Joining that rarefied list of teen-band movies that include such gems as The Commitments and School of Rock (oh, all right they’re kids not teens, but you know what I mean), Bandslam is a bit of an odd fish.
About a band of misfits teens at a New Jersey high school who decide to get together and enter the hugely popular local Battle of the Bands contest called Bandslam (of course!) this film has an odd obsession with retro music for a movie aimed at today’s teens. Is that a bad thing? Well not necessarily, especially if you happen to be a fan of early punk rockers like The New York Dolls and The Clash, but how many of today’s teens even know who they are? And the film’s narrative does tend to tie itself in knots trying to be all things to all people with the misfits-make-a-band concept diluted somewhat by lots of hokey stuff about ‘being true to yourself’ and the like.
The somewhat unconvincing story is headlined by newcomer Gaelen Connell as a geeky outcast who idolises David Bowie and has a load of tracks from the seventies and eighties on his ipod but is supposed to be an expert on rock music! (Let’s just forget the last 20 years then, shall we?) Then we have Lisa Kudrow as his dippy, hippie, former rock chick mother (ie: Phoebe with grit and love beads). There’s also sweet clean-cut Vanessa Hudgens from High School Musical as an emo goth (what the..???). Phil of the Future star Alyson Michalka as the school’s ex-teen princess turned dedicated rocker. A cameo from Bowie himself and a big showcase finale featuring… Wait for it… A revamp of that old Bread song Everything I Own.
All things considered, I see Todd Graff‘s movie connecting more with the parents of today’s teen audience than the teens themselves. But, that said, there’s lots of enthusiasm from the young cast, the musical numbers are delivered with gusto and conviction and the big emotional moment when Phoebe, sorry Lisa Kudrow, explains why her son is such a right-on guy is really very touching.
However, was I the only one whose jaw dropped when our retro teen hero took a day trip to New York and started talking about some derelict record store in the Village being ‘the birthplace of Punk.’ Um, excuse me, but wasn’t that The King’s Road in Chelsea?
On general release from 12 August.
To activate the sound in the trailer: hold your cursor over the screen to reveal the control panel and click on the volume control in the bottom right-hand corner.