’s most popular superheroes, The Commander (Kurt Russell) and Jetstream (Kelly Preston). Expectations are set high because of Will’s lineage, but as he enters Sky High he is without powers. He tries to keep it a secret but, of course, he is discovered and labeled a “sidekick.” He makes friends with the other sidekicks, ditches them for cooler friends, meets his dad’s arch nemesis’s son, and still finds time to save the day.
There is a lot to like in Sky High. The tongue-in-cheek tone is set from the comic book frames that start the movie. The movie is very bright and colorful, even using colors to help identify characters (which is good, because there’s a bunch to keep track of). The teen actors are pretty good, with special mention to Michael Angarano as Will and Mary Elizabeth Winstead who plays Will’s senior love interest.
However, the adult cast is just awesome and truly steals the movie. Kurt Russell is as charismatic as ever and Kelly Preston is having a blast. There’s also Kevin Heffernan (of Super Troopers fame) as a powerless superhero offspring bus driver, Lynda Carter (the original Wonder Woman) as the principal of Sky High, comedy legend Cloris Leachman as the school nurse, Dave Foley (The Kids in the Hall) as a teacher for “hero support,” Kevin McDonald (also of The Kids in the Hall) as a Brainiac/Leader inspired science teacher and the immortal Bruce Campbell as the school’s gym teacher.
The effects hold up mainly because they were meant to look cheesy. An opening battle sequence features The Commander and Jetstream fighting a giant robot with effects that could be lifted right out of Godzilla or an episode of Ultraman (look that one up, kids). The direction by Mike Mitchell (Shrek Forever After and Trolls) is kinetic and poppy without ever being unfocused. The score by Michael Giacchino also has the right amount of cheesy heroic fanfare. The mouse house put some time, money, and effort into this.
Sky High’s biggest issue is the script. While some of the sight gags and superhero homages work, many of the jokes are juvenile and tend to fall flat. The story itself is very unfocused and almost falls apart during the rushed and action-heavy third act. You’ll also get every high school movie cliché thrown at you in a predictable fashion. I also noticed on my most recent viewing that, despite very competent directing, the pacing can be inconsistent to the point of boredom at some spots.
Is it Worth Revisiting?
I’m sure this movie holds a very special place for those who saw it as younger kids. We tend to hold those films so dear to us, and the last thing I want to do is ruin any fond childhood memories. I did not see this as a child; I was 27 and this was the first movie I ever received in the mail from a new company called Netflix (nothing like a single sentence to make you feel old as dirt). I enjoyed it thoroughly in 2005, and I still enjoy it. The direction, costumes, and effects help preserve it as timeless (just don’t pay attention to the cell phones).
However, I believe its most redeeming quality is that it is an original superhero movie aimed squarely at kids. Our modern comic book movies, even the PG-13 ones, can sometimes be a little too violent for the younger crowd, plus the interwoven characters and stories can be a lot to process for kids. Sky High is a standalone superhero film for kids that nostalgic adults can also get a kick out of.
I just realized that kids who watched this in 2005 are now fully grown adults. Like I said before, old as dirt.
Do you plan on rewatching Sky High for its 15th anniversary? Are there any other superhero movies aimed at kids worth watching? Let us know your thoughts on Twitter and Instagram and be sure to download the Kernel app to keep up with the latest releases!