Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Sky High

MPAA Rating: PG for action violence and some mild language

Reviewed by: Kenneth R. Morefield, Ph.D.
CONTRIBUTOR

Better than Average
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Kids Family
Genre:
Action Adventure Kids Family
Length:
1 hr. 38 min.
Year of Release:
2005
USA Release:
July 29, 2005 (wide)
DVD release: Nov. 29, 2005
Featuring: Michael Angarano, Kurt Russell, Kelly Preston, Lynda Carter, Danielle Panabaker
Director: Mike Mitchell
Producer: Andrew Gunn
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures
Copyright, Walt Disney Pictures
Copyright, Walt Disney Pictures
Copyright, Walt Disney Pictures
Copyright, Walt Disney Pictures
Copyright, Walt Disney Pictures
Copyright, Walt Disney Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Walt Disney Pictures
Teen Qs™—Christian Answers for teenagers
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Brains, Brawn and Beyond.

Plot: Will Stronghold (Michael Angarano) is the son of two famous superheroes, The Commander (Kurt Russell) and Jetstream (Kelly Preston). When he goes to a special high school for the offspring of heroes (“Sky High”), he initially must cope with the fact that everyone around him appears more skilled and powerful. Eventually, however, Will discovers his own powers and must use them to save his family and friends from an old nemesis.

Ever since I can remember—okay, ever since “Aladdin”—it’s seemed as though movies ostensibly aimed primarily at kids have been gradually taken over by adult humor and winking allusions and references intended to keep the parents that accompany those kids from being too bored by material that might be fresh or interesting to their children, but old hat to them.

The speed at which genres now cycle through the stages of innovation, convention, cliché, and parody, is nowhere more evident than in film, where yesterday’s innovative reenergizing of the superhero genre (“The Incredibles”) is already hurtling past the conventional representation stage straight to cliché. High school is hell, super powers or no super powers; yeah, we got that with the “X-Men” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”.

But I digress from my main point, which is that although “Sky High” may be on the “day-old” bakery shelf, it’s not quite stale yet, and may serve as passable entertainment for the PG crowd to which it is directed.

Here are five things I liked, or at least appreciated, about the film:

 
  1. After ten years of “Beverly Hills 90210,” it is refreshing to see a high school depicted with actors who look like they could actually be in high school and characters who still feel awkward over that first kiss and whether or not mom and dad will give them a scornful look. I have no doubt that teens like those depicted in “Mean Girls” and “Thirteen” exist, but I also have no doubt that there are still a few places on the globe where harassment from the school bully is a bigger fear than not being able to score your next fix.

  2. Steven Strait as Warren Peace, Danielle Panabaker as Layla, and Nicholas Braun as Zach all give wonderful, self-effacing performances that serve the film rather than trying to steal it.

  3. The attitude towards adults and authority is a bit more positive than in most high school or PG movies. Unlike in movies such as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or “Home Alone” (both of which I’m nevertheless mildly fond of), the mark of cool here is not how contemptuous one can be towards adults nor how imbecilic, ignorant, and easily fooled one can make them look.

    To be sure, The Commander and Jet Stream are a bit clueless about the burdens their son has to carry as a result of their fame and lofty expectations, but they do love him and he them, which is increasingly rare to find in movies these days. Even Coach Boomer, grown-up sidekick Mr. Boy (love that name), and bus driver Ron Wilson are used for comic relief rather than as magnets for cynical disdain. We may find them ridiculous, as the film occasionally does, but we aren’t really egged on to disdain them, because the film doesn’t.

  4. The major themes—that true friends are more important than popularity and that making good decisions is a better sign of maturity than raw power—may be presented in a heavy-handed manner, but there is nothing wrong with them, is there?

  5. Lynda Carter can still bring it, bracelets or no bracelets. Her presence, limited as it is, along with that of Cloris Leachman (in a nice cameo role) and that of Russell provides a pleasant, nostalgic nod for some of the non-children in the audience, as does the schmaltzy, ’80s soundtrack. Film critic Peter T. Chattaway has suggested that film’s paternal grandfather is John Hughes, which seems like a good observation to me. If you remember films such as “Sixteen Candles”, “Pretty in Pink”, and “Some Kind of Wonderful” fondly, than you’ll probably find “Sky High” a pleasant romp through your high school movie yearbook.

