Please meet Judge Fran5ck Tab5ouring. By the way, the fives are silent.
Yes, Todd Graff's Bandslam is yet another teenage flick that follows a group of youngsters trying their luck as a band in a music competition, but unlike several other similar movies, this one actually works for most of its running time. It isn't exactly innovative, but definitely cares about its theme and conveys its messages in a more appealing way than many other films out there.
Facts of the Case
The story introduces us to Will Burton (Gaelan Connell), a lonely kid with a passion for music who heads to a new town and school and quickly finds himself immersed in the preparations for Bandslam, an ultra-popular competition in which talented high-school bands face off for a shot at instant fame. In addition to managing a band (which is awkwardly named "I Can't Go On, I'll Go On") and helping his new friends find their optimal rhythm, Will also finds the time to learn what it takes to maintain a healthy friendship, what it means to fall in love, and yes, what's it's like to kiss a girl.
Bandslam sets itself apart from other teenage flicks because it makes an effort to show viewers it really cares about its characters. Will and his new friends run into a bunch of issues I'm convinced many teenagers out in the real world experience as well, and the film takes a fairly realistic approach to have these characters deal with these problems and grow from what they're going through. In that sense, there is a lot of truth to discover, even though some of it isn't always conveyed in the most original way.
While Graff's film isn't innovative, it's not boring, either. At 111 minutes, Bandslam runs a tad too long, but the plot is blessed with a solid pace that keeps things interesting enough from start to end. Band rehearsal scenes as well as the final onstage competition at Bandslam provide some good entertainment, especially for younger viewers. This is a very harmless film, but it boasts a lot of heart and soul, despite the fact that some of the writing ends up being a bit too cheesy or over the top.
Will is most certainly the most complex and therefore also the most compelling character in the film, and Connell masters his role quite well. The transition from an outsider who gets bullied to an energetic young guy who starts to blossom by putting his passion into action and manage a band works very well, and we get to see Will experience a bunch of unexpected twists he's not quite ready for. Aly Michalka co-stars as a troubled senior who befriends Will but has some serious problems of her own, and the bonding between the two is sure to inspire viewers dealing with similar friendships or relationships.
Will's romantic interest is a girl named Sa5m, played by Vanessa Hudgens. The five in her name is silent, she insists, but in truth, the only thing it does is portray her as a total weirdo. Hudgens' performance is also not on the same level as the ones by Connell and Michalka, but at least she tries better here than in those dumb High School Musical movies. Luckily for her, some of the conversations she gets to share with Will are eventually quite meaningful, and that's always a good start.
On DVD, Bandslam looks fancy enough. The disc boasts a clean 2.35:1 widescreen presentation with solid image quality. The film is shot well and the picture is sharp and well graded, and the video transfer certainly does it justice. Music plays a big part in this movie as well, and the audio transfer succeeds as well. Technical credits help boost the film's overall level of quality.
Besides nine decent deleted scenes with optional audio commentary and two music videos, the bonus features also include a 21-minute behind-the-scenes look, in which cast and crew chat about how the film came together and what it was like to shoot it. It's a well-structured featurette that includes enough cool set footage and some interesting interviews with the filmmakers. Lastly, you van also check out the informative audio commentary with Graff, Hudgens, Connell and Michalka, who share some amusing anecdotes from the shoot and comment on the structure of most of the key scenes.
Even though the global storyline and most of the music seems like it's standard Disney Channel material, Bandslam takes a chance by following a bunch of young folks whose occasional awkwardness is warranted by the teenage problems they are dealing with. This is not necessarily a film with a lot of replay value, but it's got what it takes to entertain and actually inspire younger viewers. That doesn't happen often these days.
Not guilty. Now go rock the stage!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Summit Entertainment
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