Best described as a hybrid of X-Men and Harry Potter, this Live-Action Disney flick revolves around Will Stronghold; son of the world's two most famous superheroes. He is about to start high school at the titular Sky High, a school exclusively for people with superpowers and his parents' alma mater. Between dealing with Girl Next Door Layla (plant controller), son-of-archnemesis Jerk with a Heart of Gold Warren Peace (fireball thrower) and the typical cliques of high school (being either a hero or "Hero Support"), Will must also face the embarrassing fact that, despite his pedigree, he does not seem to have any superpowers. At least not yet...From the creators of Kim Possible, it features a surprising amount of high-level names, including Michael Angarano as Will Stronghold, Kurt Russell as The Commander, Lynda "Wonder Woman" Carter as the principal, Bruce Campbell as Coach Boomer, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Gwen Grayson. The film maintains a surprisingly sizable following, despite having generally fallen under the radar.Not to be confused with the seinen manga by Takahashi Tsutomu. Compare PS238.
This film provides examples of:
Academy of Evil: What Royal Pain plans to turn Sky High into, raising the now infant students and faculty as a generation of supervillains. Although it was already an academy for villains as much as heroes.
The Ace: The Commander/Steve Stronghold, much to the annoyance of his son.
Acrofatic: Speed, one of the supervillain/bullies, is a Flash-like speedster in spite of being overweight.
Adorkable: Will doofs his way through the vast majority of the film, and even in the final showdown it's abundantly clear he's no fighter and is improvising pretty much everything.
Adults Are Useless: The Commander and Jetstream are the only competent heroes shown in work, but are taken down in seconds by the villain in the finale. Anything worthwhile is done by adolescents (or Ron Wilson, Bus Driver). Even the villains are all young. Sort of. (Except Stitches, but he's basically controlled by Royal Pain anyway.)
Affectionate Parody: The film is fond of pointing out the more ridiculous tropes in both the superhero and high school drama genres, which it typically accomplishes by using them straight but to an over-the-top degree. For example, the Commander has an entire drawer full of identical phones for when he pushes the buttons too hard.
It can also be considered an affectionate parody of the Silver Age Of Comics.
All Love Is Unrequited: Mr. Boy, for Jetstream. Justified in-story, in that a hero like her could never notice someone in 'Hero Support' - not with the strapping, handsome, charismatic Commander around.
Ball of Light Transformation: The Principal can transform into something similar to a mini-star, it gives her the ability to fly at a very high speed with drastic changes in direction and angle.
Battle Trophy: The Commander and Jetstream has an entire section of their base to show off stuff taken from defeated opponents.
Batman Gambit: A minor one in the beginning of the film. Will's parents defeat a giant robot terrorizing the city and the Commander takes a part of the robot (its eye) as a trophy. That robot eye is still functioning and being used by Royal Pain (who sent the robot to attack the city in the first place) to secretly spy on the heroes. Royal Pain knew he would do just this ("His ego's bigger than a giant robot") and the reporter says its a habit but if he didn't then plans falls flat, and that would derail the entire Evil Plan.
Be The Ball: One girl's superpower is to turn into a big rubber beach ball. The unimpressed Coach Boomer merely kicks her away shouting "SIDE-KICK!".
Berserk Button: Gwen/Sue Tenny/Royal Pain hates when Stitches calls her "Daddy's little girl".
Beware the Nice Ones: Layla. She can weaponize plants, people. She just doesn't, usually. Until you annoy her.
Bigger Bad: If one considers Sue and Gwen to be separate characters (though for what it's worth Gwen herself doesn't), Sue could be seen as this. Baron Battle also sort of qualifies, as while he's not behind anything he's apparently an even worse villain than Royal Pain... who spectacularly fails to show up in the movie.
Boomerang Bigot: The Reveal of Gwen's past makes her coldness toward Layla and indirectly the other sidekicks somewhat perplexing. Whether she genuinely fell for Will, saw something of herself in Layla that she hated, or simply went drunk with popularity isn't particularly well-explored, though the second is slightly implied.
Brainy Baby: Professor Medulla when he's regressed to a baby. He's still capable of talking and retains much of his knowledge.
Brick Joke: Early on in the movie, it's mentioned that the only way for kids of superheroes that don't get powers is to fall in a vat of toxic waste. This is mentioned again later. At the end of the movie, Ron Wilson, Bus Driver falls in to a vat of toxic waste and does, in fact get super powers. See "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue below.
Early during the Homecoming party, Zach asked Magenta for a dance; she turned him down and he went, "Me neither". At the end, she asked him for a dance. He accepts, saying "Me too."
