|Genre(s): Comedy / Drama / Music|
|Summit Entertainment || PG - 111 minutes - $25.99 || March 16, 2010|
|Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2010-04-02|
Writer(s): Josh A. Cagan (story), Josh A. Cagan and Todd Graff (screenplay)
Cast: Aly Michalka, Vanessa Hudgens, Gaelan Connell, Lisa Kudrow
Theatrical Release Date: August 14, 2009
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Plot (from DVD back cover): Ultra-popular Charlotte (ALY MICHALKA) is determined to face off against her ex at the country’s biggest music competition. She just needs a band. Newcomer Will (GAELAN CONNELL) knows more about musicians than anyone. He just needs a friend. And rebel guitar player Sa5m (VANESSA HUDGENS) has a wicked voice but needs someone to believe in her. Together, this unlikely trio will take on Bandslam in a way no one thought possible.
Back in late 2009 I vaguely remembered seeing Bandslam on the release list but didn’t think much about it. And then I saw that Summit was set to release the DVD and thought, why not give myself a break from the bigger releases and give something different a try. That something different, Bandslam took me by surprise. It’s a film full of memorable and quotable lines that ranks right up there (at least cult wise) with Diablo Cody’s Juno, in fact this is a far better movie.
On the surface, the film doesn’t look like it would be anything special. In fact, Summit Entertainment seemed to have marketed it as a Vanessa Hudgens movie akin to High School Musical when it’s anything but. First, the movie actually stars relative unknown Gaekan Connell as Will (in fact, that was originally going to be the title, “Will”) and he does a great job in a role that perhaps on the page seems like a walking indie cliché we’ve seen so many times before (and no doubt in the future).
And in other ways, Vanessa Hudgens, taking on an Ally Sheedy-like Breakfast Club character, and Aly Michalka in a more mature role, both do good jobs with well written parts. Michalka plays a former popular high school girl befriending an outcast boy while Hudgens takes on the loner role much better than I thought she would, though I still don’t buy it completely, but I liked her in a part where doesn’t even sing until towards the end. So, kudos to her and Michalka for taking roles that doesn’t feed into their Disney personas.
Taking on what normally could be the thankless adult/parent role is Lisa Kudrow playing Will’s mother. Having not really seen her in much out of “Friends”, you forget that she’s more than the ditzy persona and she does a touching performance in a limited role. There was one scene, towards the end, was brilliant and shows what a talent Kudrow is.
The sad part about Bandslam is the fact that the studio, Summit Entertainment, did not give it the proper marketing it deserved. This is a great flick that was critically praised (80% on Rotten Tomatoes) and tested well by audiences, yet any trailers were marketed towards the High School Musical/Vanessa Hudgens crowd rather than a more Juno/School of Rock audience. The film went on to a $2m opening and a mere $5m domestic total. Truly sad that this is a fun movie almost nobody has seen. Hopefully with the DVD market, it will find a cult following.
Overall, despite a little all too convenient plot devices a tidy little bow on the story, Bandslam is a great film worth seeing. The entire cast works well with one another and if not for a lousy marketing campaign, this could’ve found a wider audience. In any case, if you see this on Netflix or your local video store (if you still have one), don’t hesitate to check it out.
Bandslam: Making the Bad (21:12) is a typical EPK featurette hosted by Vanessa Hudgens and Aly Michalka that looks like it was originally made for the Disney Channel. The duo read off of a badly written script explaining what the film is about and, ultimately, why you should see it. The cast and crew talk about the characters, the script and other making-of clichés. All of it is intermingled with behind-the-scenes footage and footage from the movie.
Audio Commentary – Director Todd Graff & Stars Aly Michalka and Vanessa Hudgens join for a fun track talking about the production and little behind-the-scenes tid-bits. Some of the more interesting info was the fact the band scenes were performed live and Gaelan Connell’s uncontrollable flatulence. Gaelan does come in to participate on the track about 70-minutes in adding a little more to the conversation.
Deleted Scenes (14:57) – There are 8 scenes excised from the movie mainly, as director Todd Graff explains in the intros for each, for pacing purposes or one’s that didn’t add much to the film.
Last on the disc is a soundtrack Music Video (3:55) by Honor Society and Vanessa Hudgens – Musical Performance (2:58) of “Everything I Own”. Both videos features clips from the movie and the musical performance was yet another ill advised promotional piece, not because Hudgens was good (the song was fine), but it only made people think this was indeed HSM4.
.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.
Bandslam sports an unusually good video transfer, especially for a DVD. The movie is presented with a 2.35 aspect ratio, which is surprising for a teen comedy and overall it looks good with some decent detail levels. The picture also has a good color range throughout and seems to be void of dust and scratches giving this one of the better video presentations I’ve seen on DVD in a while.
The Dolby Digital 5.1, while nothing outstanding, does its job especially since this is music-centric. The audio has a good amount of depth and the subwoofer, particularly during the Bandslam itself, is raucous but not over the top.
Bandslam is one of the bigger surprise movies of 2009. It unfortunately never got the marketing it deserved but now on DVD I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend anyone remotely interested to give it a shot. This is not some lame Disney movie and instead a great film about indie music with fun and unique characters you can’t help but like.