A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this music-filled high school flick stars tween favorites Vanessa Hudgens and Aly Michalka,so expect interest from kids familiar with their Disney projects.Although it's rated PG and doesn't have any drinking/smoking, violence, or strong language, the movie deals with a few mature themes-- like bullying, an absentee father, a chronically ill parent, and the ongoing quest for high school status. Be prepared for a few kisses, too (although nothing gratuitous), and product placement from the likes of Apple/iPod and Coke.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Frequently bullied high schooler Will Burton (Gaelan Connell) moves from Cincinnati to New Jersey with his supportive single mom (Lisa Kudrow). Prepared to once again be invisible, Will meets his match in Sa5m (the "5" is silent), a bookish-but-beautiful misfit played by Vanessa Hudgens, on his first day of school. Life changes even more dramatically when popular senior Charlotte (Aly Michalka) mysteriously befriends him and enlists him to manage her fledgling band as they prepare to compete in BANDSLAM, a multi-state competition for high school musical acts. Will instantly goes from friendless to juggling his friendship with Sa5m, his commitment to the band and Charlotte, and his responsibilities to his mom.
Is it any good?
Director Todd Graff's last film, Camp, was a delicious look at musical theater-buff teens, so it's not surprising that Bandslam (which is a good deal tamer than Camp) is such a charming little movie. Connell is perfectly cast as an adorable music geek -- and the fact he's not Zac Efron is part of the charm (Hudgens, after all, isn't playing Gabriela here). The movie makes you believe that young women as beautiful as Hudgens and Michalka would find Will attractive.
For parents who dig rock -- from classic to punk to indie -- Bandslam offers an amazing soundtrack, although not all the songs in the movie made it onto the official playlist. There's a recurring David Bowie joke that frames the story (Will writes him confessional emails), and in every scene at least half a dozen bands are discussed or played -- too many to count. The music (and Will's love for it) is what fuels the film, and whether it's Bowie or CBGB punk or the high school band Will pretentiously names I Can't Go On, I Go On, it all rocks.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the bullying and social jockeying that occurs in high school. Does this movie offer an honest, accurate depiction of that? Kids: How do you deal with bullying and cliques?
Dealing with the absence and/or loss of a parent is a heavy issue. How does the movie depict these themes?
What musical genres are mentioned in the movie? Kids: One of the main characters mentions how punk influenced later generations of musicians. Who influenced your favorite musicians?
- In theaters: August 14, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: March 16, 2010
- Cast: Alyson Michalka, Gaelan Connell, Vanessa Hudgens
- Director: Todd Graff
- Studio: Summit Entertainment
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: High School, Music and Sing-Along
- Run time: 111 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some thematic elements and mild language
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.