Ron Wilson, Bus Driver fights a robot similar to the one The Commander and Jetstream took down at the beginning.
Chew Out Fake Out: Will trashes the school cafeteria, gets into a fight, and uses his powers when he wasn't supposed to. His dad punishes him by telling him no X-Box for a week. Will protests that he doesn't have one...at which point his dad reveals he's so proud of him for having powers that he bought him one.
Clark Kenting: Parodied with Mr. and Mrs. Stronghold, who both wear thick glasses. While Mr. Stronghold accessories with vaguely 50s-style clothing, Mrs. Stronghold just dresses like a normal mom. A normal, Hot Librarian.
Color-Coded Characters: There's a prevalent theme in pairing up characters with complementary color themes. Specifically, Will wears almost exclusively red, white and blue, plant girl Layla wears green,and human glow stick Zach wears neon and white. Justified, in that you would want to play up your powers to impress your classmates. Besides, if your parents are superheroes with similar powers, similar colors would be included in their costumes. Because they like those colours, you would be exposed to them throughout your childhood.
Corrupt the Cutie: Will falls victim to this when he is sorted into the Heroes track and starts going out with Gwen.
Covers Always Lie: The poster chose some... interesting positions to place the actors in relative to their characters' roles in the film. In particular, Layla is crammed into the back-right corner, and Warren is posed to look as menacing as possible.
Crush Filter: Every time Will looks at Gwen, she gets backlit and "True" starts to play.
Daddy's Little Villain: Gwen was raised by Stitches to be evil, and she absolutely hates whenever someone, including Stitches himself, points this out. Also a rare instance of the "little villain" rather than the "daddy" being the dominant partner.
Dangerous Device Disposal Debacle: The Stronghold family in defeated Royal Pain and took the weapon Royal Pain wielded, The Pacifier, as a new addition to their ever-growing collection of confiscated weapons they keep as trophies even though they don't know what it does. Years later, Royal Pain plots to retrieve the Pacifier by stealing it back from the Strongholds. Royal Pain even uses their tendency to collect trophies by sending giant robot with a big shiny part for them to take. The "trophy" was a camera to allow Royal Pain access to the vault.
Dragon Their Feet: Kindasorta. Stitches is the last villain standing by the end, and attempts to get away with the age-regressed superheroes, but is almost immediately taken down by none other than Ron Wilson, Bus Driver.
Evil Counterpart: Gwen/Sue Tenny/Royal Pain is this to Layla. Gwen's technopathic abilities had been treated as a joke, and she was forced into a sidekick role, turning her into a villain. Layla herself has power control of plants, but doesn't show them off, nor does she turn her annoyance over the Sidekick/Hero rule into violence.
Evil-Detecting Baby: The parents/superheroes-turned-infants begin to cry when being loaded into an "evil bus". Will's father especially when being spoken to by Royal Pain.
Evil Plan: The Big Bad wants revenge, but that's actually a sidenote to their real agenda, turning everyone in the school into babies and repurposing the school as a villain training center.
Evil Twin: Parodied, when Coach Boomer invites Medulla on a double-date with a female hero and her evil twin. When we see the date, it's with Coach looking on in disgust as Medulla enjoys the attention of both ladies.
Foil: Gwen and Layla, to each other. One's powers are derived from technology, the other's from nature, one is an overachiever, the other doesn't want to achieve in what she sees as a corrupt system, one's a senior, the other's a freshman, and, of course, they both like the same guy.
For the Evulz: Penny, Speed, and Lash, apparently. Unlike Gwen and Stitches they're never given any Freudian Excuses or likable quirks, and they seem to be fairly popular in school, which would write off being kindred spirits to Gwen as motivation.
Fridge Brilliance if you consider maybe they're helping her so she doesn't use the Pacifier against them
Follow in My Footsteps: Steve took it hard that Will still didn't have any superpowers to enable him to become a superhero.
Follow the Leader: Zoom was rushed into theaters shortly after Sky High came out, and the epic failure of the ripoff is probably why more films of this subgenre are not being made. Ironically, Sky High is sort-of a ripoff of the old DCOM Up Up and Away itself.
The nurse explains that falling into a vat of toxic waste is the only way somebody without powers can get them.
Pay close attention when Will's parents talk about what a weirdo they thought Sue Tenny was in High School. Gwen, who is on a date with Will, seems annoyed at this and excuses herself. It turns out she is Sue Tenny/Royal Pain. Of course she was upset. They just insulted her right to her face.
Green Thumb: Layla. Though she's classified as "Hero Support" AKA a sidekick, she ultimately shows as much power as any of her superhero classmates.