 

Overall, the film isn’t going to be mistaken for “Citizen Kane” or even “Donnie Darko” for that matter, but it also isn’t Porky’s. It’s nice to see the occasional film that accepts a PG rating, even if that means fewer swear words and less cleavage than it could probably “get away with” and still have most parents let their kids see it. Jet Stream wears latex, not spandex, and villains are sent to the detention room rather than burned alive.

My Grade: B
DVD cover

Violence: Mild / Profanity: Minor / Sex/nudity: None

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer Comments
Positive—The review captures “Sky High” well. I took my 5 and 9 year old boys, and my 21 year old daughter, to see it on the strength of the trailer. For once, the trailer well represents the movie, and I wasn’t disappointed. We all chuckled and laughed, we all enjoyed, we all left with a smile.

Everyone fills his part nicely. I found the relationship with the two young leads charming and basically believable, guessed the villain (no problem there: it’s a kid’s movie, not “Murder On the Orient Express”!), chuckled at the music… had a great time.

When one simply summarizes the premise, the first natural thought is, “Oh, like “The Incredibles”.” Not at all; the latter is the better movie, but beyond the fact that they’re both about “super-families,” they’re unrelated, totally different plot-directions.

I could have wished that the principal wasn’t so clueless about the cause of the fight in the lunchroom. I could have wished the parents listened a bit better, and (in the wholesome sense of the word) disciplined a bit more searchingly… but hey, one doesn’t criticize a hamburger for not being a steak. This was a good burger!

On the positive side, I liked that the parents loved the kid, and he clearly loved and respected them, that each wanted the best for the other, and that the kid had a “moral center” and owned up for his own screwups.

