High School Musical
THE MOVIE When the Disney Channel created this made-for-cable flick it probably didn’t realize how big it was going to get. The soundtrack hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts, and the musical itself raked in crazy ratings for the channel thanks to a tween demographic that has all the music and moves memorized. And it is perhaps the movie’s easy, guileless style that made it such a hit.
For grownups, High School Musical is both oddly engrossing and incredibly painful to watch. It’s sort of like Grease meets Girls Just Want to Have Fun with a sexuality more repressed than those tight-lipped, oooh-inducing pecks on Saved by the Bell. Troy (an orangy-tanned Zac Efron) and Gabriella (sweetly awkward Vanessa Anne Hudgens) meet on vacation when they are forced to sing karaoke together. Their tentativeness as they start out is genuinely adorable, but soon they’re crooning like old pros. Back at school, Troy is a jock, not a singer. But he begins to question his priorities when Gabriella appears at school—her mother was conveniently transferred. They eventually team up to try and win the leads in the, well, high school musical, from snotty brother and sister team Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale) and Ryan (Lucas Grabeel). Along the way they freak out their respective cliques—Gabriella is a brain—and, of course, participate in numerous musical numbers of the everyone is suddenly singing and dancing for no reason variety.
There is nothing subtle about this movie. The characters are cartoonish and one-dimensional, the dialogue and musical numbers cringe-worthy. In “Get’cha Head in the Game,” young boys dance with basketballs as Troy croons, “Why am I feeling so wrong? I’ve got my head in the game, but my heart in the song.” And it has all the edginess of cotton candy. Everyone is basically a good person, and at the climax Troy gives Gabriella a kiss on the cheek. While the actors are one level up from actual school plays—with the exception of Grabeel, who is genuinely funny—the fact that they are actually teens and not twentysomethings adds to the movie’s appeal. The catchy songs and exuberant dance moves courtesy of director/choreographer Kenny Ortega—who provided the steps for Xanadu, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and Dirty Dancing, among others—gives the whole shebang an infectious sweetness that your inner 12-year-old girl will secretly enjoy. Of course, our inner 12-year-old also loved Grease 2.
THE DISC The special features include two music videos, a dance tutorial with Ortega that is too quick to be effective, and a making-of featurette in which you learn that these pretty weak actors beat out scores of competition to get their roles. Fans of the movie will enjoy the sing-along version, for which the song lyrics are subtitled on the bottom of the screen—in case you haven’t memorized them already.