The premise of Sky High seems promising think of a less serious version of Professor Xaviers School for Gifted Youngsters from X-Men (2000) but is ultimately too cute for its own good. The Harry Potter series had its school kids studying magic lore, which is an idea that one could buy, but Sky High seems to strain at trying to fill out its concept with blackboard lessons about helping old ladies across the road and the like. You could see that the idea might have made for a good tv series. (The cast were purportedly contracted for a potential series, but Sky Highs box-office failure put said to that idea). Certainly, the film emerges on screen more like an episode of a tv series than it does a film it is directed like a production line tv episode. Compare, for example, the superheroics here with the exploits in recent more serious-minded superhero films such as X-Men, Spider-Man (2002) or Fantastic Four (2005) and you can see how routine Sky High is as a superhero film. Director Mike Mitchell had previously only made mainstream comedies like Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo (1999), Surviving Christmas (2004) and subsequently went onto the dismal likes of Shrek Forever After (2010), Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (2011), the live-action sequences in The Spongebob Movie: Out of Water (2015) and Trolls (2016) one gets the impression that this was more a case of him accepting an assignment rather than a film that has been a burning idea in the back of his head ever since.
Even more than that, Sky High feels routine on a plot level. The central character has a great arc. Like Harry Potter, he is the son of some of the top people in the field and arrives at the school with a good deal of expectation heaped on his shoulders only to find that he has no superpowers. This is a character concept that has a great potential but the film has Will find his superpowers far too early in the piece; his discovery should have been much more of a struggle and his final emergence into superherodom should have been the triumphal act of the show. As soon as it gets this out of the way, the film appears stuck what to do with the rest of the running time. All it does is fall back on the clichés of the high school drama the latter half of the film is only a standard high school drama with a thin patina of superheroics. Everything is told in old hat clichés. The film rehashes the conflict from Revenge of the Nerds (1984) and just about every second teen film of the 1980s of the loser underdogs proving their worth over the cliquish preppies. There is the incredibly tired cliché of the hero having to be make a choice between the plain, ordinary girl next door who has had a long-time crush on him but who he has never thought of as more than a friend and between the beautiful, sophisticated bad girl who is bad, well, because she is beautiful and sophisticated. There is even a plot where the two girls are fighting over who will be the heros Homecoming Dance date.
The film seems to be wanting to make superhero in-jokes, although it is not clever enough to come up with anything funny and instead peoples itself with a few actors that have made superheroic appearances before. The school principal is played by Lynda Carter, best known as the title role in tvs Wonder Woman/The New Adventures of Wonder Woman (1975-9), while the school nurse is played by Cloris Leachman who played Lynda Carters mother in the series. The role of the middle-aging superhero is played by Kurt Russell who was a Disney child star himself playing often super-powered teenagers in films such as The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969), Now You See Him, Now You Dont (1975) and The Strongest Man in the World (1975). Patrick Warburton, who played the title character in the live-action version of the superhero spoof The Tick (2001-2), also voices the part of the super-villain.
The same idea of a school for trainee superheroes was also used around the same time in Zoom: Academy for Superheroes (2006), which proved an equal flop for its studio.