The current boom in superhero movies works both for and against Sky High, an affable, breezy, but undistinguished kiddie comedy about a high school for superheroes and their sidekicks. The mammoth success of franchises like Spider-Man and X-Men no doubt played a crucial role in getting the film made, and bodes well for its box-office prospects. But the minor pleasures of a reasonably clever but unevenly executed premise pale in comparison to the more fully realized likes of The Incredibles, Batman Begins, and their ilk.
Giving all the beloved conventions of high-school movies a superheroic spin, the film casts Michael Angarano as the gawky adolescent son of legendary superheroes/real-estate agents Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston. Angarano's pedigree leads teachers to expect big things when he begins freshman classes at the eponymous high school in the clouds, where the obligatory caste system dictates that those blessed with superpowers occupy the same exalted position filled by jocks in regular schools, and the superpower-challenged are relegated to the slots usually filled by dweebs, dorks, and poindexters.
In classic high-school-movie form, Angarano is drawn to abandon his socially ostracized sidekick buddies after he develops late-blooming superpowers and is embraced by the prettiest, most popular girl in school. Will Angarano realize in time for the big climactic dance that his smart, nice, gorgeous, and loyal female best friend has been furtively nursing a crush on him? The answer isn't remotely surprising, but the film manages to eke out a few giggles and even a smattering of mild chuckles, thanks mainly to savvy casting and inspired supporting performances. In a cast full of cheesy/cool cult icons like Bruce Campbell and Lynda Carter, Dave Foley steals the film as the poorly preserved All-American Boy, a onetime Russell sidekick turned teacher who wears his desperation and bitterness like a thin coating of flop sweat. Foley's fellow Kids In The Hall alumni Kevin McDonald scores most of the film's other laughs as a Mad Science teacher whose giant head serves as one of the film's funniest visual gags, while Russell's tongue-in-cheek turn embodies an appealing combination of paternal Everydad squareness and iron-jawed super-machismo. In fact, Sky High resembles the blandly appealing live-action Disney comedies Russell cut his teeth on in the late '60s and early '70s more than it apes today's more stridently hip, irony-soaked kid-fare. Those old Disney films once entertained a generation of easily amused kids on Sunday-afternoon TV. Sky High should someday fill that slot just as ably.