There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Sky High probably sounded great at the pitch meeting. After all, the concept of superhero kids in high school is a clever twist on your typical teen fare, sure to appeal to young’uns raised on X-Men and the Spider-Mans. And the film’s campy inclusion of ’80s tunes and retro TV stars must have seemed like a nice way of roping in the ’rents, as well. (And cheap, too: How much can Lynda Carter possibly command these days?) But concepts and trappings are nothing without a nicely executed story between ’em, and in the case of Sky High, the studio suits probably shouldn’t have relied on a first-time feature scripter and a couple of TV guys to deliver one. Writers Paul Hernandez (the first-timer), Bob Schooley (Kim Possible), and Mark McCorkle (ditto) focus on Will Stronghold (Michael Angarano), son of legendary superheroes the Commander and Jetstream and a freshman at Sky High, a training school for tights-set progeny. Like any other Hollywood-imagined high school, Sky is bitterly divided between the popular kids, who exhibit superpowers and are known as “heroes,” and everybody else—aka the sidekicks, euphemistically called “hero support.” It’s here that the apparently ordinary Will, who has yet to discover his own superpowers, struggles to balance the expectations of his outsized parents with the usual teen dramas of gym class, cafeteria cliques, and, oh yeah, a girlfriend who’s a supervillain. Unfortunately, that’s about all there is. Hernandez & Co.’s script is flat and predictable, mechanically tossing out dumb jokes like candy at a parade. Despite its occasionally disturbing plot parallels to Walt Disney Pictures studiomate The Incredibles, Sky High seems to willfully reject that film’s brand of layered humor, cynically offering the grown-ups only a couple of Kids in the Hall– filled roles and the odd Modern English cover. Meanwhile, the veterans brought in to add a little adult sparkle—an eerily well-preserved Carter as Sky High’s principal, a likable Kurt Russell as the superhero dad—are given almost nothing to do. But none of this is as problematic as the casting of the relentlessly average Kelly Preston as Jetstream. Preston, who deflects charisma the way Wonder Woman deflects bullets, a superhero? Now that’s a concept. —Mario Correa