Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

‘Bandslam’ was kind of a fun movie to sit through. Not particularly because of the movie’s content which was run of the mill, inoffensive and completely predictable while still managing to be somewhat mildly entertaining to me, but what made this movie fun was that my wife and I watched this with my thirteen year old son. You see the boy worried me to death to pick up this DVD because, and I quote, ‘this is a movie for MY generation’, the gist being that we only watched old head movies. I’m guessing it also didn’t hurt that the movie had a couple of sexy ‘older’ women amongst its cast in Vanessa Hudgins and Allyson Michalka that might’ve piqued his interest so into the player ‘Bandslam’ goes. Note that I don’t watch the Disney Channel so I have no idea who these two girls are. Well… I kinda know who Vanessa Hudgins is, but not because of her work on High School Musical. Within five minutes of watching this movie my wife informs the boy that she’s seen this movie before. A lot. He protests. I inform him that I can tell him everything that’s going to happen in this movie. He doesn’t think that this is possible. I didn’t want to ruin it for him but he did ask for it.

Will Burton (Gaelan Connell) is a geeky, picked upon high school junior at his Cincinnati location where everybody calls him Dewey for some reason or another. After a fairly tough day at school his mom Karen (Lisa Kudrow) gives Will the glorious news that they will be moving to Jersey where Will can redefine himself and start anew. As my own mother once told me ‘wherever you go, there you are’ and in New Jersey Will is still an incredibly geeky kid but things are a little different in this school. For starters this school turns into the school from ‘Fame’ during lunchtime with live band performances which intrigues Will who is a student of classic rock. Then Will makes the acquaintance of the enigmatic Sa5m (Hudgins) who might actually like the boy, even though she does seem to be a few steps above his pay grade. Things really

get strange for Will when the most popular girl in school, Charlotte (Michalka), takes an interest in him. Not a romantic interest as this is High School and girls like Charlotte generally avoid boys like Will like the cooties. But Charlotte has a band and the band kind of sucks. Will doesn’t play an instrument but he knows good music when he hears it so Charlotte makes Will the manager / musical director of the band so they can be ready for the big end of the year Bandslam competition.

There’s also as ‘heavy’ so to speak in Charlotte’s rocking ex-boyfriend Ben (Scott Porter) who is none too happy with all the time his girl, he wants her back you see, is spending with this geek so he has to find out all the dirt he can on the boy. Naturally there’s conflict, breakups, misunderstandings and strife with all of all of this coming to a head for Will and his eclectic collection of musicians at the Bandslam for all the marbles.

So when Charlotte informs Will that her father is ill I tell my son that said father is going to die. When he asks ‘how do I know this’ I just tell him they wouldn’t have mentioned he was sick if he wasn’t go die or at least have some catastrophic emergency right before Bandslam is all. When we catch Sa5m singing a song we inform the boy that she will be the new lead singer of the band replacing Charlotte. When asked where is Charlotte going, we simply tell him that she has to freak out over her dad’s impending death or something, but we gotta get rid of her somehow so Sa5m can sing. The prophesizing of this movie goes on from the stolen Bandslam song and real reason behind the nickname ‘Dewey’, but one thing I am happy about is that the Bandslam Competition didn’t end in a tie and require a ‘Band-Off’. Thank goodness for that.

But all that being said, and despite the fact that ‘Bandslam’ is about as paint-by-numbers as mainstream entertainment can get it wasn’t a terrible experience for me to sit through. My son enjoyed it far more than I did, as you would expect, but I did enjoy the energy that the cast put into this movie and the energy that they put into the music. I didn’t particularly care for the music because I don’t listen to this stuff being passed off as music nowadays, but it sure was energetic. Plus I was in a band at their ages so it was even a little bit nostalgic. Vanessa Hudgins and Amy Michalka are really cute kids and young Gaelan Connell was genetically designed to play this part and he does not disappoint. Actor Scott Porter as our somewhat badguy was appropriately mean spirited as a thirty something high schooler and Lisa Kudrow continues her fine string of performances cementing her standing as the best acting ‘Friend’ of all time.

The only problem I had with this movie is when it came time for the ‘big reveal’, that being Charlotte freaking out and turning ‘anti-geek’, and the character of Will confronting the poor girl like minutes after her dad’s funeral. So Charlotte says all these mean things, reverting back to her original self as the haughty, anti-geek cheerleader and gets everybody all upset but dang… can a girl get a minute? Maybe wait a couple of days after her old man is in the dirt before we start attacking her. If they wait a couple of days then she wouldn’t have said all those mean things and all would be well. Because, predictably, Charlotte will eventually show contrition for her insensitive anti-geek diatribe. But then Sa5m wouldn’t become the lead singer and then the movie wouldn’t have to go all ‘Bring it On’, requiring our band to make up a song in three minutes because the asshole ex-boyfriend stole their riff. Gotta keep it predictable.

Still, as far as these types of movies go, ‘Bandslam’ delivers what I’m guessing tweens are looking for, and also managed to have enough energy and avoided being burdensome for older folks who have probably seen this story a thousand times before.

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