Brains, brawn and beyond” goes the motto of Sky High. Of those three, guess which ideal dominates this harmless, tween-targeted cape-capade? Perhaps that’s inevitable, considering our main character is awkward frosh Will (Michael Angarano), son of the Commander (Kurt Russell), a genial meathead strongman, and his gravity-defying soul mate Jetstream (Kelly Preston). Like all good superfamilies, they send their boy to Sky High, a supposedly competitive hero academy that’s a bit too Disneyfied to be Hogwarts-cutthroat. The school is distinguished principally by its location several miles above the earth. (Now, that’s busing.) At first, Will exhibits no ”hero” powers, disappointing his dad, and he takes his place among the second-class ”sidekicks.” Then he hits superpuberty and gets caught up in a teen caste system inflated to superheroic proportions. (The results are either Day-Glo cute or darkly Nietzschean, depending entirely on your own scars.) Naturally, there’s a supervillain, and naturally, lessons are learned, mostly via brute force.
Reverse-imagineered from Spy Kids with a hint of the (ahem) incredible, Sky deals skittishly with that status question, ending on an ”I’m okay, you’re okay” note. Visually, it aims for Best Power Rangers Episode Ever, with a Styrofoam aesthetic that looks like it fell off a truck bound for Spencer Gifts. The flick is best in its bittier moments (watch for the stellar cameos), and there’s nothing to trouble the tots. But parents beware: When American fantasies of excellence start looking this flimsy, you may get the sinking feeling that somewhere over India or China, there floats a Sky Higher.