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Rated PG (MPAA) · 111 min. · 2009

From her introduction drinking Coca-Cola from a Twizzler straw, Vanessa Hudgens combo of bubbliness and outsider skepticism is the best of Bandslam's appealing, efficient young cast. As school misfit Sa5m ("the 5 is silent"), Hudgens just glows like a movie star. Sa5m is the first to befriend the perpetually stunned Will (Gaelan Connell). As the second strangest kid in school, Will spends his time writing unreturned letters to David Bowie. When his encyclopedic musical knowledge inspires him to take part in Bandslam (a school sponsored Battle of the Bands), this reasonably smart teen movie has the chance to take off. But director Todd Graff and his co-writer Josh A. Cagan don't match their musical references in dramatic interest. The film is long-winded, and the needed first moment where Will's band sounds disastrous is missing. When they finally hit the stage, their lauded music is the exact type of corporate pop you know these kids despise. What keeps Bandslam afloat is the way its sweet moments find weird ways of stepping into convention. Sa5m reacts to her first kiss by asking, "Have you seen Evil Dead 2?" Bandslam ignites when it has a feel for youth inspired by art. –Mark Palermo
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Director: Todd Graff
Writer: Josh A. Cagan and Todd Graff
Producer: Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas
Cast: Alyson Michalka, Vanessa Hudgens, Gaelen Connell, Scott Porter, Lisa Kudrow and David Bowie


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