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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Bandslam (review)

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.

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watch at home

MPAA: rated PG for some thematic elements and mild language

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb | trailer
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