We avoided watching the movie Bandslam for a long time. We assumed it was another watered down 'tween-fest. We thought it was just sequel number 22 in the High School Musical franchise, with an above average number of beautiful high school students singing mediocre, syrupy pop songs.
We found out this week we were sadly mistaken. Bandslam is the perfect combo of Pretty in Pink, Say Anything, and The Breakfast Club for this generation. Director Todd Graff (who got his start as one of he kids on The Electric Company in the '70s) was clearly possessed by the spirit of John Hughes.
Gaelan Connell, who plays Will Burton, is as lovable as John Cusack's Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything. He's believable as the social reject with a sad past trying desperately to belong and learning how to win over the girl. His video tribute to Sa5m, packs as much punch as Lloyd's boombox moment. And any kid who loves David Bowie, the Velvet Underground, and CBGBs in this Taylor Swift, Justin Beiber world has to be doing something right.
HSM alum Vanessa Hudgens is surprisingly convincing as Sa5m, the depressed outcast girl who keeps to herself because she hates all people. Sound familiar Ally Sheedy? We're not sure Vanessa has the chops Ally did at her age, but we were pleasantly surprised by her performance.
And Alyson Michalka as Charlotte took on the Blane McDonnagh part played by Andrew McCarthy in Pretty in Pink. The ex-cheerleader/popular girl who befriends the nerds and weirdos. While she had the hardest time breaking free of her Disney past she reeled us in by the end.
And while we don't know if there's an Anthony Michael Hall hiding in the supporting cast, Charlie Saxton (from Hung), Tim Jo (from the new Fame), and Ryan Donowho (from The O.C.) are certainly faces to keep an eye on.
And best of all the soundtrack isn't filled with Disney-fied faux rock songs or cheesy dance numbers, but a solid musical history lesson including Bread, Rick Nielsen, Jeff Tweedy, Nick Drake, David Bowie, and the Velvet Underground.
If you want to renew your faith in teen movies, we recommend Bandslam. Somewhere is heaven John Hughes is smiling, knowing that there's hope for the new generation of teen angst films.
We're even considering changing our names to Am3y and Nan7cy (the three and seven are silent).