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I rate it an 8 only because for a PG movie kids younger than 12 might not get what the movie is about; though they might just think it's about singing. Which is not bad because the movie has excellent music selection, flows with scene transition very well. Teenagers will love this movie for sure; but parents will be pleasantly surprise. The dialogs are well written - witty and not contrive. Each characters and their dynamic are well developed and relatable. You laugh; you cry, but at the end you leave the theater with a smile on your face, forgetting that you have just spent almost 2 hrs in a theater. All actors were on point in playing their characters. Great casting. This is the sleeper movie of the summer.
Will Burton, has just moved to a new school. On his first day, he meets
Sa5m (the 5 is silent), finding out about an event called Bandslam, a
competition for local bands to win a record deal. Charlotte is forming
a band, and decides to make Will the band manager...
On paper, Bandslam shouldn't work as well as it does. The story is predictable, it's very clichéd, and in places corny. The plot also has a number of plot holes in it. But despite all this, it is very enjoyable, and very well done.
One of the key reasons for this is the script. Co-written by the director, Todd Graff and Josh A. Gagan, the script takes time to flesh out it's main characters, although in parts the character Sa5m does feel under-written, but this could be due to scenes being edited out. There are twists to each character, which helps explain their actions, especially towards the end. Graff as director handles the material well, right up to the musical finale.
The cast are pretty good too. Vanessa Hudgens is the one getting most attention due to the High School Musical movies, does okay as Sa5m, an outsider. Aly Michalka, as Charlotte is better, but as I said, I think this is due more to her part being written better. However the real stand-out performance is from Gaelan Connell as Will. Lisa Kudrow gives good support as his mother, and in fact there isn't a bad performance in the movie.
The songs themselves aren't that bad, if not entirely memorable, which in a movie about a music contest is important.
At a time when the bigger summer block-buster movies are sacrificing character for visuals, it's good to see a movie that while not setting it's sights very high, gives it's movie proper, rounded characters. It deserves huge credit for that. In fact the best complement I can give this movie, is that it has a John Hughes vibe to it.
And that isn't a bad thing at all. Go enjoy.
If bad marketing can torpedo a film's chances at the box office, then
Bandslam is one such unfortunate victim to fall prey to shoddy
promotional efforts, where its High School Musical, kiddy-like trailer
would have put off the non-Disney fans, and unfairly slapped on a
juvenile perception on this film that had so much of a mature aspect
and indie-spirit going for it, from its sensitively crafted characters
to its eclectic choice of songs that just did wonders.
The gist of the film centers on its protagonist Will Burton (Gaelan Connell), who is the new kid in town, moving with his single mom Karen (Lisa Kudrow) to a new town to try and start things afresh. He broods a lot, and narrates his letter of the day to his idol David Bowie. Priding himself as a musical encyclopedia of sorts, his human studies classes will see him paired up with goth chick Sa5m (the 5 is silent), played by HSM alumni and Efron-less Vanessa Hudgens, and in his after-school hours, his good Samaritan turn and easy going nature sees him making friends with senior year Charlotte (Alyson Michalka). Not bad for a new kid actually to have been taken notice of by some of the hottest chicks in school.
Then there's Bandslam the competition, where Charlotte ropes Will in to be their manager, and he has to assemble a rag tag team of musicians, and basically be pushed to the forefront of making things happen, from recruitment, to song selection, demo tapes, website, the whole works. From a nobody before to having his school life all planned out for him, this of course leads to plenty of zero to hero moments that you would be familiar with especially if you're a fan of such genre from the Japanese. But director Todd Graff had injected the film with enough maturity to avoid being just another clone, and as such made this highly enjoyable from the get go.
But the strength of this movie laid in its portrayal of teenage relationships, be it parental where one's teenage life starts to fill up, leaving out one's parents who feel that you're abandoning them for more happening peers, or the platonic, which is often the catalyst for jealousy and misunderstandings. Then there's the romantic angle which is typically saccharine sweet, if not for well placed humour to break things up a little bit. Being a film primarily about contemporary teenagers who grapple with perennial issues like confidence, believing in oneself, identity crisis and the sense of belonging, this growing up tale also had enough backstory built into it that just led to a richer experience, without having the need to show everything explicitly.
