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<Movie Details
24 November 2009 by Tim Evans

Just when you thought the soundtrack to adolescence had been corrupted into a mass merchandising opportunity a la Miley Cyrus up pops this really-rather-good tween ditty.

OK, it looks nothing new –  an awkward class combo of geeks, nerds and misfits are pitched against not-very-nice lantern jawed rockers in a climactic battle of the bands.

Yet director Todd Graff – the creative quill behind the likes of Zoolander and Coyote Ugly -  has taken the template and attempted to inject a little more emotional depth and gritty laughs.

Schoolroom outsider Will (Connell) thinks the days of class torment are behind him when he moves from Cincinnati to New Jersey and finds himself eyed up by high school hottie Charlotte (Michalka) and enigmatic pixie Sa5m (High School Musical’s Hudgens).

Relating his exploits in a series of unanswered epistles to his hero David Bowie, Will is mystified when the vampish Charlotte co-opts him into running her kids’ club and taking charge of her misfiring combo Glory Dogs.

At the same time, he finds himself drawn towards Sa5m (like the L in Ralph Fiennes, the 5 is silent), a tangle-haired swot whose indifference masks a growing attachment of her own.

There’s a pleasing tendency at work here to treat kids as more than mass consumers of merchandising spin-offs – the dramatic plotlines veer off into the dark territory of guilt and bereavement but not enough to make things too miz.

Connell, a pocket Tom Hanks who you may remember from Chocolat, is a fine actor, specialising in the sort of adolescent awkwardness that Michael Cera has turned into a career.

It also buzzes to a cracking soundtrack, inevitably featuring contributions from the Dame, but also nicely judged reworkings of 70s soft-rockers Bread’s Everything I Own.

All in all, a teen movie that strikes all the right chords.