I might have waited for the DVD, but I wanted to make a statement by seeing it in the theater. It isn’t enough to criticize perverted movies and venomous directors, writers, and starts. One should support what goes in a better direction. So I hope the movie does good box-office, and further messes with the minds of The Suits who are trying to figure out why their America-hating big names aren’t drawing so well anymore.
My Ratings: Better than Average/4
—Dan Phillips, age 49
Positive—In an effort to provide families with something that everyone in the group can watch and enjoy “Sky High” has succeeded on all levels. Bringing back the fun lighthearted Disney films of the 60s this is good clean fun for religious and non religious folks alike. The morals are strong and positive. The film makers do not hit you over the head about the importance of true friendship and that a strong family unit is very important. It’s also a film many different age levels can enjoy and parents do not have to worry about younger ones picking of bad language or mimicking bad behavior from this film, there are consequences to bad behavior. If your looking for a good solid film the whole family will enjoy this is the ticket to purchase.
My Ratings: Good/4½
—Lucy, age 30
Positive—I’m a Christian home school mom and always on the look-out for a good movie to recommend. This is one of those movies. I liked the whole show. The story, the acting, the dialogue, the soundtrack (all 80s pop songs remixed), and the special effects. I thought I was walking into another “Spy Kids” type movie. Not at all like it. This movie wasn’t at all cheesy or boring. There were no bad words, no disrespect for parents, no sexual content, and no strong violence (just comic-strip-style fighting). Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston were really fun to watch. Nice family interaction, and nice clean ending with a good message. The movie tends to be loud in several areas, which might frighten kids under age 6. …Enjoy!
My Ratings: Better than Average/4½
—Diana O, age 36
Positive—We saw this movie as a family and all loved it! Very fresh and creative fun! We want to see it again and will definitely buy the video.
My Ratings: Good/4
—Diane, age 48
Positive—We saw this movie as a family and all loved it! Very fresh and creative fun! We want to see it again and will definitely buy the video.
My Ratings: Good/4
—Diane, age 48
Positive—I took my 12 yr. old son, his cousins (age range 7 to 10) and their Dad to “Sky High”. We liked it a lot; it was funny; the music was good and had several good “life lessons” in it. It took one through high school “cool” vs “uncool” kid trials, family sticking together, consequences and most of all, ownership of disobeying of rules. Oh, and Linda Carter has aged very well, as I remember her in “Wonder Woman”.
My Ratings: Good/4½
—Jesse Combs, age 52
Positive—I am a Christian, Home school mom of 5 kids (ages 8-16). We all really enjoyed it. The older kids thought it would be a bore and I figured I would end up napping, but we all LOVED it!! Very cute with some cute jokes. A really good, clean, feel-good movie for all ages.
My Ratings: Better than Average/4½
—Rhonda Weston, age 40
Positive—This was a great film. I took my 10 year old son. You can’t get more “Super Hero” than this movie. I appreciated Kelly Preston’s role as “Mom.” She was very encouraging and mistakes still had consequences even if you are a Super Hero.
My Ratings: Good/5
—Jill, Nevada, age 31
Positive—Great movie!!! No language, no uncomfortable situations, mother and father are happily married and love their son. Even has several moments of repentance and forgiveness. My son is 7 and daughter is 5. They loved this movie. Many times they cheered out loud as did the teens sitting behind us. And there were lots of giggles. Please support this movie, we need more like it!
My Ratings: Good/3½
—Kris Snyder, age 34
Positive—It’s a pleasure to go to a movie that supports GOOD OVER EVIL and family unity. We enjoyed this movie (we=my husband, me, my kids who are 10,8, and 3). The son respects the father, the mother and father work together and love each other, the first kiss is magical,… The main character doesn’t know what his “super power” is, and he’s ridiculed for that. He is friends with the outcasts but finds out that sometimes the coolest people and the strongest relationships are those with individuals considered outcasts. Uplifting movie with a happy ending. A little too much cleavage and the bad guy is very violent—there is a pretty violent fight (no blood though), but otherwise I was not offended by language, clothing, or topics. For a non-Christian production, this was uplifting and fun.
My Ratings: Better than Average/4½
—Carie, age 36
Positive—As a father of 4 children, ages 10-16, we went and all enjoyed the movie. It was great to laugh throughout the film. I noticed nothing offensive. If there was mild profanity, it slipped under my radar screen, which is finely tuned for that stuff. The movie lends itself to discuss the topic of friendship and what type to look for. I would not be embarrassed having any of my friends children over to watch it. This is one to add to the DVD library.
My Ratings: Good/4
—Jim, age 45
Positive—This movie was wonderful! When the previews for it first came out, I was very skeptical, as there are so many super hero movies out there these days. With “The Incredibles” and “The Fantastic Four,” and all the other super-hero movies out there, it seemed like this one was just going to be another repeat of the same old thing. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was just the opposite! I took my brothers, who are 15 and 7 years old, with me and we had a great time. “Sky High” was a funny, entertaining movie with no objectionable scenes to speak of and no bad language (except for one or two uses of the word “jerk”). There is one character that has fire power, which could be a little scary for younger viewers, but it isn’t very extreme. The moral lessons in this movie are wonderful and the acting is great as well. The main character is very down-to-earth and likable, and the plot is not predictable like I was expecting! Thank you to everyone else who commented on this movie, because it helped me make the decision to see it. This is one of those rare movies that is worth paying to see at the theater!
My Ratings: Good/4½
—Nicole, age 20
Positive—I took my sons to this movie tonight. It was soooo good. I loved the story, it was full of action and laughs. We’ll be buying it on DVD when it comes out. If it weren’t so expensive to go to the theater, we’d probably go see it again! Loved it! We need more movies like this!
My Ratings: Better than Average/4
—mom of 3, age 29
Positive—This movie was wonderful! When the previews for it first came out, I was very skeptical, as there are so many super hero movies out there these days. With “The Incredibles” and “The Fantastic Four,” and all the other super-hero movies out there, it seemed like this one was just going to be another repeat of the same old thing. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was just the opposite! I took my brothers, who are 15 and 7 years old, with me and we had a great time. “Sky High” was a funny, entertaining movie with no objectionable scenes to speak of and no bad language (except for one or two uses of the word “jerk”). There is one character that has fire power, which could be a little scary for younger viewers, but it isn’t very extreme. The moral lessons in this movie are wonderful and the acting is great as well. The main character is very down-to-earth and likeable, and the plot is not predictable like I was expecting! Thank you to everyone else who commented on this movie, because it helped me make the decision to see it. This is one of those rare movies that is worth paying to see at the theater!
My Ratings: Good / 4½
—Nicole, age 20

