Re Sky High (2005):
The teen son of a world-saving husband and wife not unlike the animated couple in The Incredibles begins attending a secondary school for kids with superhuman powers. There, the enrollees are assigned the place of either hero or sidekick depending on the utilitarian value of their power; hence an unfortunate caste system exists.
The couple’s son, Will, discovers that his power is the same as his dad’s—extraordinary physical strength—certifiably not a sidekick gift. It is a hero’s, even though modest Will has made friends with sidekicks. In fact, his best friend, hippy girl Layla, is a sidekick by choice. Layla has a mighty crush on Will, who, however, has the hots only for toothsome Gwen, another hero. He obtains a foe in a truculent firestarter hero named Warren because Will’s father put Warren’s father, a scoundrel, behind bars. Fire Boy eventually wises up, however, and other anti-Will enemies take his place.
Sky High is neither great nor perfect pop cinema. It’s merely terrific. The story’s not quite a groaner, and it coheres. There is something fey about the movie, and it’s wildly goofy. Warren’s full name is Warren Peace! All a shape-shaping girl can change herself into is a guinea pig! And on and on. The teenagers often remind me of teenagers one meets at church; I like them. Michael Angarano plays Will with comic appeal, and he and his young co-performers outact Kelly Preston (as Will’s mom). Kurt Russell cartoonishly convinces as Will’s dad. Both the pretty Danielle Panabaker (Layla) and the very pretty Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Gwen) fill the bill, with the very pretty girl getting the harder role. The good director is Mike Mitchell.
In the 1969 picture, Medium Cool, Robert Forster skillfully purveys a TV photographer’s calm extroversion and no-nonsense defiance. He is true, and Peter Bonerz, as the sound man, is even truer. Verna Bloom (as Forster’s love interest) does everything possible to create a complex character, and shines with authenticity and poise.
There. I comment on the acting because, seemingly, far less has been opined about it than about everything else in this Haskell Wexler film. Highly topical in ’69, it is partly about social agitation and, especially, violence in what used to be present-day America. Its flaws have been well explained by critics like William Pechter, which flaws, I believe, sink Medium Cool. Though very imaginative, it’s a New Lefty political film which goes almost completely awry.
It is set in Chicago, indeed the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago. Talk about violence. Consider today’s violence in Chicago, New Lefties. Murder on top of murder.
Plenty of belly laughs are to be had from Jon Favreau‘s Elf (2003), but this holiday picture is not very smoothly and sensibly scripted. Favreau proves he can direct comedy, and Will Ferrell is nothing less than marvelous as an oversized elf . . . er, I mean a human raised by elves and who believes himself to be an elf. The chap’s unceasing childlikeness, though, began to wear on me, and that’s only the beginning of problems. Today’s Hollywood is poor at concocting comic stories, not even as adept as the inadequate Neil Simon. Elf is still worth seeing, but inspires hope no more than it does Christmas cheer.
And another thing: it’s a sad day when a scriptwriter (in this case, David Berenbaum) does not know that the ungrammatical phrase, “less and less people believe in Santa Claus” ought to be rendered “fewer and fewer people believe in Santa Claus.”