Friday, March 19, 2010

Quick Look: Bandslam (2009)

Bandslam doesn’t have much reason to recommend it, but at least it has little reason to be avoided. It’s mushy and harmless, soft, and agreeably peppy. Though director Todd Graff’s and Josh A. Cagan’s screenpaly has problems with pacing and tone, and runs entirely too long, it is performed by a likable young cast (including the relatively unknown Gaelan Connell and two Disney Channel alums, Vanessa Hudgens and Alyson Michalka) who adequately fill a very familiar underdog arc; this time it’s a group of teens who pull together to, gosh darn it, win a record deal in a local contest. (Though, if we’re supposed to cheer for their victory, maybe their band could be a little better?) The movie’s oddly burdened with a strange set of weightier material, including a secret tragedy from the past, that doesn’t quite fit with the gently enjoyable nature of the rest of the film. But the tricky material is nonetheless handled quite well, with great tact and care as the characters are all treated with sympathy and respect. They’re even allowed to be visibly human at times. This is a mostly squeaky-clean family dramedy, but it’s not painfully sugar-coated or unnaturally divorced from the real world. This isn’t exactly groundbreaking in any way, and it’s certainly not any better than it needs to be, but for what it is, it’s not all bad. It even has one aspect genuinely approaching excellence, the biggest asset the movie has: Lisa Kudrow. She turns in a genuinely touching portrait of a fully believable single mom. She’s underused with a character that’s undeveloped, but Kudrow makes the most of every little scene she gets.

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