Bandslam Review
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Dear David Bowie,

Last night, I saw this new movie, Bandslam. You kinda play a part in it, so you probably know what it’s about. Then again, you probably have people to handle those things for you.

So just in case you don’t know, it’s about this geeky high school kid, Will Burton (Gaelan Connell), who hates his life in Cincinnati because he doesn’t fit in. In fact, his only friend is you, David Bowie. He writes you pretty pointless letters all the time (just like the one I’m writing right now), even though you never write back. So when his single mom (Lisa Kudrow) gets a new job, he’s excited to move to New Jersey and start over. And it works.

Before long, Will’s got this Human Studies partner, Sa5m (the 5 is silent, in case you were wondering) (Vanessa Hudgens), who’s dry and bookish and weird, but at least she’s cute. And he’s got this gorgeous new friend, Charlotte (Aly Michalka). They have plenty of stuff in common—especially their love of indie rock. Charlotte’s putting together a band for the annual Bandslam competition, and she asks Will to be their manager. And, before you know it, they’ve got this really cool band.

And that should have been the whole movie: they work on their music, they go off to Bandslam, and they learn valuable lessons about being yourself and following your heart. It would have been a fluffy but lovable teen movie, complete with some surprisingly cool music.

Will’s pilgrimage to CBGB and the fact that he writes to you instead of, say, the Jonas Brothers, gives it a bit of cred in my book. Sure, it’s formulaic stuff, but it’s got all of the right ingredients: friendship, crushes, teen awkwardness, bullies, lovable losers…you name it. And the rock band edge makes it better than the average fluffy teen musical. And sure, the acting isn’t the best (especially from Hudgens, who really needs to spend less time taking pictures of herself and more time with an acting coach), and it has its awkward moments, but it’s entertaining anyway.

Unfortunately, though, it keeps going—and it gets all weird and heavy. All of the girls in Will’s life seem to go completely psycho. As if it weren’t bad enough that he’s painfully geeky (almost to the point that he’s uncomfortable to watch) and has a bad hairdo. Now he’s got three crazy chicks to deal with. There are two awkward love triangles, with Will’s possessive mom caught somewhere in the middle, and the story starts to wander through all kinds of melodrama.

Things do eventually lighten up a bit in the end—and the whole Bandslam thing is fun. But, by the time it finally gets there, the movie has been meandering around for so long that it’s a bit draining.

Had director Todd Graff cut out the heavy drama and kept things relatively light, Bandslam would have been a cute teen comedy with the usual inspirational messages. Instead, it’s needlessly complex and heavy, and it feels longer than it really is.

But here’s the thing, David Bowie: I can’t totally trash a movie because of a few misguided minutes—just like I couldn’t trash an artist for a bad song or two. You know how it is. So while Bandslam isn’t as light and fun as it could have been, I’ve got to give it credit for effort—and for looking beyond whichever fluffy pop star the kids are listening to this days.

Perhaps you should have thought twice about your involvement in an uneven teen movie like Bandslam, but I suppose it could have been worse. After all, you did wear that creepy codpiece in Labyrinth, and this will probably be a whole lot less embarrassing.

Rock on,

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