However the film played down the typical stereotypes that come to plague the teenage movies, such as the blonde who has to be Ms Popular in fact she's Ms Quirky here or that Goth Chick who has to be Ms Emo. On the contrary, it shattered some of the stereotypes through excellent characterization that makes you look beyond their physical make up and come to understand the common concerns that you would have identified with (given old blokes like me who are way past the teenage years). The great looking leads (well, some geeks here are pleasing to the eye at least) also helped, and what more having real life singers and performers like Michalka, Hudgens and the other performing bands helped to lend some authenticity to the film's musical elements too. As the main, relativey unknown lead, Gaelan Connell held the ground firmly, and while his character had the weight-of-the- world-on-his-shoulders look, Connell was charismatic and likable to have made you want to root for him and his cause, without bringing in any irritation of smugness.
If you subscribe to the mantra of no music no life, then Bandslam is your film. Being a sucker for zero to hero type stories that I've weaned on from Japan, this film had those formulaic elements done right, and more, with its cast anchoring a solid emotional core and a finale that you'll find hard pressed not to groove to. Forget its marketing people, otherwise you'll be unfairly missing out on what I would shortlist for my end of the year top 10 list. Definitely highly recommended, and watch out for that surprise at the end which just summed the theme of hope in the film really nicely!
It's a shame this movie didn't have the hype it so rightfully deserves. It's a great teen movie with a real storyline not an unrealistic, sugar coded, made up tale. It depicts real situations. Teens do go thru all these heartaches, disappointments and hardships. It's worth to go see it. It has absolutely nothing inappropriate. It's clean and again, great. Vanesssa Hudgens and Aly Michalka are great in it. Gaelan Connell in a very natural and sincere actor. These are all very talented actors and shouldn't be type-casted. You see genuine acting with a lot of heart. The musicians were incredibly good. Better than a lot of famous bands out there. Very entertaining and funny at times. It deserved much more than it got, not to mention that theaters only gave this movie, (at least here in Georgia), two viewings on weekends maximum and where I actually live only one at 9:35 PM in it's first week. They give awful movies more than that, but a clean movie like this one, nothing. I truly recommend this movie to every parent and teen, especially if they like music and I guarantee you, you'll be very surprised. This isn't just another teen movie, it's pure gold.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A great movie. I was fortunate enough to watch the advance screening in
Bellevue, and it was worth the travel and the day off.
First of all, the trailers and how Summit is promoting this to the public is misleading. Vanessa Hudgens isn't the main character of this movie. Gaelan and Aly are.
The story is told in Gaelan, aka 'Will's point of view. He meets Aly, a popular girl who takes him under her wing and turns him into her band's manager. He also meets Vanessa aka Sa5m (the 5 is silent) and becomes her partner in the class project.
The whole cast are wonderful, and they mesh well together. There were a lot of funny scenes that made me almost pee on myself. (so be careful when drinking soda) And the cast performance were all spot on.
The screening that I was in was mostly of people in their late 20s-60s. And when we came out of the theater, there were definitely a lot of smiles. In fact, one of them was even in the bus and couldn't stop gushing about it.
I definitely think that Summit should have marketed this to older folks as well because coming out from that theater, it was the older audience that enjoyed it the most. I'm in my 20s and the film was very enjoyable. I can't wait to watch it again.
This high school musical movie actually contains one of HSM's stars,
Vanessa Hudgens, plus Lisa Kudrow as the single mother of the protag,
Will Burton (Gaelen Connell), who is delighted when his mom finds a way
to take them to live in a new place, Lodi, New Jersey. He was more then
ready for a change. In one of the chatty emails to David Bowie that
provide the narration, he calls his old high school "Guantanamo with
lunch breaks." What happens at the new school? Will gets lucky. Real
lucky. He gets paired off with Vanessa Hudgens in a class, and they
become a couple. A former Alpha Female called Charlotte (junior prom
queen, head cheerleader), played by Alyson Michalka, finds out Will has
an encyclopedic musical knowledge and recruits him to meld her garage
band into one that can beat the high school's reigning Glory Dogs and
win the tri-state (NY, NY, CN) "bandslam." One obvious motive is that
she wants to beat the Glory Dogs to trounce its lead singer, Ben
Wheatly (Scott Porter), because he is her snotty former boyfriend.
Aside from Ben, a generic model of testosterone overconfidence, Graff
(mostly) steers clear of high school stereotypes.
