by Laura Tucker
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Include Disney star Vanessa Hudgens in a teenage movie, and you pretty much expect a High School Musical-esque production. But what we actually get with Bandslam is so much less a Disney thing, and so much more a great little Indie that you can learn from.
Will Burton (Gaelan Connell) is a high school student not having an easy time of it socially. He’s basically the outcast of the whole school. His mom (Lisa Kudrow) completely makes his day telling him they’re moving from Cincinnati to New Jersey, meaning he won’t have to put up with this anymore. He has a chance at a new beginning. Yet, his first day in one of his new classes, he finds out they’re being paired with someone else for a big project, and this is not what the new kid in school wants to do. He pairs up with Sa5m (Hudgens) – the 5 is silent. As expected by her unique first name, she’s exotic and different.
Not only does Will’s social life improve in New Jersey by becoming friends with Sa5M, but he also lucks into meeting Charlotte (Aly Michalka), a girl who he doesn’t only have a crush on, but finds to be one of the coolest people he’s ever met. She teaches an after-school care program for kids, and he gets roped into helping her out. Through this, they find out their mutual admiration for music. He doesn’t sing or play an instrument … just knows everything there is to know about it, and Charlotte is the lead singer in a local garage band.
With the local battle of the bands, Bandslam, coming up, Charlotte wants help with her band in winning, as mostly she wants to beat the bad headed up by her ex-boyfriend. She asks Will to manage her band to help them out, and he takes it on. For someone that used to have such a hard time at his old school, he seems to have it made here. He details it all out to his mom, who involves herself so much in her son’s life, it reminds me of myself, as he happens to tell her that he’s met the most awesome girl. She asks if the girl is pretty, and he tells her he really doesn’t want to sit there and gossip about crushes with her. Instead, he details it all for David Bowie. Instead of keeping a journal, Will writes letters about his life to the rock star.
If there’s one thing I like in a film geared for teenagers, it’s letting them know that it’s okay to be different. School is hard. I’ve told my daughter a few dozen times you couldn’t pay me to go back to 8th grade. And this movie shows that even the kids that seem like they have it going on, don’t. They all have some skeletons in their closet, some fears and other things they’re trying to hide. And in the end, they rise above all that, but not in the way you would expect them too. To be able to beat down the one thing that every other kid has made fun of you for what seems to be your entire academic career? What kid doesn’t dream of the chance to do that?
Bandslam is not your typical Disney movie, but in some ways, it’s actually a movie that every teenaged kid should see. Just to let them know they’re not alone, and that they can turn it all around too.
Bandslam will be released on DVD on March 16.
Laura Tucker is the webmaster of Reality Shack and its accompanying Reality Shack Blog, provides reviews at Viewpoints, and provides entertainment news pieces at Gather. She is also an Instructor and 2nd dan black belt in tae kwon do with South Elgin Martial Arts. Laura can be reached at LauraBelle@realityshack.com.
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