Posted on August 13, 2009 at 5:58 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for some thematic elements and mild language
Profanity: Mild language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Sad deaths, tense confrontations, bullying
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: August 14, 2009

A little edgier than the “High School Musical” series and a little smarter than the usual tween fare, “Bandslam” is a refreshing late-summer treat for tweens, teens, and their families from the always-welcome Walden Media, a top provider of quality family entertainment.

Will Burton (Gaelan Connell), an Ohio music-loving loner who knows his Thin Lizzie from his Velvet Underground and has mental conversations with David Bowie, is relieved and delighted when his single mother (Lisa Kudrow) tells him that they are moving to New Jersey. He is often picked on, with no friends, and he looks forward to starting over in a new school.

Though he fears it will be just like Ohio (“Different kids, same me”), the new school is different. A music group competition called Bandlam is “Texas high school football big.” A confident and popular senior named Charlotte (“Aly & AJ’s” Aly Michalka) invites him to help her take care of the day care kids, and they become friends. Once a part of the school’s champion band Glory Dogs, Charlotte and some other musicians are forming a new group. Before he knows it, Will is their manager, naming them for a line from “Waiting for Godot” — “I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On.” Will is in “uncharted territory,” making friends, separating from his mother, and even developing feelings of more than friendship for the winsome Sa5m (“The 5 is silent”) (HSM’s Vanessa Hudgens).

There are heartaches, misunderstandings, and setbacks (this is high school, after all), but there is music and there is a public apology (this is a romance, after all), and triumph (it is a movie for kids after all).

Hudgens, unfortunately, is saddled with a character who speaks in monotones. It would be nice to see her in a role that gives her more of a chance to show her spirit. Newcomer Connell is able, especially in his scenes with Kudrow, who makes the most of her underwritten mom role. Michalka has the most challenging role and handles it very capably. The characters talk rock but sing pop. Only Michalka has a rocker’s attitude. But these characters have more depth and believability than most movies in this genre. Director Todd Graff, who made “Camp,” again shows his sympathetic understanding for kids who want to perform. And, most important, this movie has a strong foundation in its understanding of classic rock that does as much as any of the writing, directing, or performers to keep us rooting for Will’s group to go on.

Related Tags:


Date movie Drama Movies -- format Musical

12 Replies to “Bandslam”

  1. I would just like to add, that although I enjoyed the movie, and mostly agree with the comments, the movie is made by Summit and Walden Media, not Disney.

  2. Nell–
    I very much agree with your review. Coming a week after John Hughes’ death, don’t you think this is a movie he would be proud of?

  3. Hi Nell, what do you think about Vanessa Hudgens and her inability to keep her clothes on?
    Just recently, only a few years after her last nude photo was leaked, yet another one of hers has been leaked. I understand it’s a milestone of some sort for young Hollywood, but does it bother you when they keep starring in Disney/family friendly material?
    I’d love to hear your thoughts!

  4. Bandslam was Breakfast Club meets Almost Famous. Finally, a movie I can see with teens & tweens that is smart, touching & funny instead of corny or wildly inappropriate. I liked that there was no catty/trashy girls, cursing or sexytime…just witty dialogue & an engaging plot. Tears & many laugh out loud moments…from a PG movie no less!

  5. A great description, Nicole! You got it just right. Yes, I really liked this one, for all the reasons you said, plus, no makeovers! The girls were just fine as they were. Thanks for a great comment!

  6. Bandslam is set to possibly be one of the hit movies of the summer. Bandslam is about a high school garage band determined to win a battle of the bands (cliché), wherein the geeky kid falls for the popular female lead singer (ostensibly cliché), and the band performs pop-rock, especially Cheap Trick’s “I want you to want me.” (Really cliché.) In the end, the band is signed to a record deal by an established music personality (aggressively cliché), in this case David Bowie. The movie reviews have all been glowing, as critics avoid giving honest critiques of films of this sort. Many tweens and their parents will likely line up a pay day loan to see Bandslam.

  7. Hi, Bandslam! I think as you see more movies you will realize that there are only about a dozen different plots, and it’s been that way going back to ancient mythology. That doesn’t make everything a cliché. And there’s nothing wrong with that — what makes the difference is it’s how it’s done, the details of the way the characters are defined, the quality of the dialog. I can’t speak for other critics, but I can say that I gave this movie a “glowing” review because it was the usual story done much better than usual. As I explained in my review.
    I’d love to see your idea for a non-cliché screenplay! (Really!) Thanks for writing and have a wonderful and cliché-free day.

  8. I cannot believe how great this movie was. Both my wife and I are in our 30’s and grew up with Lisa Kudrow on Friends. It was a little off-putting to see her as the mom of a high school teenager… but then I looked at ourselves and saw that we are parents of a teenager as well. What happened?
    I noticed that you were surprised that Vanessa was muted in this movie. I actually really enjoyed that aspect of it. To me, it seemed to make her more believable as a teenager. When we were kids in school we didn’t have scripted lines and witty comebacks, we were lucky if we could get through the day without tripping over ourselves and when we did, we hoped that nobody noticed. To me, it was refreshing to see her play a character that was insecure about her feelings and in the end, able to shine and come back from her previous failure.
    But I am so impressed with newcomer Gaelan Connell. I am so grateful that the director made the movie about him, and let him lead the movie. I think if they let Vanessa and Aly take over the movie, it would have been too much like High School Musical (which is an unrealistic teen movie). Instead it let us see how we can never judge a book by its cover.
    At the end of the movie, my wife and I could not stop talking about it. It was the kind of movie that my wife wishes I had taken her to a couple weeks ago (I took her to GI-Joe and I think tonight finally made up for that mistake) 🙂

  9. Dear Dav5id (the 5 is silent, I presume?) — What a wonderful comment! Many thanks. I am so happy that you liked the film. It has been disappointing at the box office, but I believe if the studio and theater owners are patient it will find its audience. (But after “G.I Joe,” I think you still owe your wife another movie — maybe “Julie & Julia?”)

  10. Honestly? You’re comparing this to Highschool Musical? Obviously, this movie was not meant as a “family movie”. This is a movie for teenagers, the non-steriotypical ones. The teenagers that can understand the dry humor in this movie. Not the teen fangirls of twilight. Honestly, I love this movie, and Cliche’? Name another movie like this! It’s just not an average movie, Its outside the lines and most do not appreciate that.

  11. Hi, Cameron — I think if you go back and read the first and last sentences of my review you will see that I agree. I’m glad you appreciate this film. Thanks for writing!

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