Teenager Will Burton lives in his head, and his head is filled with music. When his mom Karen Burton gets a job in New Jersey, Will starts his junior year at a new school only to find the old cliques still apply, but rock-n-roll rules the scene. Perpetually a misfit, Will strikes up a friendship with like-minded outsider Sa5m "the 5 is silent". They are both surprised when the school's "it" girl, Charlotte recruits Will to help assemble a band to compete in "Bandslam," a battle of the bands that is "Texas High School Football BIG.
Rated: [PG] Mild themes
Cinema Release: 13 Aug 2009
Director: Todd Graff
Running Time: 111 mins
Stars: Gaelan Connell, Alyson Michalka, Vanessa Hudgens
HERE'S the thing about High School Musical. No one of high-school age would dare be caught dead watching the stuff.
Here's the thing about Bandslam. It's a High School Musical for high schoolers.
Actually, it's better than that.
Take a little bit of School Of Rock. Add some off-cuts from any old 1980s teen flick by the late John Hughes.
Then mix in a cast of (with one or two notable exceptions) fresh-faced unknowns. Now you're looking at quite a bouncy little ball of pop-tastic fluff.
The story centres on Will (Gaelan Connell), a nerd-ish loner and self-professed "musicNazi" whose high-brow taste in alt-rock and classic blasts from the past sets him apart from his peers, who slavishly follow the ringtone charts for new sounds.
Having moved to a new town with his single mum (Lisa Kudrow), Will is having a tough time making any kind of a social connection until he unwittingly falls in with a select group of local outcasts. Wouldn't you know it? Every single one of Will's fellow fringe dwellers can sing and play music with the same kind of right-on attitude as he.
And as luck would also have it, there's a huge inter-school battle of the bands contest (Bandslam) about to take place.
As you've probably gathered by now, Bandslam is in no way out to reinvent the wheel when it comes to teen movies.
Nevertheless, it does give the genre a right old spin thanks to some lively performances and sharp pacing.
Connell plays the same kind of with-it outsider with which John Cusack first made his name.
While he is no match for Cusack in the charisma stakes, Connell does have a wry way of delivering his lines that can't help but have you side with him.
The surprise packet of the film is Vanessa Hudgens, cast against type as Will's goth-ish girlfriend.
The filmmakers wisely resist the temptation of putting the High School Musical diva in every scene. Instead, Hudgens' churlish character is used as a welcome circuit-breaker when proceedings are getting a little too cute for anyone's good.
All in all, an effective burst of throwaway fun.