Harmless Freezing: Happens to several characters, in various ways. It is treated with levity.
Heart Is an Awesome Power: The viewer is initially led to believe Ethan's ability to turn into a puddle is useless. Near the end of the film, however, it turns out to be absolutely perfect for setting up a sneak attack. Lash never saw Ethan coming. note that right before he takes down Lash Ethan demonstrates the ability to flow vertically, something he'd never done before then.
An in-universe example. Nobody saw the value of technopathy, causing Sue Tenny to be put into the sidekick class. She grew up into the supervillain Royal Pain and managed to build a deaging gun and Powered Armor with the intent of turning all the superheroes into babies and raising them as an army of villains (and nearly succeeded both times). As Gwen, her powers were evaluated as Hero-class when she re-enrolled.
"Hell Yes" Moment: Layla won't use her powers except in self-defense. One of the villains, believing their side has already won and that Layla's a wimp anyway, attacks her just to be petty. "Big. Mistake." Also counts as a Let's Get Dangerous moment.
Hybrid Power: The protagonist thinks he's powerless because his abilities are rather late to bloom. Turns out he gets both his dad's brute strength and his mom's flight (at different times), making him a Flying Brick.
Idiot Ball: A very light case, with the Commander.
Bigger one handed to the entire school near the climax. Over a hundred super heroes can't figure out a way out past barriers you'd see in a normal school hallway. None of them seem to even be trying to use any powers to aid the situation (other than Warren when he opened an Air-Vent Passageway), opting instead to grab the barrier and shake.
On one hand, Boomer relegating those not fortunate enough to win the Superpower Lottery to Sidekick duty could be seen as a Necessarily Evil, and why he's given that job. This is a school designed to create superheroes that have to go toe-to-toe with supervillains and city-wide threats: Giant robots, giant monsters, evil geniuses armed with high-tech arsenals. Are they really supposed to rank the people who can punch through walls, Fly and go at Super Speed with the girl who can turn into a guinea pig? They'd end up curbstomped by the first superpowered villain they fight, and most of the sidekicks would get their asses kicked by a Badass Normal. They do their part in the climax, but that's largely because they've got a Flying Brick, a Pyromancer and a Poison Ivy Expy to handle the heavy-duty heroing.
On the other hand, Will's father, the Commander, thinks Boomer deliberately washes some real heroes' kids out as a form of petty revenge for not making the "big time" (i.e. not having advanced beyond "gym teacher"); Will had to explain that in Will's case he really didn't have powers. At least at that time. Will's mother, Jetstream, is specifically mentioned as both able to fly and an expert martial artist. If Sky High trains the high-level heroes in martial arts, why not the lesser-powered heroes who could actually use those fighting skills to augment their abilities? Because no one expects the "hero support" to do anything.
The instructors state that Will has no powers...after he has already taken several hospitalizations worth of punishment during tryouts with no injury.
Warren is thrown face first into a concrete overhang, falls, and hits a table hard enough to splinter it to pieces, is thrown through a wall into a pillar hard enough to break it in half and then gets up, looking not the worse for wear, except for the debris all over him, and goes back for more. Surely, that boy is made of stronger stuff. Being Made of Iron is possibly a secondary power.
Warren: (angrily; to Will) You think I can't take a hit?
Nurse Spex mentions getting kicked through a wall by Will's dad. Make of this what you will.
Subverted when Warren offers to heat up Layla's now cold meal. She protests that they're not supposed to use their powers outside the school, but he explains he was just gonna put it in the microwave.
Played straight for most of the movie, as most of the kids' power uses fall under this heading. Layla spruces up houseplants (and picks fruit off of trees), Gwen helps Will in mad science class, Zack illuminates a classroom when the power goes out, Speed and Lash bully kids and dominate gym class, etc. In fact minutes after Warren's above protest he lights a candle in the restaurant he works at with his powers.
Among the staff, Nurse Spex uses X-Ray Vision to check students for broken bones, Principal Powers uses her ability to turn into a comet to teleport anywhere in the school and Coach Boomer uses his voice to...sound intimidating.
Never Be a Hero: The message drilled into Hero Support is "Just stand back and hand me the Batarang silver-tipped crossbow, kid and don't block my camera angles while you do it."
New Powers as the Plot Demands: Will is tossed out a window... and discovers he can fly. This is Foreshadowed (albeit subtly) when he's had his First Kiss with Gwen: He shoots out his arm in a triumphant punch like Superman and flies along the street, grabbing a post and swinging on it to slow himself. He probably thought it was just his Super Strength which elevated him, or maybe was too ecstatic to really notice (he's a teenager) or perhaps he took note but just managed to master it until he needed to. It must be remembered that his mother's power is flight, and so it's not implausible to inherit abilities from both his parents.
