Making the Grades
Nerdy guys aren’t what they used to be in the movies. These days they are the ones getting the girl, or in this case the girls.
At his old school, Will Burton (Gaelan Connell) was on the bottom of the pecking order—literally. After suffering another day of humiliation, he slithers down the steps of the school bus to greet his waiting mother. (Note to parents: Meeting your high school student at the bus stop does not help your child’s standing with his or her peers.)
But Karen Burton (Lisa Kudrow) has good news for her unhappy offspring. The conscientious and slightly smothering single mom has a job offer that will allow her son to move to a new school and get a fresh start. Initially, Will only groans about the prospect of being subjected to more torture from a different student body. However when he arrives in New Jersey, he is almost immediately befriended by one of the most popular Senior girls on campus.
After Charlotte Banks (Alyson Michalka) discovers Will’s vast musical knowledge, she also invites him to manage her fledgling rock band that is aiming for an invitation to the upcoming interstate Bandslam contest. When Will finally hears Charlotte and her backup singers, Bug (Charlie Saxton) and Omar (Tim Jo), he knows he has a lot of work to do, especially if they want to beat the school’s other rival band headed up by Charlotte’s former boyfriend (Scott Porter).
Unfortunately Will’s heady infatuation with his newfound popularity and the band’s lead singer interferes with his ability to complete a group project with his classmate Sa5m (Vanessa Hudgens). With a deadline looming, Will finally finds time for his homework assignment with the moody girl. And despite Sa5m’s (pronounced Sam) gloom and doom outlook (which matches his own), Will soon discovers he has feelings for his sober partner as well. Torn between two girls, Will finds himself with an enviable problem—by any nerd’s standards.
However, while the characters in this film represent many of the stereotypical teens seen on screen, they undergo plenty of development as their back-stories and intentions are revealed. Some of these students do the wrong things for the wrong reasons, yet the script allows for personal growth and gives ample justification for their motives. And though these teens are far less perky and prone to bursting into song in the middle of the hallway or basketball court than the cast from High School Musical there are still plenty of musical interludes with above average performances as various groups prepare for the fierce competition.
With more depth than the average adolescent flick, this production acknowledges difficult teen issues and gives credibility to the students who deal with the challenges of growing up.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Bandslam.
Although Will’s mom seems anxious for her son to make friends, why is she so unwilling to let him get involved with the kids in the band? What personal fears might she be facing?
How do different characters handle hard times in this story? How do they show compassion to one another in times of difficulty?
Charlotte tells Will to do the things that scare him. Is it important to move beyond our current comfort level? What does Will learn about himself and others when he accepts new challenges?