Bandslam

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Posted August 13, 2009 in Film

Will (Gaelan Connell) isn’t a high school musical dreamboat. He’s a geek who worships Arcade Fire and Lou Reed—both name-checked way more than you’d expect for a movie co-starring Disney cash cow Vanessa Hudgens, here cast against expectation as a proto-Janeane Garafalo depressive who goes by the name of Sa5m (The “5” is silent.). Will’s classmates hounded him out of Cleveland, so single mom Karen (Lisa Kudrow) found an excuse to settle in New Jersey where the big buzz is Bandslam—a competition that pits high school bands from NJ to NY against each other for a recording contract. After the most popular girl in school (Alyson Michalka) graces him with her friendship, Will resolves to manage her band to stardom, or at least to beat her ex-boyfriend’s ego project Ben Wheatley and the Glory Dogs (whose fan base, Will notes, models their frenzy after Nuremberg.) This is a teen musical that thinks music is at least as important as who’s crushing on who. Will’s more fixated on rounding out the band’s sound—he’s hilariously named them I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On— than he is on scoring his first kiss with Hudgens, though naturally that and several plot contrivances are as inevitable as the next U2 album. It’s an eye-roller, but a charming one that’s cast real teen bands for their competition, and the joy on Will’s face as he crowd-surfs for the first time shot me right back to 15-years-old at the front row of the Butthole Surfers. If you gotta take your kid brother somewhere this weekend, at least he might leave this motivated to pick up a bass, or at least a David Bowie CD.

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