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Believe it or not, Sky High is a blast

Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: Marvel’s prospective summer tentpole Iron Man 3 has us thinking back on more unusual superhero movies.

Sky High (2005)
Expectations for Sky High upon its initial release in 2005 were not exactly… well, you know. For one thing, the concept looked pretty silly: a training academy for teen superheroes, pitting the usual nerds against the usual bullies, with some X-Men-style powers tossed in to spice things up. For another, the director was Mike Mitchell, whose previous films included such physics-defying laugh vacuums as Surviving Christmas and Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo. Kurt Russell was one of the top-billed stars, but his character is relatively minor—the protagonist’s famous, imposing dad—and the role seemed a throwback to the bland, innocuous live-action Disney fare he’d started out in as a child actor, with titles like The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes. Somehow, though, all of these unpromising elements combined to produce one of the wittiest and most idiosyncratic mainstream comedies in ages. If any recent studio film deserves to be called a sleeper, this is the one.


“Is that your power?” Bruce Campbell’s Coach Boomer might brusquely ask at this point. “Butt-kissery?” Campbell is just one of a host of well used utility players, the two most prominent being former Kids In The Hall members Dave Foley (as a long-suffering, now decidedly middle-aged sidekick) and Kevin McDonald (as a science teacher with a gigantic, bulbous cranium and a yen for evil twins). That they all feel as if they belong in this screwy hybrid of Marvel and John Hughes is a testament to the movie’s goofy, offhand sensibility, which continually downplays the ostensible plot (in which a supervillain turns most of Sky High into squalling infants, using a device called The Pacifier) in favor of throwaway gags. At one point, the literal hero (Michael Angarano) gets a significant close-up, registering powerful emotion, while in the background we faintly hear one of his classmates read a practice test question aloud: “Your hero flies north at 300 miles per hour for 15 minutes. His archenemy is tunneling south at 200 miles per hour for 10 minutes. Assuming your hero has X-ray vision, how long will it take for him to realize he’s going the wrong way?” It takes a first-rate comedy to bury a joke that good.

Availability: Disney DVD and Blu-Ray releases, rental and purchase from digital providers, and disc rental from Netflix.

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