School of Soft Rock

School today was like Guantanamo with a lunch period - Will

Vanessa Hudgens and Gaelan Connell in Bandslam (2009)

After his mum gets a new job and they relocate to New Jersey Will Burton (Gaelan Connell - Chocolat) starts a new school where he discovers he is not the only misfit loner when he meets the cute Sa5m (Vanessa Hudgens). He also meets senior Charlotte (Aly Michalka - Easy A) who has her own band and wants Will, who has a huge knowledge of music, to manage her band and get them ready for Bandslam, the annual inter school battle of the bands competition.

So on face value "Bandslam" is a very obvious movie as we watch Will start a new school and being a bit of a loner finds a friend in Sa5m another loner. And continuing the obvious we watch how because he is a music geek ends up managing a band who are competing in Bandslam, a band fronted by the hot and older Charlotte. What follows is some obvious romantic issues whilst we watch the band become really good and we get the big competition at the end. And just for good measure have Will's mum struggle with her son becoming more confident and having 2 girl friends. As such "Bandslam" serves up few surprises as it goes from A to B with the B being the powerful moment when the band performs at Bandslam. There are typical ups and downs, arguments, new experiences and rivalries along the way delivering cliche moments of drama and humour.

Aly Michalka and Lisa Kudrow in Bandslam (2009)

If that was all there was to "Bandslam" then it would be both run of the mill and flawed, flawed for many reasons but most notably both Sa5m and Charlotte are smoking hot and not the sort of girls you would expect to become friends with the awkward and shy Will. But what makes this movie more is that Will, Sa5m and Charlotte have back stories which we learn about as the movie progresses. It means that to start with we wonder why the beautiful Sa5m is such a loner yet we learn why, we wonder why Charlotte who was the head cheerleader now helps out with young children and why Will ends up being bullied where ever we goes. It basically makes these characters more than thin caricatures and we warm to each of them especially as Aly Michalka, Vanessa Hudgens and Gaelan Connell do a good job of creating characters rather than just saying their lines.

Plus of course we have the musical side of "Bandslam" and whilst it's hard to believe at times that Will gets excited by the thought of punk and the softening of rock is a little cheesy the musical side is entertaining. Watching Will basically piece the band together and find its sound is fun and so are the jokes surrounding them trying to be someone else especially Bug who is trying to be Flea from the Chilli Peppers. And whilst the big final musical scene is heavily choreographed to gain an emotional response it definitely works.

Whilst "Bandslam" is definitely a movie which targets the young teenager it does have a broader appeal. That broader appeal comes partly from the fact we have real characters but also because of Lisa Kudrow who plays Will's mum. Kudrow delivers some nice moments of comedy, be it when she realises Will is growing up or the whole joke about teenage drummer Basher thinking she is a smoking hot older chick.

What this all boils down to is that "Bandslam" is a pleasant surprise as whilst it looks cliche and a movie just for young teenagers it features characters with depth and interesting sub plots which makes it entertaining for older audiences too.

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