Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.



Review by Chris Keller

This is all starting to feel very…familiar. Last August, Yours Truly reviewed a film set around a bunch of outcast teenagers coming together to form a rock band, learning to be themselves and becoming semi-famous in the process. Well, the movie was called The Rocker, and it was not very good, in any sense of the word.  Cut to August 2009 – a film called Bandslam is centered on a group of outcast teenagers coming together to form a rock band, learning to be themselves and becoming semi-famous in the process. Guess what? Yup, it’s not very good either.

Bandslam stars newcomer Gaelan Connell as Will Burton, a loner teen who moves to New Jersey with his mom (played by Lisa Kudrow). Will soon catches the eyes of two very different girls at this new school: Sa5m - the five is silent, don’t you know – the Emo chick who shuns her talents in order not to conform (played by a very stoic Vanessa Hudgens) and Charlotte (real life pop singer Alyson Michalka), the former cheerleader who inexplicably takes a shine to Will. Will soon learns that Charlotte headlines her own band, which he somehow ends up managing within hours of meeting them. Sa5m and Will start to fall for each other, although Will is still confused about his feelings toward Charlotte and still cannot figure out why a beautiful senior (!) would hang with someone like him. There’s love, confusion, betrayal, friendship, motherly smothering, and seemingly way too much death for a PG rated film.

But do not get the wrong idea – none of these things are handled well. In fact, Bandslam is all over the place tonally. One minute, it’s a simple high school romance, albeit with something resembling an unrequited love triangle, and the next, it’s dealing with very adult issues, like sex and drunk driving. Gaelan does a well enough job portraying the range of emotions Will goes through – anything from heartbreak to extreme embarrassment. The only problem is that he only seems to have two faces – happy and not happy. And his not-happy face resembles a constipated serial killer on the verge of a breakdown.

The film eventually answers some important questions, but in doing so, some characters completely abandon their previous personalities and arcs. For example, it is revealed why Charlotte would hang around a bunch of outcasts, but the reason takes her from a likable side dish to a hurtful, vengeful villain in the process. This seems to be part of her character arc, but it’s so spiteful and selfish that whenever the audience is supposed to forgive her, we simply cannot.

And for a movie promising a Battle of The Bands, we are treated to only approximately 10 minutes of musical performances and over 100 minutes of standard romantic comedy affair, except without any comedy. While Bandslam is nowhere near being a well-made or well-acted movie, it seems to be a step in the right direction for newcomers Gaelan and Aly. I cannot say the same, however, for Vanessa Hudgens who seems to be taking a step backwards from her better musical franchise, High School Musical. One can only hope that the rest of her career will subtract the singing and add in some commendable acting ability.

2 / 5 stars

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