Reviewed by: Martin Gray

What a shame the title Not Another Teen Movie is already taken, as this sums up Bandslam nicely. Music-obsessed misfit Will (Gaelen Connell) is thrilled to move to a new school, giving him a chance to make some friends. Or at least meet different bullies. He's amazed when he's befriended by gorgeous and talented senior Charlotte (Alyson Michalka), who wants him to manage her geek-filled band. Also brightening Will's life is gorgeous and sensitive junior Sa5m - how I wish that were a misprint - played by Vanessa Hudgens.

Can he get something going with Sa5m while steering Charlotte's band to success in the Bandslam talent contest, beating her old outfit, fronted by her ex Ben (Scott Porter)? Or will Ben scupper their chances by fair means or foul?

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So far, so cliched. Outsider kids with a shot at the big time. What makes this film so good is writer/director Todd Graff, who coaxes terrific performances from his young cast and really makes you care about them and their silly teenage travails. He pulled off a similar trick with Camp, and while Bandslam has lots in common with that 2003 film - music-loving misfits putting on a show and impressing a cameoing celeb - the flavour is different enough that deja vu is kept at bay. The music is strictly old school - Will loves Bowie and ska - but infused with the pizzazz needed to make it fresh, and the final talent contest is a delight.

Connell manages to convey broody without making Will annoyingly self-absorbed, while Michalka has a heartbreaking Michelle Williams quality. This is my first exposure to High School Musical star Hudgens - guess who's not a parent? - but she gives a funkier Katie Holmes here. Lisa Kudrow is superb as Will's overprotective single mom, always worried about him when she should be getting her own life. There's not a trace of Friends' Phoebe as Kudrow foregoes the adorable for the real.

This isn't just a movie for the tweenies. Heck, it's maybe not for the tweenies at all, it's for anyone who enjoys smart, light drama with engaging characters and a formulaic plot that delights in lobbing curves left and right.

Reviewed on: 01 Sep 2009
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High-minded school musical.
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Director: Todd Graff

Writer: Josh A. Cagan, Todd Graff

Starring: Alyson Michalka, Vanessa Hudgens, Gaelan Connell, Scott Porter, Ryan Donowho, Charlie Saxton, Lisa Kudrow, Tim Jo, Elvy Yost, Lisa Chung, J.W. Wright, Blair Bomar, Casey Williams, Maggie Maye, Jennifer Blair

Year: 2009

Runtime: 111 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US


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