It’s official: rock ’n’ roll has been tamed. It must be if Walden Media (see: the Narnia movies), the movie company known for its family-values agenda (that is, one that adheres to the stereotypical narrow ideas about what constitutes both “family” and “values”) is taking it on. That’s how you get a rock ’n’ roll movie this calculated for sweet, feel-good blandness. And not the rock ’n’ roll kind of feel-good, either, unless you think the Jonas Brothers rock hard. Instantly forgettable but inoffensive, this is the tale of misfit teen Will Burton (the Shia LaBeouf-esque newcomer Gaelan Connell), who moves to a new high school that isn’t quite so much like “Guantanamo with a lunch period” as the old one, makes new friends, and starts managing a high-school band in preparation for the titular competition. Adolescent bumps in the road are struck, of course, but all the would-be excitement here is contrived and melodramatic, and painfully earnest at that — blame writers Todd Graff and Josh A. Cagan; Graff directs. Isn’t it suspicious that golden-girl cheerleader Charlotte (Aly Michalka) would hang around with the likes of Will? Will he learn to love the “eccentric” Sa5m (Vanessa Hudgens: High School Musical 3: Senior Year) — the “5” is silent — and she him, even though she mopes that “emotion is overrated”? Take Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, delete all the raw pain and uncomplicated joy, and this is what you’re left with. It’s not awful, just awfully dull.
rated PG for some thematic elements and mild language
viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers
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