The Disney Channel used to be a place where you could watch positive programming without feeling your IQ slip. As I grew up, the shows seemed all over the place and way too eager to make themselves wholesome. High School Musical is Disney on Detox, a TV movie able to preach its positive values and not be completely irritating by song’s end.
The story is classic high school movie material.
At a New Year’s Eve Party, Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) and Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Anne Hudgens) find themselves singing together during a karaoke event. Connections are made, sparks fly, and the possibility of love throws lumps into their throats. Later on, Gabriella becomes an academic genius, while Troy becomes a basketball captain.
When Gabriella’s mother transfers her to East High School, it turns out Troy is their basketball captain. As she attempts to spend more time with Troy, Gabriella also attempts to separate herself from the nerd stigma placed upon her. But their love for singing will burn inside of them as they both wind up in detention preparing the school play, lead by the school’s strict theater director, Ms. Darbus (Alyson Reed).
During the audition process, Troy and Gabriella both sneak in to hear the contenders. The competition isn’t really much, and it appears that the leads will go to Sharpay and Ryan Evans (Ashley Tisdale and Lucas Grabeel) who are the resident snooty popular kids of East High. Eagerness brings Troy and Gabriella back into the spotlight as they sing for the play, and win the callback next to Sharpay and Ryan.
Knowing their stock in the school theater will suddenly head south, the pair scheme to break them up and out of the play. Making matters worse, Troy’s jock friends and Gabriella’s nerd clique are just as eager to break them up for fear of rocking the boat. Chaos ensues, and they eventually break up the team of Troy and Gabriella.
By movie’s end, the pair both achieve their respective duties as basketball captain and academic genius while attending to their passion of music for the school play. This re-unification brings together the basketball and academic teams into realizing they aren’t really that different from one another. And so ends Disney’s High School Musical.
With no Lindsay Lohan or Hilary Duff in sight, High School Musical benefits from the fresh faces and personalities of its two leads. Zac Efron’s performance of Troy is a more toned-down version of David Cassidy’s Keith Partridge (The Partridge Family), while Vanessa Anne Hudgens’s Gabriella hails back to the days of Irene Cara’s Coco Hernandez (Fame). The supporting characters of this movie also flesh out the picture from being limited to its already overused plotline.