Nice Guy: Will's key feature, often shown by his willingness to try to talk to his foes as oppose to fighting.
No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: The Pacifier. Despite being built by Royal Pain, the whole Evil Plan rests on getting it back from the Strongholds. It seems Royal Pain just could not build another. Possibly justified by the original being a group design based on the picture of the science club. Also, she seems to have forgotten everything about her past life, while retaining her powers. She didn't know how to make it from scratch, and even if she did, she's a supervillain. She'd steal it just for poetic revenge. Also justified by the fact that she's a technopath rather than an actual genius. She can make stuff but might not really understand them. Reference the number of times Forge has created stuff and never been able to create them or undo them again.
No, You Go First: Layla is going to confess to Will that she likes him, by asking him to the school dance. As she was going to talk about the school dance, Will figures it's the perfect time to mention that he's going with the most popular girl in school. So Layla ends up telling him that she's going as well. With his archenemy.
Old Superhero: Chronically unappreciated All-American Boy is the past-his-prime sidekick without the retired superhero. His assigned mentor, The Commander, is still operating at his peak, while All-American Boy is now teaching "hero support" classes in the titular hero school. However, he is far from decrepit, and is still able to help the heroes.
Rule of Funny: In the DVD Bonus Features, there's one question which Kevin McDonald (in his Medulla costume — large head and all) answers "Yes, I agree", and then he consents for the editors to use him saying that for anything they like. Throughout the documentary, they randomly cut to him saying "Yes, I agree" for virtually anything. It's hilarious.
Self-Disposing Villain: Sue Tenny when the Pacifier blows up in her face. With a bit of Fridge Brilliance, Gwen also qualifies; she already had everything she wanted to begin with, and her willingness to throw all that away for revenge is what causes her to lose in the end.
Shout-Out: Gwen Grayson's name may be a reference to prominent comic book characters GwenStacy and DickGrayson. It is also a reference to the tendency for comic book characters to have alliterative names.
Will has a poster in his room of fellow superhero team The Aquabats!.
Super Zeroes: Poor, poor Mr. Boy. It's never really explained if he even has powers at all; he's shown to be able to jump much farther than a normal human would be expected to, but this may simply be an instance of the overall exaggerated tone of the film.
Trailers Always Spoil: The trailer makes it seem like the main conflict of the movie is the main character's lack of super powers. Then, approximately 10 seconds later, it shows him with super strength and flight — at which point the viewer realizes there's probably more to this movie that they're not telling him, and there goes the element of surprise.
Unskilled, but Strong: The only reason Will is able to make it through any of his fights is his ability to tank damage like no other. His fight with Royal Pain is full of haymakers, shoulder tackles, and simply flinging her around like a rag doll.
Unwilling Suspension: This is done to the inflatable "Citizen" in the Save the Citizen game in Sky High, to simulate villains doing this to their captives. Will Stronghold mentions at the end how after they replaced the citizens with the actual villains no one saved the Citizen anymore, but we're to assume that's a joke because he said as much.
Glowing, melting,and shapeshifting into a guinea pig are all seen as lame powers by Boomer. However, the kids prove just how awesome they can be in the climax and several could be easily be used for espionage and/or utility purposes.
Deconstructed with the Big Bad's background and motivations. Sue Tenny's powers as a technopath were considered the stuff of sidekicks when she went to Sky High, and her resulting status as a nerdy outcast drove her down the path of evil. And speaking outside of the Film for a moment, other fictional heroes such as Iron Man show that control of machines and having access to very powerful tech is a very useful thing.
Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Lampshaded during a study session with the hero supports; they're discussing radioactive zombies and what to do. One of the options is handing the hero his crossbow. Zack wonders why you don't just shoot the zombie yourself.
A villainous example: Royal Pain completely forgets about the powerful weapon that can defeat anyone with a single blast.
Who's Laughing Now?: Gwen's motivation to become a villain as apparently her first go around in the school had her put in "Hero Support" since her powers weren't considered superhero worthy. Needless to say she winds up proving them wrong.
Why Couldn't You Be Different?: Steve really takes it hard when he learns Will has no powers and is Hero Support. Josie admits being disappointed as well, but is far more accepting and convinces Steve to be.
You Are What You Hate: Given a second chance at high school, Sue/Gwen became pretty, popular and powerful and dumped all over the sidekicks... exactly what she wanted revenge for from her first time around.