Photo Credit: Summit Entertainment
Bandslam treads the well-worn path of music-dominated teen comedies. But within that frame work, it holds a surprising amount of charm. Our hero, the geeky Will, is a thoroughly pitiable figure, taunted at school, comforted only by his music and the e-mails he sends regularly to his idol, David Bowie. When his mother announces that the family is moving, Will is elated—until he decides, before they’ve packed a single box, that school and its inmates are the same everywhere. Of course, they aren’t, or this would be a much sadder film. At his new school, the respectively platonic and romantic affections of two beauties, Charlotte and the mopey Sa5m (“The 5 is silent,” she explains without a glimmer of humor), help him discover his place in teen society. He accomplishes this by managing Charlotte’s band and steering them to the mega-talent show Bandslam, where they’ll have to face her former group, fronted by her ex. Ah, Bandslam—the competition upon which everything in the movie turns but about which nothing is explained. Like how groups qualify. At least the soundtrack, filled with ‘70s and ‘80s rock and punk, won’t assault your ears.
Bandslam the movie is much better crafted than that mysterious talent competition. It will appeal to the now-growing-up High School Musical crowd, since it co-stars Vanessa Hudgens as Sa5m, and it’s not as slick or cliché. The stakes—finding something to call your own; grappling with a parent’s illness; trying to come to terms with an awful mistake another parent has made—are genuine, the outcomes realistic. I was grateful that Will never underwent a dramatic makeover or miraculously began to play with the band. When I saw Bandslam, the audience was packed with utterly captivated Girl Scouts. If only all tween movies could be like this.