The high school melodrama gets feebly super-charged in Sky High, a tween-oriented Disney adventure made from the spare parts of Harry Potter, Spy Kids, X-Men and '80s teen romances like Some Kind of Wonderful. Without an original bone in its mutant body, Mike Mitchell's decidedly mortal misfire - too childish and metaphorically shallow to appeal to serious comic book fans, and too prosaic to strike a chord with those weaned on Pixar's far more exhilarating The Incredibles - is a misguided movie in search of a suitable identity. While cheery, colorful, and buoyant as Superman on a nighttime flight around Metropolis, this humdrum escapade nonetheless lacks any sign of an extraordinary imagination. An example of bland mix-and-match derivativeness, the film's espousals of egalitarianism not only promote the values of tolerance and cross-cultural harmony, but also wind up functioning as a preemptive validation for its own mild, middle-of-the-pack mundaneness.

Will Stronghold (Michael Angarano) is the son of the world's greatest heroes, super-strong Captain Stronghold (Kurt Russell) and high-flying Josie Jetstream (Kelly Preston). However, despite his impressive lineage, Will's lack of astonishing abilities poses complications on his first day at Sky High, a Hogwarts-esque floating academy for exceptionally gifted teens. Because of his embarrassing ordinariness, Will is shuttled into the "Sidekick" academic track (euphemistically referred to as "Hero Support") with his hippie best friend Layla (Danielle Panabaker) and other lamely powered misfits. Sidekicks are unpopular geeks and Heroes are the cool kids at this fantastic high school, which also features a cheerleading squad made up of clones, a mixed-lineage (hero and villain) rebel as Will's brooding arch-nemesis, and bullies acting as evil henchmen for a mysterious fiend who's plotting revenge against the Stronghold clan. This passing interest in metaphorical subtext proves tantalizing during Will's admission to his dad that he's a sidekick (a moment that recalls X-Men 2's "coming out" scene), as well as with the repeated adult refrain that Will is just a "late bloomer" (thus linking his nascent strengths with puberty). Yet content to only skim the surface of its symbolic potential, the film doggedly opts for obviousness when subtlety is called for, ultimately turning its story into simply the latest misfit-makes-good-and-proves-that-dorks-are-people-too adolescent fairy tale.

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