[box cover]

Sky High

Given their track record in recent years, the fact Disney/Buena Vista released Sky High (2005) under their signature Walt Disney Pictures imprint is reason enough for most thinking adults to stay far, far away. Happily, though, this Spy Kids-meets-The Incredibles mash-up is funny, smart, and consistently entertaining — it kind of makes you wonder what's going on at Disney, that they're actually getting stuff right. The story is, for the most part, standard teen-movie stuff, with freshman Will Stronghold (Michael Angarano, Lords of Dogtown) striking just the right balance of goofy charm, shaky confidence, and teenage cockiness as a high school freshman who just happens to be the son of world-famous superheroes The Commander (Kurt Russell) and Jetstream (Kelly Preston). Let's face it, high school is tough enough — but imagine if it was your first day at superhero high school and you haven't developed your own powers yet. Will's natural adolescent angst is compounded by an academic atmosphere where everyone is divided into two castes ( "heroes" and "sidekicks," also known by the more PC term "hero support") on their first day in the school gym, making the usual phys-ed humiliations even more painful. Without any powers, Will ends up hanging with the sidekick group and suffering the torment of the cooler hero kids, until a sudden onset of superstrength catches the eye of senior class hottie Gwen Grayson (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Torn between his new sidekick friends and the lure of heroic popularity, Will finds himself with an archnemesis named Warren Peace (Steven Strait), hurts the feelings of his lifelong friend Layla (the gorgeous Danielle Panabaker), and, naturally, has to face down villainy with the help of his very capable sidekick pals. Sky High's script is consistently clever, the acting far better than usually seen in films of this type, and grown-ups will get a kick out of seeing Lynda Carter, Dave Foley & Kevin McDonald ("Kids in the Hall"), and Bruce Campbell as Sky High's teaching staff. With so many horrible superhero movies hitting the theaters (Fantastic Four, anyone?), it's ironic that Disney's little teen knock-off manages to hit all the notes that those other films have so egregiously missed.

*          *          *

Buena Vista Home Entertainment, via its "Disney DVD" imprint, delivers Sky High with a gorgeous, sharp, colorful anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) (a 1.33:1 full screen version is also available in a separate release) with terrific DD 5.1 audio that fills the room with heroic goodness — and yet another fabulous superhero score by composer Michael Giacchino (The Incredibles). Bonus features include a delightful alternate opening set in 1985, with the Commander facing off against Royal Pain and meeting up with Jetstream for the first time since high school — it was a good choice to not go this way early in the film, but it's a great deal of fun to watch after the fact (3 min.); a blooper featurette, which includes a number of kissing scenes after which Angarano compulsively wipes off his mouth like the girls have cooties (4 min.); the music video for Bowling with Soup's cover of "I Melt With You"; and two behind-the-scenes featurettes, "Welcome to Sky High" (15 min.) and "Breaking Down Walls: The Stunts of Sky High" (7 min.). There's also an Easter egg — a featurette that you can access by clicking the picture of the guinea pig on the "Backstage Disney" menu. Keep-case.
—Dawn Taylor

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