Rating: * * *
Verdict: Better than your average teen flick thanks to good music and a quirky sense of humour.
A music-driven comedy about a group of students who compete in a school band competition, Bandslam is for the kids who like to think they're too cool for High School Musical but secretly love the genre's corny storylines, happy endings, and upbeat musical performances.
Parents in the audience can also breathe a sign of relief, Bandslam has something for them, with a retro tone and an eclectic song list featuring David Bowie, the Velvet Underground, Wilco and Bread. It is not just the music that is more palatable than HSM, so are the characters.
Devoid of that syrupy Disney sweetness, director Todd Graff, who also co-wrote the screenplay, has given his characters real life issues outside the high school setting, which makes them more interesting than your average cliched teen. Collectively they're a funny, odd bunch of misfits who connect through their love of music and teenage angst.
Will Burton (Gaelan Connell) is the guy who brings them all together. The new kid in town, he's part lovable geek and part annoying music freak, almost a teenage version of John Cusack's character Rob Gordon in High Fidelity. The most unpopular student at his last high school in Cincinnati, he's accepting of his "outcast" status within the high school hierarchy, but in moving to New Jersey where the kids love their music there's a slim chance he might just fit in.
Teaming up with Charlotte (Alyson Michalka), a hot senior who has recently realised there's more to life than cheerleading, Will's job is to manage and finely tune her band I Can't Go On I'll Go On in preparation for the tri-state Battle of the Bands-like competition, Bandslam.
As Will pieces the band together he also begins his first awkward romance with Sa5m (the 5 is silent), an introverted loner with a wicked voice, played by HSM's Vanessa Hudgens. She might be playing her HSM character's alter ego, but it's hard to separate her from the musical series that made her a teen star.
The story unfolds far too slowly and, as you'd expect, there are plenty of feelgood moments as geeks become rock gods, but it's the quirky sense of humour that gives Bandslam its edge. With a storyline that should appeal to teens, a nice sharp narration, and music most adults will be familiar with, Bandslam is a pretty good choice when it comes to family entertainment these holidays.
Cast: Gaelan Connell, Vanessa Hudgens, Lisa Kudrow
Director: Todd Graff
Running Time: 111 mins
Rating: * * *