Bandslam Directed by: Todd Graff Cast: Gaelan Connell, Aly Michalka, Vanessa Hudgens, Lisa Kudrow Running Time: 1 hr 50 mins Rating: PG Release Date: August 14, 2009
Plot: A new kid (Connell) transfers to a very musical high school and helps an underdog band prepare for the regional rock competition called "Bandslam."
Who’s It For? Anyone currently in a transitional phase from High School Musical to Twilight. So middle schoolers. Actual high schoolers wouldn't be caught dead seeing this movie.
Expectations: From a glimpse at the casting, this looked like it would be a rock-ier version of something like High School Musical. An easy assumption, I know.
Actors: Gaelan Connell as Will Burton: With early Bob Dylan's messy curls and a face similar to Paul Rust, (the only guy who actually loved Beth Cooper), Connell droops around in his hoodie like an apprentice of Michael Cera. Annoyingly, he violates the first rule of being "the indie kid" by proclaiming himself as just that. But everything else is pretty hip about him (in a Disney radio kind of way). He's the same shy, goofy, and yet somehow dashing prototype that scoops up girls only in a warped universe such as the one of Bandslam. If Jesse Eisenberg didn't already have a job at Adventureland and were a few years younger, he would've been enlisted for this role. Score: 4
Aly Michalka as Charlotte Banks: The script dumps some sudden emotional baggage on her, but surprisingly Michalka handles it like a pro. She delivers in a melodramatic scene, and for the record isn't a bad singer (she's one half of the pop rock duo Aly & AJ). She makes her PG-dramatic character a bit more likable by supporting her with a real performance. Score: 6
Vanessa Hudgens as Sa5m: "Art kids" are ridiculous, sure, but this character is an aggressive exaggeration of the archetype. This "recluse" with a silent five in her name is especially corny because she's represented by the glittered darling of High School Musical. Some real world logic for the kiddies: It makes no difference how "odd" Sa5m could be, if she looks like Vanessa Hudgens, being an outcast is impossible. Probably aware of the futility of trying to make East High's sweetheart an ugly duckling, Bandslam didn’t even try to pull a She's All That trick by giving her glasses. Score: 3
Lisa Kudrow as Karen Burton: Moms rarely have an important role in movies focused on teens working out their own issues. Kudrow's character Karen is no different, as she is a side, side-influence on her son Will. She's only in scenes to be the butt of his angst, so we can in turn really feel how terribly awful his life is. Score: 3
Talking: Some of the dialogue is typical high school movie mush, but when Will moans "I want to die" in a moment of complete embarrassment, nothing rings more true when it comes to teenage angst. We've all bellowed it one time or another. Score: 5
Sights: Both Aly and Vanessa are offered at least a couple of song segments to show off their pipes. Which is fine, because to think that this wouldn't be a type of vehicle for their talents would be dumb. It's not as stupefying as the music played by on-screen group I Can't Go On, I'll Go on. Listen - if you've got the somewhat makings of The Arcade Fire and talk all about The Arcade Fire, then why are you playing basic rock pop? Why don't you play something like The Arcade Fire? Score: 3
Sounds: Hey kids, if you want to find out what your sister is listening to college, check out the Bandslam soundtrack, which is a Shins song away from being "Indie 101." Artists that can be heard in the movie include Television, Nick Drake, WIlco, the Velvet Underground, and of course, David Bowie. Score: 4
Best Scene: An awkwardly set-up kiss between Will and one of Bandslam's leading ladies is actually pretty genuine, making for a rare sincere moment in the movie.
Ending: Things don't pan out entirely as planned, but they certainly do work out mighty "Hunky Dory" (hint, hint). Let's just say it's another shining moment for Youtube, somewhat similar to how the site was used in Never Back Down.
Questions: Are children more impressionable viewers of film when they're in elementary school or middle school?
Rewatchability: None for me, but I imagine those who really hook onto this movie will love to keep revisiting it.
This "Kidz Bop: Pitchfork Version" flick is wrapped up in so much fantasy that it even has a song from the dying genre of ska save the day. Bandslam fails to provide an inoffensive version of the epic years that await 14-18 year olds, offering a twisted reality that isn't exactly bubble gum, but actually a more dangerous serving of BS than something extremely manufactured like High School Musical.
Call me an old geezer, but it's wrong that a film should name-drop disillusioned "indie" royalty like David Bowie or even The Velvet Underground while covering its vision of high school and the events of adolescence with pop rocks candy coating.
Final Score: 4/10