Sunday, March 21, 2010 has been a good day. I've watched two movies so far on this lazy day (yes, I need to get outside soon), and both have them exceeded expectations. Adam was great, and Bandslam, a PG-rated teen film that I expected to be some crappy rip-off of the crappy High School Musical franchise, was surprisingly excellent.
Bandslam, which I can now say was one of the most poorly marketed movies of 2009 (watch the trailer and tell me with sincerity that it looks good), stars Gaelan Connell as Will Burton, a dorky, friendless teenager who arrives at a new school. Somehow, he manages to become friends with two hot girls: former head cheerleader Charlotte Banks (Alyson Michalka) and loner Sa5m (High School Musical's Vanessa Hudgens). As a relationship blossoms between he and Sa5m, Will becomes manager for a high school band led by Charlotte and, with his extensive musical knowledge, prepares them for the upcoming Bandslam competition.
Simply by Hudgens' presence and its PG rating, Bandslam had the ingredients to be another cheesy musical made for the Disney generation, but it is - thankfully - nothing like that. Even on a good day, Bandslam should have been nothing more than another Step Up-kind of film, where an underdog band squares off against some big, evil band with some stupid teen drama thrown in for good measure. But Bandslam is so much better.
The movie can best be described as a romantic drama with a stronger emphasis on friendship - and a band competition. Bandslam has several interesting dynamics going on at once: the awkward relationship between Burton and Sa5m (the "5" is silent); the friendship between Burton and Charlotte; and the development of some really good rock songs.
The chemistry between the three leads is incredibly strong, especially given the young cast. Connell, in his first large role, is surprisingly good. He doesn't have the look of a leading man and does tend to wear the same vacant stare regardless of what the scene calls for, but he has some chops. Hudgens is both likable and believable, while Michalka is the same. Lisa Kudrow also turns in a good if not understated performance as Will's mother.
Bandslam was a box office failure, which simply means that a lot of people are missing out. Bandlsam is refreshing, satisfying and shockingly good.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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