The Disney Channel has released a plethora of made-for-TV movies, but most recently High School Musical has made way as one of the most popular. Though the movie originally aired in January of 2006, it was later released on DVD in May, and both the DVD and the film’s soundtrack have been widely successful. I usually don’t pay much attention to anything on the Disney channel (save reruns of Boy Meets World), but after hearing all the buzz about High School Musical, I decided to see what all the fuss was about for myself.
The film begins at a New Year’s Eve party at a ski lounge. We are immediately introduced to the movie’s lead characters, Troy Bolton (Zac Efron), and Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Anne Hudgens). The two teenagers end up being picked to sing a karaoke song together, and of course, they sound great. After the song ends, they exchange numbers and go their separate ways. A few days later, Gabriella learns that she and her mother are transferring to a new school in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and she ends up attending the same exact high school as (I bet you won’t be able to guess who!) Troy. Troy and Gabriella see each other in class on the very first day, but they both learn that despite the chemistry they shared on stage that night, their personalities couldn’t be any different. Troy is the star of the school’s basketball team, and Gabriella is a math genius. However, Gabriella and Troy both end up coming together to audition for lead roles in the school’s winter musical.
The majority of the movie then focuses on Troy and Gabriella’s goal of starring in the musical. Although they are easily the best singers in the school, and perfect for the lead roles, everything seems to keep them from starring in the show. Sharpay and Ryan Evans (Ashley Tisdale and Lucas Grabeel), fraternal twins and the other competition for the leads, are out to do anything to stop Troy and Gabriella from getting the roles, and soon the entire school seems to conspire against them. With all the odds against them, it’s hard to tell if Troy and Gabriella will win the lead roles, but it’s quite a fun adventure to find out.
Both Zac Efron and Vanessa Anne Hudgens are sweet and charming as the lead characters. Efron (Summerland) technically isn’t the best actor, but his endearing performance (and I’m sure his poster boy look haven’t hurt) have quickly earned him the title of one the biggest current teen heartthrobs. Likewise, Hudgens (Thirteen) is obviously new to acting, but is a pleasure to watch, and she does a nice job of bringing her character to life. Most of the other younger actors in the film are new to acting, including Corbin Bleu, whose big personality shines as he provides comic relief with his character, Chad Danforth. Another scene stealer is Ashley Tisdale (The Suite Life of Zack and Cody). Her portrayal of the snobby Sharpay works perfectly and has thrust her into tween superstardom along with the other stars of the film.
The title of the film indicates that it is a musical, so of course, there are plenty of musical numbers. Most of the music in the movie is bubblegum pop that you would hear in a Limited Too or Claire’s store at the mall (the movie and soundtrack are even sold at both of those outlets). However, I’ll admit that most of the songs are very catchy, and I’ve found myself listening to them on several occasions (it’s somewhat of a guilty pleasure). Get’Cha Head In The Game is a bouncy song performed by Efron and some of the other male actors that make up the school’s basketball team. The track uses the sounds of a basketball bouncing and shoes scuffing on the gym floor for a beat and though Efron’s voice isn’t one of the best, the musical directors (Bill Borden and Barry Rosenbush) seem to work things out so that his flaws aren’t so evident. Grabeel and Tisdale’s rendition of What I’ve Been Looking For is so catchy that I’ve listened to it over 15 times, and Hudgens and Efron’s voices actually blend nicely in the musical’s big ballad, Breaking Free. Stick To The Status Quo is performed by the entire cast of the musical, and the big number is one that encapsulates most of the fun of the movie.
However, High School Musical still has its flaws. A film filled with newly discovered teens and poor adult actors (Alyson Reed’s over the top performance of the drama teacher is grating, and Bart Johnson’s portrayal of Troy’s overbearing father is extremely cheesy) is usually doomed for failure, though I will give director Kenny Ortega credit for picking good leads and working well with the rest of the talent. The film’s simple plot line also borders being too corny at times, and the movie is highly predictable. Though the music is perfect for the film, some of the numbers fall flat and the choreography (except during Get’Cha Head In The Game) is a bit embarrassing. The actors and actresses also seem to have a hard time lip synching to the songs in most of the musical scenes, which is also highly distracting.
All in all, High School Musical is simply just a cute movie. I can see why it’s so appealing to older children and teenagers (the simple plot, good lead characters, and catchy pop tunes makes a perfect combination for a hit), though some of the same elements make it worth watching for people over 16. Don’t expect to watch High School Musical and leave with anything profound; instead, go into the movie expecting to be entertained for an hour and half and you’ll receive just that.
*I watched this movie during a televised airing, so I don’t know anything about the DVD release or its special features.