A Look Back: Sky High

As a rule, the logistics of being a superhero do not tend to be explored either when establishing a backstory or advancing on to Save the Planet. But sometimes you gotta wonder. What happens if you order replacement tights or a breast shield from Amazon, and you get a notice in your email that they’re on back order – so very sorry, but these things do happen? In the era where everyone carries a cell, where do you go to change from your street clothes into your super costume when you receive an urgent bulletin that someone is in trouble? Is there a gene for superpowerism – and is it dominant or recessive? If your children don’t inherit your powers, what is a viable career path for you to point them toward?

The last question is, in fact, explored in a 2005 film “Sky High.” Most parents, at least today, are convinced that their kids are truly extraordinary, but what happens if they are wrong? While this may not matter much in a world where no one is gifted with superpowers – the odds that they’ll find their niche with love and support is likely to occur, in one where every other child is suddenly flying around the livingroom or turning twigs into apple-bearing trees with a touch, this presents a problem. (This is the reverse of “Matilda” in which Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman kept failing to notice that their daughter really was a telekinetic genius, even as ordinary objects zoomed around them.) Like the Harry Potter-verse, in the world of “Sky High,” it’s common for superpowers to manifest themselves with the coming of puberty. So when Will (Michael Angarano), son of The Commander (Kurt Russell) and Jetstream (Kelly Preston), who is about to start his freshman year at Sky High, fails to show any signs of this, he lets his parents assume otherwise. His best friend/love interest, Danielle Panabaker, does have the aforementioned twig-transforming talent, but she doesn’t treat as any big deal and loyally keeps Michael’s secret when the movie opens.

The next day, Michael and his fellow newbies are transported to Sky High in a flying bus driven by Kevin Hefferman who is a Squib, er, I mean the non-super-powered offspring of two superheroes, but who is good-natured about the whole deal. Once there, the freshies are taken to the gym so that they can put on the Sorting Hat – er, give a display of their particular power so they can be sorted into the Hero or Sidekick track. Because Danielle refuses to display hers, she and Michael are put in the latter track, which is not exactly going to propel them to Super Ivy League heights. However, Kurt, still under the impression that Michael has powers, later takes him into his inner sanctum and shows him his most impressive weapon – the Pacifier, which he took off a supervillain in his younger years called (no snickering now) Royal Pain. Like father, like son!

Things take a turn for the better when Michael gets into an altercation with the school bully (Steven Strait), finally manifests super-strength, and is promptly whisked off to the cushy Hero track. He also attracts the eye of a super-popular senior (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who doesn’t mind robbing the cradle; this however, puts her at odds with Danielle as you might expect. Also, there is a super-villain who is still nursing old wounds and who plans to get revenge big-time. You know how this is going to pan out – with everyone learning a Valuable Lesson about respecting differences, and with the world safely saved.

Sky High” is a tad derivative, but then what movie isn’t in this genre? It doesn’t take itself too seriously (hence some of the cheesy names), and is chock full of super-fun. It also caught fire when it comes to the endless fan fiction churned out by writers who dream of having super-powers. Enjoy.