Summit Entertainment is smart to put a trailer for New Moon (the Twilight sequel) in front of Bandslam, knowing it will bring in fanatical teenagers who might have otherwise ignored this buzz-deficient movie. And if those young ladies stay past the trailers, they'll find that Bandslam is actually worth their time, a spry teen melodrama whose refusal to pander to its audience is refreshing.
Will Burton (Gaelan Connell), who looks like a nerdier Shia LaBeouf, has just moved to Lodi, N.J., with his mom (Lisa Kudrow), and is dismayed to find that high school here is just like it was in Cincinnati, the only difference being that the bullies here don't know about him yet. His love of old-school indie rock makes him different. His frequent fan letters to David Bowie (which serve as the film's diary-like narration) are a little odd, too.
But he's soon befriended by Sam (Vanessa Hudgens), who spells her name "Sa5m" (the five is silent) and is a fellow outcast due to her cynical, emotionless speech and fondness for reading books. She's the type of sullen girl who doesn't like anything popular and dismisses all her fellow teens as idiots -- a departure for the perky, baby-voiced High School Musical star, but Hudgens isn't bad in the role, especially as the character warms up later in the film.