This sets up a trajectory for the film that's like an older kids' version of Richard Linklater's 'School of Rock,' but Gaelen Connell is no Jack Black and the pathway to the big event isn't as cute -- or as climactic. That was one of Black's triumphs, but on the other hand Connell himself is way cuter than Jack Black, whose closest lookalike is the base guitarist, a Flea imitator who calls himself Bug (Charlie Saxton). Resembling young Tom Hanks or maybe John Cusack, with a weak chin, a sweet little smile, a mini Afro and a wrinkled brow, you can almost believe Connell's Will might actually be in the constant company of the school's hottest chicks. Not quite. He's not as articulate and soulful as Cusack, and not as edgey and dark as Christian Slater was in 'Heathers' or 'Pump Up the Volume.' But then Hudgens isn't the shiny, prefab girlfriend of Zac Efron this time. Au contraire. She gets to be the dark one. She calls herself Sa5m ("the 5 is silent"), wears dark clothes, and she reads all the time, even when Will's trying to kiss her.
When you think of Eighties youth classics like those two Slater was in, Bandslam looks generic. We'll just never relive that great Eighties youth movie moment or see the likes of the late, great John Hughes again. But when you compare Bandslam to 'High School Musical,' you realize this is not the kind of movie that you pan. It deserves encouragement. The screenplay by Graff and Josh A. Cagan is packed with inessential cuteness and never takes its dark moments seriously enough -- even though it pushes them too hard. The music Will leads the band into is bland -- and loud. There's none of the joy in rock frenzy that Jack Black comically evokes. Maybe Wil's expertise -- his celebratory (and still pretty touching) visit to the ruins of CGMG, where punk began -- may seem more a reflection of the 50ish director than a teenager. But none of that matters enough to maul this movie, unless you're desperate to show how musically hip you are. The cast is just too appealing and the action is just too much fun to write them off.
When Will reshapes the band by adding brass and an Asian girl classical keyboardist (Lisa Chung) and an elphin-spouting nerdy girl cellist (Elvy Yost) and a boy drummer called Basher (Ryan Donowho) whose majors are machine shop and anger management, if feels like he's bringing something to life (however silly the music), and Jack Black was just a puppet master. It's also good that Kudrow really seems like a single mom trying not to get too much in the way of her son's new life but still protective and sometimes forgetting herself and making him a friend, or as he says "doing that thing of talking to me like I'm Oprah." Sometimes Todd Graff's perky cuteness seems pretty real. Connell has been compared to a Michael Cera "without the sweetness." "Thank you Shia LaBeouf and Michael Cera" is something Connell has actually said, "for paving the way for someone like me to be the leading guy in a movie." But Connell is Connell. LaBeouf would be a lead weight here, and Cera would swamp the movie with his indie quirkiness. The best thing about Connell is he's not a scene stealer: he's a catalyst. He makes this movie built around him an ensemble picture, and everybody looks pretty good.
For the first time this year, a teen film actually appeals to teens.
It's painfully routed in fantasy, a trend most adolescent movies tend
to follow, but with interesting characters and a hip soundtrack, the
target audience is likely to be thoroughly entertained. Formulaic at
times but unpredictable at others, Bandslam isn't as unique as it is
well-timed. Amidst the really sour teen flicks popping up in theaters,
this is less immature, more comedic and generally more fun.
Will Burton (Gaelan Connell) trudges through high school life in Cincinnati at a school he describes as Guantanamo with a lunch period. It's Novocain for the soul, providing him a constant source of boredom and bullying. His mother Karen (Lisa Kudrow) brings him great news that they're going to move to New Jersey, and although he feels that his classmates will provide much of the same old annoyances, at least it will be a chance to start fresh as an unknown.
