It's been a while since I last wrote something here and I do have an explanation for that but that will have to be done in the next entry because it's so hilarious that it deserves its own spotlight. For now however, I'd like to focus on reviewing one of the latest movies I saw. Our little city has not had any cinema/movie theater for at least 15 years now and since this is such a small city, theaters have difficulty operating profitably and has focused on showing either titillating films and/or those movies with mass appeals (mostly locally produced ones) that are so corny you'd drown in 10 truckloads of corn kernels while watching them. So anyway, during movie night we watched Bandslam.
I'm probably one of the very few people who actually prefer feel-good, predictable, and teenybopper films. I know saying that contradicts the other statement I made about corny films but with all due respect to the filmmakers of our nation, most Pinoy movies are really worse than the worst Hollywood-produced teenybopper movie you've seen. So knowing that Bandslam starred the likes of Vanessa Hudgens, I was expecting it to be a High School Musical-esque kinda film. But I was extremely wrong. Sure the movie had all the elements of the classic teenybopper/feel good/musical-themed movies but there's so much charm in the film that it somehow manages to elevate it self two notches higher than the movies of the same genre/target audience.
To recap, Bandslam is about two (plus one later) teenagers forming an unusual bond through their shared love of music. They would later assemble a crew of like-minded misfits and social outcasts to form a rock group that would later perform in a battle of the bands competition called "Bandslam". Because of its coming-of-age and musical themes, the movie had trite moments but the story presentation was handled so tastefully that it actually delivers despite the rather formulaic parts. Plus, all of the main characters: Vanessa Hudgens (Sa5m - pronounced as Sam with a silent 5), Gaelan Connell (Will Burton) and Aly Michalka (Charlotte Barnes) actually developed rather beautifully that you'd grow to love them despite the stereotypical natures of their characters. Plus, Lisa Kudrow is her usual brilliant self. Lisa plays Will's mom and unlike most teen film moms, the approach she gave her character is refreshing and becomes an integral part of the progression of the movie. On the plus side too, the film's source of conflict is rather unusual. Typical rom-coms would have its two main characters falling out because someone either cheated or was being untrue to himself/herself. While Bandslam had those bits, Charlotte's experiment and her reasons why as one of the films sources of conflicts was rather new and a welcome relief.
I also enjoyed Will's growth especially when he was placed under such a pressure situation. I was expecting him to breakdown but instead he used his pain to recover and made an amazing introduction for the band. Despite his internal conflicts, I do believe that the maturity he has gained from all those experiences made him a credible manager for such a band. Vanessa Hudgens was easy to love too. The character she played was admittedly very reminiscent of the Adam's family's Wednesday (with the black clothes and monotone) voice but when she started gaining confidence you'd see a sparkle in her eyes that makes you believe that she was actually born to perform. The supporting cast offers a great comic relief too. I especially loved the drummer and his affections for Will's mom. The bassists and guitarist are also perfect for each other even the brass players. The band also has characters who only knew how to play classical music (one is even obsessed with keeping her cello tuned) and watching them grapple with new types of music is really fun.
Another plus factor is of course the movie's music. It has everything from punk, rock, reggae, rap, ska and so much more. Plus, I really enjoyed how balanced "I Can't Go On, I'll Go On" in terms of identity and the kind of music they played. Phil's song (Somebody to Fall Back On) was such a sweet sweet song that I actually almost cried listening to it. I Can't Go On, I'll Go On's version of Everything I Own (Vanessa Hudgen's rendition) was also so amazing. American Idol ought to learn from them on how to make something familiar your own; and how to make it modern and relevant while still retaining its nostalgic feel. And also, the cameo appearance of Will's hero was so sweet! You'll have to find out who it is.
Overall, I'm pretty happy about the movie. It's kind of sad though that the film didn't do well commercially. Critically however, I believe it's a gem. Would have enjoyed watching it in the cinema but watching it on DVD is also really worth it. And no, actually owning the DVD is way cooler than just renting it. I believe it's worth the money and I feel like I can actually watch this again if only for the music. So in conclusion, here's a video montage of the film with Someone to Fall Back On in the background. Enjoy!