Before Disney ever acquired Marvel, they released a superhero comedy of their own, Sky High, under the Walt Disney Pictures banner.
Will Stronghold (Michael Angarano) is the son of two superheroes, The Commander (Kurt Russell) and Jetstream (Kelly Preston). This comes with high expectations as he attends Sky High for the first time. It’s an airbourne high school for teenage superheroes. While Will is third generation, he is also a late bloomer because he has no powers yet. Will and best friend Layla (Danielle Panabaker) quickly make friends with Zach (Nicholas Braun), Ethan (Dee Jay Daniels), and Magenta (Kelly Vitz) on their first day. Being a new student also means dealing with hazing. In this case, the hazing comes from seniors Speed (Will Harris), Lash (Jake Sandvig), and Penny (Malika Haqq and Khadijah Haqq). There’s also high school outcast Warren Peace (Steven Strait), the son of a superheroine and supervillain.
Due to the lack of superpowers, Will ends up in Hero Support. His parents assume otherwise and so he’s allowed into the family’s secret sanctum. This is where he learns about their first team-up to stop Royal Pain. Will’s parents are supportive when he finally tells them the truth. There’s some disappointment, of course, but that’s only natural.
The Commander gives Will one rule and one rule only: do not take anyone into the secret sanctum. Naturally, Will throws a party and takes Sue Tenny (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) into the sanctum. It’s a case of trying to impress her. What Will doesn’t know is that Sue is related to Royal Pain. One thing leads to another and an evil plan gets unleashed. By this point, all of the adults get de-aged and Will, who has had a falling out with his friends, has to work together with them in order to save the day. Like all hero arcs, he knew he did wrong and apologized. And yes, he also gets the girl and she was in front of him the entire time but he just didn’t realize it.
Even for a family comedy about superheroes, the film hits many of the same genre beats. The script makes Will an underdog just by mere basis of being a late bloomer. Making him a late bloomer is a genius idea because it helps Will with building adversity along the way. You have a few twists and turns along the way. We initially view Warren Peace as some sort of villain. But at the end of the day, he’s no different than any other hero.
Sky High has some brilliant casting. The teenagers feature a mix of established (Michael Angarano, Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and largely unknown actors (Danielle Panabaker, Steven Strait). The adults feature not just a number of known actors but specifically, those that come from the world of science fiction TV or film: Lynda Carter, Kurt Russell, Bruce Campbell, and Cloris Leachman. Beyond this, a number of comedians fill out the supporting roles: Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald, and Kevin Hefferman. While Jim Rash is known for comedy, he was a character actor up until this point. Community would not premiere until fall 2009 on NBC.
I meant to rewatch for the 15th anniversary in 2020. For one reason or another, I failed to do so. The film still holds up over 16 and a half years later. It’s interesting to watch this film while knowing that Disney would later acquire Marvel and take the superhero brand to the next level. It’s easy to picture Sky High as a Disney Channel Original Movie but maybe that’s because of Disney’s overall theatrical output these days. Even watching on Disney+, I don’t find myself thinking of it as a theatrical release. And yet, it was a theatrical release! It’s nice to know that Disney still makes this type of movie. However, I can’t help but think that it would go straight to Disney+ in this new era.
Sky High is a superhero comedy that is fun for both adults and children to enjoy.
DIRECTOR: Mike Mitchell
SCREENWRITERS: Paul Hernandez and Bob Schooley & Mark McCorkle
CAST: Kelly Preston, Lynda Carter, Michael Angarano, Danielle Panabaker, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Bruce Campbell, Dave Foley, Steven Strait, Kevin McDonald, Cloris Leachman, and Kurt Russell
Disney released Sky High in theaters on July 29, 2005. Grade: 3.5/5
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