When we first meet Will he's the midwest movie geek stereotype. Vaguely witty with the ironic, cynical detachment that comes from not quite fitting in ("High School is like Guantanamo, only with lunch period"). You know, the one who will end up with Ione Skye in the end but takes a lot of crap along the way. During much of which you'll want to scream at his mother to at sign him up for Krav Maga lessons (sorry for mixing film issues there, I'm aware Lloyd Dobbler could handle himself - but you get the point I expect).
By the end there will be life lessons learned, some predictable twists and if you're lucky a pleasant memory and the feeling you didn't completely waste the last two hours of your life. By those measures I feel Bandslam more than delivers.
Oh, right, the movie itself...
At the start Will is writing a one way letter to David Bowie in what's a device the film uses to express his inner thinking without resorting to voice over narrative. It generally works as you eventually decide that Will isn't delusional and expecting a response (or thinking Bowie is actually speaking to him through aliens in his brain, etc.).
After some pretty standard teen movie taunting Will catches a break when his Mom does a reverse Karate Kid and moves them to New Jersey. Arriving at a new school is a chance for him to remake himself (and yes, is perhaps the first time in movie history that moving to Jersey is portrayed as a good thing). Upon arriving it's hard for him to miss the new school's population affection for a local battle of the bands competition called "Bandslam" that the rest of the story revolves around. Then in pretty rapid succession he meets both his blond and brunette possible love interests. The blond one (Charlotte) is a senior who (badly) drives a caddy, fronts a potential Bandslam competitor and is so out of his league that even he is wondering why she's friends with him. The other is the "weird girl with a hat" character. In other words the odd girl forever placed in the teen romantic comedy to be thought of as plain by her peers until the hat comes off (at which point he should be out of his league too). In Bandslam the hat is metaphorical, but you get the idea (btw- apparently it's a real life thing too as depicted in American Teen). In this case the brunette is Sa5m (the 5 is silent - and no I don't get it either) who he meets on the first day. She appears aloof from the whole Bandslam cult thing, and drinks her Coke with a Twizzler straw. Ok - that's a little goofy but it does come across as sorta cute so I give 'em a pass on that.
The rest of the film's arc covers Will becoming the manager of Charlotte's band and guiding them along their quest to win Bandslam. And of course him growing up, facing his fears, finding success and learning how to juggle two women. Or something like that.
Mixed in is a nice scene where he makes a pilgrimage to CBGB's which was cool to see onscreen as it looked exactly like I remember it (if it was a set it's pretty well done). Of course there's a dramatic last minute big battle of the bands scene that's hard not to enjoy. It's sort of goofy fun - but I enjoyed it and am not (that) ashamed to admit it. The film doesn't quite go where I'd expected it to at all times which in and of itself was a nice surprise. It's not like there's a Usual Suspects twist hidden in there, but still... Funny, sweet and some good music (another surprise as it's not all cookie cutter modern pop) - what's not to like?
Screening Note: The show I attended had the trailer running for New Moon though it's really more like a cheesy press interview with the actor who plays the shirtless Jacob in the new Twilight movie. Or an ad for some weightlifting supplement product - depending on how you look at it. Sadly there were only a few teens in attendance so I didn't get the full fun of the "OMG - Jacob! - Edward! - wahooooo! - OMG!" team Jacob experience. But the two that were in attendance did their best. Afterwards I found out it was well known that Bandslam had the "exclusive" trailer before it (I assume to boost attendance). Anyway, you should try Bandslam - for itself but to get you prepped here's one of the New Moon trailers below.