At Martin Van Buren High, he quickly attaches himself to a quiet, dark and mysterious girl named Sa5m (Vanessa Hudgens) - the 5 is silent. He also discovers that the cafeteria is used for live band performances and to support the local group the Glory Dogs, led by Ben Wheatly (Scott Porter), a singer/guitarist who is too cool (and too old) for school. Glory Dogs enters every year into the Bandslam competition, a battle-of-the-bands contest that awards the winner with a $10,000 record deal. Ex-Glory Dogs singer Charlotte Banks (Alyson Michalka) discovers that Will has an uncommon knowledge of music and uses him to jumpstart another band to compete in Bandslam, courageously going head-to-head against the school favorite. With his new career as a band manager, the confusing advances by Charlotte (a bound-to-be-trouble blonde with her own Wikipedia page who refuses to answer "Why" questions), and his occasionally overbearing mother, will young Burton have time for Sa5m, the girl he really likes? It seems that teen dramedies always get carried away with pure fantasy, most notable when the dorky lead character immediately makes friends with the two hottest girls in school. In similar fashion to School of Rock, he also luckily unites several of the most talented musicians in the state to somehow work together and form an amazingly original band in which everyone has mastered improvisation and spontaneity. Anyone who's actually been through high school will probably wonder where exactly miracles like this take place. Fortunately, although the reality is slim, Bandslam employs enough humor and drama to keep things interesting, along with a good twist at the end and naturally catchy music. It's a film that may not boast the most original premise, but at least teens won't be disappointed in the entertainment value, even if they have to look past the mild PG rating. It's certainly a level more realistic than the High School Musicals.
- Mike Massie
Bandslam, in spite of the irritating Lisa Kudrow's character(who screams throughout with no reason), is a pure gem of the youth films. Great actors, great director and good story. Music-superb.Melodic rock is back, surviving (c)rap garbage taking the radio and mind-waves all over. Bandslam is simply an irresistible film which must be seen at any cost to be charges with the emotions and urban agenda gone long ago, so we all thought. DVD. Video.If you haven't seen it yet, rush to your closest DVD rental and you will experience two finest hours of high-end entertainment. Some tears too. David Bowie, eventually, does have an artistic touch himself, even when selecting of the feature films he will appear in. All compliments to the crew!!! Above and down the line! 'Dear David,...'
Maybe to a lot of people I'm overrating Bandslam, but I truly loved
every moment of this movie, and I'll tell you why. The message in it is
absolutely wonderful. It's about making friends, maintaining
friendships, a single mother worrying about his son growing up, and
going after the success you want. I liked how all of them were
different types of people so to speak. My favorite had to be the
chemistry between Gaelan Connell and Vanessa Hudgens. Sa5m was unique
and very complex and I thought it was cool how they just worked so well
together. It's throughly predictable, I won't lie but I sure had a way
better time then I did watching overrated Oscar type crap like Up In
The Air. Bandslam's main ingredient to success is the strength of its
characters by far. They are all likable, they all have their little
problems, but we can identify with them all, even Lisa Kudrow as the
mother was likable!.
Performances.Gaelan Connell is an unknown for me, but I really liked what I saw. He made Will into a likable geek, and I look forward to seeing more of him. Alyson Michalka is really good-looking, but also a fine young actress. She has her selfish traits, but we can see what's behind it. Vanessa Hudgens is gorgeous, and I adored her character. I'm not like those annoying teeny Boppers who go crazy over her, but she did very well her. Her character was very complex and hard to relate too, but somehow she managed to make us care for her. Lisa Kudrow's charisma and trademark Goofyness works well here, but I also enjoyed her serious moments with Will.
Bottom line. Bandslam is now a favorite of mine, and one of the best movies that came out in 2009. It reminds me of why I love movies so much in the 1st place. Ignore the rather low 6.4 rating, and give it a whirl!.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I went to Bandslam expecting to find Vanessa Hudgens as cute as ever,
but the rest of the movie a trite formulaic noughties version of Mickey
Rooney and Judy Garland going "I know, let's put on the show right
Well, not 100% wrong, because there's quite a lot of formula in here, but the movie does move off model from time to time as well. There is at least an attempt at rounding out the main characters, and some of the more obvious plot developments either don't happen, or else don't happen exactly in the way you expected.
At the heart of the story is misfit music nut Will Burton trying to fit in a new school, his unexpected friendship with hottie senior Charlotte, and his growing love for quiet nonconformist Sa5m (no, it's not a typo). As Will, Gaelan Connell does well in a part which might have been written for Michael Cera. Alyson Michalka is an effective Charlotte and, while Vanessa Hudgens isn't stretched, Sa5m enables her to show off some comedy, singing, and decent guitar picking.
I thoroughly enjoyed the climactic musical number (though not much of the rest of the music).
And there's a terrific first kiss scene - great fun, and summons up very clearly what it's like to be in that first flush of love.
I liked this little film a lot.
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