Up, Up, and Away
Up, Up, and Away 2000
I’m continuing my efforts to watch the last few remaining Black superhero and comic book movies that I haven’t reviewed with this Disney Channel Original Movie. I was never really much of a fan of the DCOMs as some people refer to them, they were always too far on the schmaltzy scale for me as they seemed to be targeted directly towards tweens before the term tween even existed. The ones that I’ve been forced to sit through by my wife and daughter have been the surprisingly abundant girl-focused ones like the Zenon films, the Halloweentowns, and most recently Descendants. None of them would have likely appealed to me when I was younger and they definitely didn’t appeal to me as an adult. So I didn’t have very high hopes for Up, Up, and Away even with the inclusion of Robert Townsend as director and star considering I am a mild fan of his earlier work The Meteor Man. But while I didn’t absolutely fall in love with Up, Up, and Away, it did do a few things that surprised me and it made me laugh more than once.
Up, Up, and Away takes place in a superhero family. Warrior Woman and the Bronze Eagle are a married couple with three kids. Their oldest is just about ready to join his parents in being a fully fledged crime fighter and he has super speed, electricity control including some ability to control electronics and erase people’s memories. Their youngest has laser eyes and X-ray vision and likes to use them at any opportunity. And the middle child and main character Scott is without any super powers and is just a few days away from his fourteenth birthday which is the last possibility for him to ever develop powers. The main plot is mainly about Scott trying to figure out his place in the family and how to cope with the pressure of something that he has absolutely no control over. And of course, his first response is naturally to fake it. It’s something that would be done in a slightly similar vein a few years later with Sky High, the only difference is that here Scott never actually gains any powers and has to cope with being a normal kid.
And meanwhile, there’s a couple young people that have created this software that can control the minds of adolescents. The software engineer one of them is an idealistic young woman named Nina who just wants to get people to recycle, save the Earth, and whatnot. The other one is the more villainous one who is really just in it for the cash and doesn’t care at all about the environment. He also happens to be played by Kevin Connoly who is possibly best known for playing the Bud Bundy analogue in the WB series Unhappily Ever After. Connoly does a great job at not just playing a complete sleazeball who would easily take advantage of kids, but he also seems like a complete loser who doesn’t have any prospects outside of this mind control scheme. One of the biggest issues with their plan is that it completely skips over how they convinced the school to use their CD-Roms as homework in the first place, considering when they started this whole thing they weren’t really able to control adults minds very well. It also falls into that whole relatively early stage of the internet and computers when it was assumed that pretty much anything could be done with them if you had enough programming knowledge.
Since it was one of those films intended for younger viewers, it’s laced with plenty of kid-friendly humor as well as some odd quirks that aren’t always explained very well. For example, the family is always eating green food, yet it’s never explained why. Their weakness also happens to be aluminum foil, which robs them of their powers, but surprisingly there was never really a moment where Scott managed to use his ability of not having an ability and therefore likely to be immune to their foil weakness. Instead, he recruits his two other friends and saves the day with his soccer abilities that has also been laced throughout the film. There’s also a subplot of the rival girl on the soccer team who he likes and also likes her, but they’re both too shy an competitive to let each other know. Surprisingly, it actually goes against the cliche at the end to a certain extent. After they are able to free his family from the foil prison, she confesses her like for him by asking him to the dance. Unfortunately, she has to have her memory of the events erased since she knows his parents’ secret identities. And when she comes over the next day, he knows that she would say yes to the dance but still doesn’t have the courage to ask her out. Instead, they end up voting for each other to be team captain which results in a tie.
The humor overall for the film was fairly hit or miss. Again, it was aimed at a younger audience, especially when it comes to Scott’s nerdy best friend played by Chris Marquette who has gone on to a few notable roles playing the nerdy best friend in the Girl Next Door and Fanboys. He has a very similar style of humor here that he mainly gets to show off during the big “fight” at the end. Scott’s grandfather is also played by Sherman Hemsley who used to go by his superhero name the Steel Condor, which he resented Superman for his nickname as the Man of Steel since it carried over that he would be the Bird of Steel. There were plenty of superhero name drops along the way with no regard as to which universe they came from. Besides the Superman name drop, there were also references to the Fantastic Four and the Green Hornet. But what really came through was the overarching message of the film to be true to yourself no matter what you happen to be special at. Before Scott gets caught at faking his super powers, he gets the chance to rescue one of the villains from a burning building, and he ends up going even though he doesn’t actually have any super powers, something that he ends up doing again to help save his parents at the end even though he essentially got in trouble for doing it the first time. While I still never really got fully invested in this film, it did a lot of things that are different from the norm when it comes to superhero movies, it also made me laugh a few times when I wasn’t rolling my eyes at the cheesiness of it and the costumes especially. And when it comes to Black superhero movies, this is actually one of the better ones. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.