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Film / Bandslam

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A 2009 teen musical dramedy. Music nerd and David Bowie fan Will Burton (Gaelan Connell) moves to New Jersey, eager to start fresh since he was bullied back at his old school in Ohio. Once there, he meets Sa5mnote  (Vanessa Hudgens), and Charlotte (Alyson Michalka), a former cheerleader who, impressed by Will's knowledge of music, takes him on as the manager of her band (later called "I Can't Go On, I'll Go On") as she tries to defeat her ex-boyfriend, Ben Wheatley, in a music competition known as Bandslam. The film also features Lisa Kudrow as Will's mom, Karen.

The film became infamous for its questionable marketing strategy on the part of Summit Entertaiment, its distributor, who very much Disneyfied the hell out of it in promotional material.

This film provides examples of:

  • The Ace: Will is a different musical spin on this trope. He knows exactly what the band needs to have a fuller sound, wisely knows that they need a(n) (in-universe) Signature Song, and knows how to promote them.
  • Actor Allusion: Sa5m makes a reference to "Texas high school football". Ben Wheatley is played by Scott Porter, of Friday Night Lights.
  • The Alcoholic: What Will's father is revealed to be.
  • Alpha Bitch: Defied! A male competitor in the school starts giving orders to his buddies to ruin Will, but the Alpha's friends, appalled by his intentions, outright refuse, noting that he has no authority over them.
  • Ambiguously Absent Parent: Sa5m's dad isn't seen, only her mom, and he's not mentioned either. Presumably her mom is a single mother.
  • Ascended Fanboy: At the end of the film, Will’s idol David Bowie e-mails Will to ask if he can sign I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On to an indie label he is starting up. The final scene implies he agrees.
  • The Atoner: Charlotte is trying to atone for her days as an Alpha Bitch.
  • The Cameo: David Bowie, playing himself in what would turn out to be his last acting appearance before his death.
  • Casting Gag: Vanessa Hudgens playing an outsider who eventually shows off a hidden singing talent, which she demonstrates publicly at the end? Hmm...
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: The video of Sa5m singing that her mother shows Will. When Charlotte leaves the band, it serves as a clue that Sa5m can take her place as singer. Then when Ben steals the band's song, they end up singing "Everything I Own" instead.
  • Chekhov's Gag: The only other indie rock guy at Will's old school is a scruffy dude who keeps flattening out his hair. He moves to a new school and one of the first people he sees is... another scruffy looking guy flattening out his hair.
  • Cruel Cheerleader: Charlotte is a former cheerleader and by all accounts was a bit of a Witch with a Capital "B".
  • Deadpan Snarker: Sa5m might lack in emotion, but she makes up for it with sarcasm. Take note of Will stammering that his arrangement to meet her later is not a date to Charlotte.
    Sa5m: She gets it, Will.
  • Decoy Protagonist: After Charlotte's father dies, Will learns that she started liking "outcasts" like him as an effort to change herself because her father disapproved of how she was when she was with Ben. Once he became ill, she changed in the hopes that her good behavior would cause her father to get better. After he passes away, she quits the band. Despite the revelation that Charlotte didn't sincerely like them, the band continues on without her, enlisting Sa5m as the new lead singer. The band does forgive Charlotte later on, once she Must Make Amends.
  • Disappeared Dad:
    • Will's dad is not around since he's off playing for different bands. Or so he says-really he's in prison for killing a kid while driving drunk.
    • Charlotte loses her dad after he dies from cancer.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: "Dewey" for Will, and it is not Played for Laughs. It's because his dad killed a kid while driving while intoxicated-DWI, Dewie.
  • Emotionless Girl: Sa5m. The pose cracks once a wedge is driven between her and Will.
  • Everyone Loves Blondes: Charlotte is a former head cheerleader and miss popularity, is charismatic and beloved, and of course has beautiful blonde hair.
  • Fake Band: Enforced by I Can't Go On, I'll Go On and Ben Wheatley and the Glory Dogs, but averted with bands The Daze, ZEALE Rapz and Phranchyze, and The Burning Hotels. note 
  • Fallen Princess: Invoked. Charlotte is a former Alpha Bitch trying to be a better person.
  • Follow the Leader: In-universe. After the band becomes famous online, numerous fans start spelling their names like Sa5m does.
