The Red Right Hand
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BANDSLAM
Music Has The Power To Rock Your World

Director
Todd Graff

Starring
Gaelan Connell
Vanessa Hudgens
Alyson Michalka
Lisa Kudrow

Before getting onto the main bulk of my review, I would like share a little history with you; for the first fifteen minutes or so this film could be about me - sort of. I know I start a great deal of reviews in this fashion but it's simply to reiterate the fact that I can easily relate to the main character and as such feel a certain sense of authority in my opinion. Moving from Cincinnati to New Jersey, Will Burton [Connell] leaves behind his old life and starts afresh in a new city and a new school. The very first thing he witnesses on arrival is Martin Van Buren High School's obsession with a local contest called Bandslam. Essentially, schools in the surrounding states of NJ compete by submitting musical entrants in the hope of winning a record deal. Will, being the shy newcomer with an insight into music is instantly drafted into forming a band helmed by the ex-girlfriend of the lead singer of the most popular band in the school. Following so far? Good. The idea of moving to a completely new area, feeling outside and joining a band - that's the sum total of my relation to this release. Everything else goes off on a bit of a predictable, unrealistic tangent.

So, as stated, Will simultaneously meets up with our two leading ladies. The first is loner/outcast, Sa5m - the five is silent - played by High School Musical star, Vanessa Hudgens. During a rather wet, sappy 'human studies' class, Sam and Will are paired up and required to get to know one another in order to conduct a class presentation. The second female is ex-head cheerleader and jnr. prom queen, Charlotte Banks [Michalka], who for some inexplicable reason feels compelled to spend time with Will before employing him as band manager - thankfully and much to the film's credit, Charlotte's methods are explained and in a way justified to a certain degree of audience satisfaction. Thrown into the works is a solid helping of forgettable songs, dismissible extras and a rather old looking Lisa Kudrow as Will's dry-humoured, slightly over-protective mother. Completely unprepared and inexperienced with the attention of girls, Will blunders his way through these new friendships before finally climaxing with a typically energetic (albeit rather slushy) finale.

As stated, the whole thing follows the various clichés to its rather predictable close but for some almost indescribable reason, you cannot help but get sucked into the rolling atmosphere. Yes, everything is tied together a little too neatly and yes, the songs are hideously poppy and not in any way the 'rock' that is hyped up and referenced throughout but despite this, Bandslam is a fairly competent film that failed to drag, infuriate or frustrate. All-in-all, a rather promising effort by all involved that should prove a popular, upbeat, feel good, summery film.

Release Date:
UK - 14th August 2009
US - 14th August 2009

The Scene To Look Out For:
Despite ticking the cliché boxes of most crappy, misinformed teen flicks, certain scenes stand out as praiseworthy, proving in some small way that this film has something to offer - not a great deal but something. In this instance, the final project Sam and Will have to present, detailing 'who they really are' is expectedly mushy and trite but Sam's embittered talk is actually quite innovative but more than that, it was really fucking cold. Angered by being stood up by Will (failing to meet her at the cinema), Sam walks to the front of the class and produces a mirror, explaining that Will Burton is a reflection of you and whoever you want him to be. As such, he is no one and because he acts this way with everyone, everything he says and does comes off as fake. Will sinks in on himself as Sam returns to her seat and the teacher dryly states, "Ok, that was inventive... and really mean." It amused me.

Notable Characters:
Newcomer Connell fulfilled his role as the dweeby Will Burton with passion and conviction and became one of the film's greatest points of sale. Curiously enough, despite being horrendously miscast as the poignantly minded outsider, Sam, Vanessa Hudgens also delivered a surprisingly entertaining portrayal; even if the song she sang/played was so horribly naff and far from memorable or noteworthy.

Highlighted Quote:
WILL: "You know, if you tried signalling people would honk less"
CHARLOTTE: "They don't need to know my business"
WILL: "It's not really a privacy issue"

In A Few Words:
"Neatly avoids being too formulaic, holding a fair few surprises but still a typically mediocre release"

Total Score:
6/10


Matthew Stogdon