It’s the summer of 2005. Everyone is wearing oddly layered tops, jeans, and clunky hats. The superhero craze is just starting to boom with films like X-Men, Fantastic 4, Spider-Man, and even Disney’s first foray into the genre, The Incredibles taking hold of ages young and old.
And in the midst of it all: Sky High.
I don’t remember if I actually saw the movie in theaters or not (yes, it actually did come out in theaters and it wasn’t a Disney Channel movie), but I do remember that I won the DVD in a Disney raffle basket just after it had been released. It wasn’t one of the movies that I watched all the time, but it was a rather frequent one growing up. I’m not sure what exactly attracted me to it, but I think I found it funny and action-packed, and I really liked all of the characters.
I was thinking of that old raffle basket last week and telling my husband about it. When I mentioned Sky High, we both laughed, as neither of us had seen it in years. My husband suggested we watch it, and I heartily agreed.
So, we fired it up and settled down to watch. I was prepared to cringe and laugh at the awfulness, but as the movie started and the first 15 minutes or so went by, I found myself saying, “Wait, why is this actually good?”
And I said it a few more times throughout the movie. Y’all, this movie is a hidden gem. Yes, it’s very early-2000s and cringey at parts, but overall? Heck, it’s a pretty solid film, and here’s why.
Every Character Shines
This is the main thing that struck me about the film. Every single character, no matter how much screen time they have, is unique and memorable. Part of this may be due to the fact that most of them have some kind of distinct superpower, but there are many other factors that contribute to this too.
Think about the school nurse from the beginning of the film. She has maybe 2-3 minutes in the whole movie, but if you’ve seen Sky High, you probably remember her! She has such a distinct personality that she’s unforgettable, even with just that brief scene.
And more than that, many of the characters get fleshed out as well. Think of Warren Peace, the crowd favourite, who may be angry all the time at school but really just works at a Chinese restaurant and is actually pretty chill and funny (get the name?). Despite the fact that all of these characters have superpowers, there’s something so natural about them that we can all relate to.
I also have to put in a note that the characters’ clothing and appearance contribute to this as well; every single is visually unique, making them stand out in your memory! Props to the costume department.
The Plot Isn’t Totally Predictable
This is one of those movies where you actually forget about the climax of the film, even if you’ve already seen it, because it’s hidden so well. On the surface, the movie seems to be about the drama in a superhero high school and nothing more. Then, of course, as the story goes on, you uncover layers that eventually lead to the (slightly overly) dramatic climax.
But this isn’t obvious from the beginning, which, when you think about most Disney movies, is actually pretty impressive. In my opinion, the whole Gwen being Royal Pain thing is actually a pretty neat twist; it reminds me of something I would write, in fact. And yet, you don’t pick up on Gwen being evil until pretty late in the film.
Essentially, well-played, script writers. Well-played.
Theme of Breaking Down Prejudices
I think that one of the reasons that Sky High really still feels so relevant is that it sort of is. The main underlying theme of the whole movie is that everyone has the ability to use their “powers” (whether super or not) for good or for evil—but we all have different abilities that are neither greater nor lesser than anyone else’s.
In the movie, the secret superhero world is built on the fundamental principle that some powers are better than others, which means some people are better than others. It’s pretty clever how you see that nearly every single character is completely immersed in this prejudice against sidekicks at the beginning of the movie, and then one by one, the barriers are broken down until the end of the movie when it’s acknowledged by essentially the king of all superheroes that sidekicks are heroes just like him.
As prejudices still abound in our world today, it’s a pretty powerful message about how blind so many people can be to a prejudice they were brought up with. On a smaller scale, it speaks to everyone who’s gone through a normal high school experience and had to deal with all of the cliques and stereotypes.
Essentially, Sky High says that we are all powerful in our own right—we just have to use our powers in the right way.
Not As Important, but Come On, the Music!
I’m convinced that they had to have spent at least 80% of their budget on getting the rights to the songs in this film. But I’m glad they did, because they fit perfectly! As we all know, “I Melt With You” playing at the end of the movie is an absolute classic, and there are some other great gems in there too.
But did you also know that the score was written by Michael Giacchino, who had just written the memorable, singable score to The Incredibles? If you listen to the Sky High score, you’ll hear the similarities! It’s pretty cool!
All in all, even now as an adult, I found Sky High to be a pretty great movie. Yes, it has its moments, and the CGI might not be Marvel movie standard, but it stands out for having some really great key storytelling elements and telling a tale we can all relate to.
So if it’s been, you know, ten years or so since you’ve seen the movie, you might want to dig it back up and give it another watch.
I think you may be surprised.