  • Friend Versus Lover: Will stands Sa5m up for a date because he's going to a performance with Charlotte. The former thinks it's because Will is in love with her.
  • From a Certain Point of View: Will says his parents aren't together anymore, which is true. His dad is in prison.
  • Genre Savvy: "It's not like you're the Joker and we're your henchmen."
  • Hair-Contrast Duo: Outgoing and charismatic Charlotte is blonde, introverted and seemingly emotionless Sa5m is a brunette.
  • High School: The default setting.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Will asking Charlotte if her dad is dead, and her reaction is a Cringe Comedy moment early in the film. He dies of cancer later on, meaning that Will's line probably struck an even bigger nerve with Charlotte than he realised.
  • Joisey: Utterly averted, despite taking place there. New Jersey is actually the better option compared to Will's horrible existence in Ohio.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Will being mockingly called 'Dewey' at his old school seems like a standard schoolyard taunt. It's revealed he got this name from his father killing a child while DWI (driving while intoxicated).
  • Liar Revealed: It's revealed that Will made up stories about his father, who's really in prison for killing a twelve-year-old while driving drunk.
  • Likes Older Women: Basher Martin, the drummer, who agrees to join the band once Will convinces him that Karen is his older sister. Karen is, needless to say, not entirely comfortable with this development... nor with wearing a low cut top to band practice.
  • Mum Looks Like a Sister: Played with; Will pretends his mother is his older sister for the sake of Basher joining the band.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Twice Karen catches Will and Charlotte in compromising positions that aren't actually romantic; she's just teaching him what to do to kiss Sa5m, and later teasing him playfully about her. Both times Karen assumes they're dating.
  • Otaku: Will is a rock music nerd through and though. He isn't very outgoing about it, but Charlotte recognizes this side of him very quickly.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Despite Karen's assumptions, Will and Charlotte's friendship is entirely platonic.
  • Pronouncing My Name for You: Sam spells her name as "Sa5m", noting the "5" is silent.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: I Can't Go On, I'll Go On is made up of vastly different people and varying musical styles (electric guitar, cello, brass).
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Sa5m does this to Will for her Human Studies project (after he stands her up on their movie date), comparing him to a mirror.
    "Will is a reflective surface. He mirrors back at you whatever you want to see. He reflects you back to you. And it's nice, for a while. You stop feeling lonely. But then you realize, he's doing that with everyone. The only person he can't do it for is Will. Because he doesn't have a clue who he is."
  • Relative Ridicule: Will's classmates in Ohio used to call him "Dewey" because his father was arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI).
  • Second-Act Breakup: Will and Sa5m. This one's solved sooner than usual, though.
  • Serious Business: Bandslam is "Texas high school football big" in New Jersey.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Sa5m straightens her hair and dons a nice outfit for her movie date with Will.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: Will has to endure this a lot when it comes to his friendship with Charlotte.
  • Sins of the Father: Will was called "Dewey" back in Ohio because his father is in jail for accidentally killing a child driving while intoxicated (DWI). Ben eventually finds out about this and uses it against Will.
  • Sugar-and-Ice Personality: Sa5m acts like the Emotionless Girl and standoffish at first. However, it soon turns out she's actually warm and kind inside, though her soft side warrs with the other half. It's possibly due to having had a stutter, which made her self-conscious.
  • Talent Contest: Bandslam, which guarantees the winner a record deal.
  • Teens Are Monsters: The nickname 'Dewey' that Will gets mocked for - and an entire auditorium of teens chant at him comes from the fact that his father killed a child while drunk (DWI - driving while intoxicated - Dewey). In fairness to the auditorium most of them had no idea what it meant and seem to buy it when Will turns it into "Do We" then into "Do we wanna rock?!"
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The trailers spoiled the hell out of Sa5m performing on stage with the band.


Video Example(s):



Sam spells her name as "S-A-5-M" (the "5" is silent).

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / MyNaymeIs

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