Comments from young people
Positive—I really enjoyed this movie. It was fun and entertaining. I did not like the fact that the parents were so flippant about discipline. I also didn’t like the fact that the young boy was a little too flippant about who he was kissing, even if it was only once and for a short time. I think you should really find out who it is that your hanging out with before you start a strong relationship. Other than that, I found the movie quite enjoyable, funny, and family oriented. It was great compared to a lot of other movies (box office hits) rated R or even PG-13. This movie was much better. Compared to other movies, you just have to take the good with the bad because in this day and age, you’ll never find a totally perfect secular movie.
My Ratings: Good / 4
—Jessica Albert, age 16
Positive—A wonderful movie! Perfectly clean, good for kids and adults.
My Ratings: Good / 4½
—Luke Lybert, age 13
Positive—This movie was great!! I even have a fan site of it. It has a lot of comedy, and it kept our whole family laughing the entire movie. My favorite character was Warren Peace (one joke), who was the “wannabe bad guy” at school (war) and at home was nice, and endid up helping Layla(peace). The principal and the nurse were remembered from the Wonder Woman show. Anything that happend that was wrong was punished. The things people did right were praised. There was no foul language, but they did use the Lord’s name in vain once or twice. Also, Warren says to Will, “Dude, you are so stupid. Layla’s totally into you.” And they do say jerk once or twice. But that is it. Also, this movie does have some action violence, that may scare younger kids. The movie does get loud at times, especially around Coach Boomer. There were two kissing scenes, but they didn’t really show it. Another negative thing is that they are constantly making comments so that girls any guys are supposed to be equal. Other than those few things, this movie I would give two thumbs up!! Definatly for the entire family!!
My Ratings: Better than Average / 5
—Cassie, age 13
Positive—This movie was the best!! It’s my ultimate favorite!! I made a fansite of it. This is for adults too!! My favorite character is Warren Peace (get it?), who may possibly scare kids under 5. Only in the beginning of the movie though. This movie has no foul language (only a few words that younger kids may pick up and annoy parents), no nudity (or any referring to that kind of thing), no bloody violence (only mild action violence a.k.a.—a guy throwing fire). They say the Lord’s name in vain two or three times, which is great! It’s very rare for them to not say those things a lot through the movie. The good things were rewarded, the bad punished—sorta. The only subtle things that I did not like too much were that men, women and animals, nature etc. were qualified as equal. And, that Warren was told to get as many people out as possible and he only got out the main characters. And Layla only used her powers when SHE was slapped. Other than those few things, this movie is SO for the WHOLE family!!
My Ratings: Better than Average/5
—Kitty, age 13
Positive—…this movie was a fun one. My 9 year old brother and I… laughed lots! When the scary “bad guy” voice came on, it was a little scary, but that was only twice. A cute family flick!
My Ratings: Better than Average/3
—Kristen, age 16
Positive—…it was better than I had first imagined. Very little in the way of objectionable content (2 of the characters “make-out,” but it’s only mentioned, not seen). I personally didn’t hear any foul language (could have been my internal censor that skips that stuff), and the violence is very minor. If you’re worried about occultish ideas, then you may wish to note that there is a pyrokinetic, a cryokinetic, a florakinetic, etc. Also, this film has some good morals (friendship, obedience, etc), but no actual Christian teachings. Other than these things, there is nothing else wrong with the movie. The acting is great, the dialogue is great, the effects are great… besically, everything in the movie is great. So, I say, “Go enjoy it!”
My Ratings: Better than Average/4½
—Cody Chance, age 17
Positive—the movie was good but there was a lot of making-out.
My Ratings: Better than Average/4
—Rachel, age 12
Positive—I like it.
My Ratings: Excellent/5
—Josh, age 11
Positive—As a Christian, I did like this movie. It may be a little violent for kids 9 and younger. But overall I really enjoyed this movie.
My Ratings: Good / 4½
—Sarah, age 13
Movie Critics
…Comedy isn’t as easy as it looks. Making one that is equally enjoyable (and appropriate) for adults and children is nearly impossible. Movies like “Shrek,” “Finding Nemo” and “The Incredibles” are rarities. “Sky High” can be added to that short list…
—Paul Doro, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
…Clever comedy is a super family treat…
—John Monaghan, Detroit Free Press
…fun…
—Bill Muller, The Arizona Republic
…good-spirited fun with a family tilt…
—Robert Denerstein, Rocky Mountain News
…harmless family comedy…
—Mike Clark, USA Today