Being heavily marketed in a similar way to the hugely profitable High School Musical series, Bandslam is actually a lot quirkier than the posters would have you believe. With a touch of Cameron Crowe and a sprinkling of John Hughes, it's ultimately too scattered to really scale the heights of the work of those two former dramedy stalwarts. Still, it's a decent effort, and deserves points for both the talented featured players (who excel at the musical aspects) and casting an actor in the lead role who actually looks like he could be (a geek) in high school. The less we say about the 30-something, obligatory beefy boyfriend the better, though.
Will has long been the butt of people's jokes in high school; so when his kooky mother tells him she's gotten a job in a new town, he's delighted at the opportunity to build a reputation for himself and escape the taunting. After a rocky start at his new school, he soon settles in and makes some friends, through his love and vast knowledge of music. When one of the most popular girls befriends him, he quickly becomes the manager of her new band, entering them in the prestigious rock battle, Bandslam, where the winner gets a brand spanking new recording contract. With success, comes the attention of chicks, though, and Will struggles to juggle the affections a friend, and his new found popularity.
You really have to give the filmmakers credit for daring to do something (slightly) different here. What initially comes off as ballsy, soon descends into your usual, clichéd high school movie shenanigans; which is a real shame, as this had been set up nicely to entertain more than just the obligatory tween audience. The noteworthy casting work is also slightly undone with the inclusion of the Hudgens as the quirky-best-friend-who-falls-for-our-hero; she may do her best Ellen Page impression, but she's far too refined looking to really convince in the role, and talking through her nose doesn't help.
What does entertain are the songs, which should be a big selling point for Bandslam. Will is obsessed with David Bowie, and while his letter writing to Bowie narration feels tacked on, the tunes themselves are ultimately hum worthy. Treading similar ground to last year's similarly themed, but superior effort, The Rocker, this has some fun moments, then undoes almost every one of them by the end credits.