Teenager Will Burton (Gaelan Connell) is something of an outsider at school, his only interest music. When his mum Karen (Lisa Kudrow) gets a job in New Jersey, Will starts his junior year at a new school only to find the old cliques still apply, but rock-n-roll rules the scene. Will strikes up a friendship with like-minded outsider Sa5m "the 5 is silent" (Vanessa Hudgens). And even more surprisingly, the school's "it" girl, Charlotte (Alyson Michalka) recruits Will to assemble a band to compete in Bandslam, a battle of the bands that is a very big deal.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
With its combination of high energy music, a terrific young cast (with the relatively youthful Lisa Kudrow as a mum) and its well structured screenplay, Bandslam is an above average coming of age dramatic comedy. There is plenty of texture and several layers to the story, which is primarily about Will (Gaelan Connell), a rather ordinary kid whose one great asset is his profound knowledge of contempo music - and that's not just knowledge about musicians and bands, but about the actual workings of rock music. He frequently writes (electronically) to David Bowie, never expecting to hear back, documenting his daily fears, frustrations and hopes.
Connell is an unlikely hero, with the hang dog looks and low self esteem; but that's the film's major appeal to the many kids who will flock to see him overcome these social obstacles and make beautiful music of his life. At least until the end credits.
Will has a triangular relationship with two girls from school - but one is platonic. The triangle still injects tension at times, as does Lisa Kudrow's single mum, whose late husband has left a painful legacy for Will, a legacy of demons he has to overcome - at one stage almost physically. Kudrow is great as the caring, devoted (and therefore interfering) mother. She is the only parent we meet; the other missing father is Charlotte's dad. Charlotte (Alyson Michalka) has a different obstacle in her relationship with him, and as for the gorgeous Vanessa Hudgens, we don't get to know anything about her parents. She plays Sa5m, with the 5 silent, a blatant symbol of her individuality. Hudgens has both the beauty and the brains to generate plenty of interest, a natural stillness that's star material and a heart melting smile. She becomes the centre of our interest and remains at the emotional core of the film throughout.
Todd Graff orchestrates the plot elements with skill and brings the emotional and musical climax together in synch with the story climax, so the payoff comes as a multiple hit.
Published December 30, 2009
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BANDSLAM: DVD (PG)
CAST: Vanessa Hudgens, Alyson Michalka, Gaelen Connell, Lisa Kudrow, Charlie Saxton, Tim Jo, Scott Porter
PRODUCER: Ron Schmidt, Marisa Yeres, Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas
DIRECTOR: Todd Graff
SCRIPT: Todd Graff, Josh A. Cagan
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Eric Steelberg
EDITOR: John Gilbert
MUSIC: Junkie XL
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jeff Knipp
RUNNING TIME: 111 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hoyts
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 13, 2009
PRESENTATION: 16: 9
SPECIAL FEATURES: None
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Sony Pictures Releasing Home Entertainment
DVD RELEASE: December 30, 2009