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Movie Review: High School Musical 2 Tries Too Hard To Recapture The Magic

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WARNING: This review may contain spoilers. High School Musical 2 will air on Disney Friday evening, August 17, 2007.

Soon Disney's long-awaited sequel to High School Musical, High School Musical 2, will air for millions of viewers of all ages. The original movie drew about 7.8 million viewers and I think it is safe to say the sequel will easily top that number.

My daughters, ages 4 and 7, were late-comers to the original High School Musical movie. We first saw the movie in February of 2007 through the "On Demand" video service of our cable TV system. Personally, I never intended to really watch the whole video, but found myself drawn in by the story, the characters, and the wonderful music, which kicks off within minutes of the video's start.

High School Musical is charming, fun, energetic, wholesome, and entertaining from beginning to end. Not only do we now own the DVD, we purchased the movie on iTunes and the album as well. Now my oldest is planning a HSM party for her birthday this coming January.

So, while I welcomed the thought of a sequel, I also had my doubts. Sometimes you just get lucky with a movie. You come up with a concept, sell it, produce it, air it and suddenly realize that it has that unique mix of elements that makes it an instant classic.

So what do you do when the green light comes for another movie? Try as hard as you can to capture all the same elements as before and hope it works again.

Unfortunately, the sequel tries too hard. It will not live up to the expectations of fans, though many of those fans will love this sequel anyway.

The story picks up at the tail-end of the same school year in which the original movie left off. It is one minute until school ends for the summer and anticipation builds by the second.

The bell rings, papers fly, and the cast kicks in to their first song of the movie. From there, the movie winds into a story that seems to get a tad too complicated at times.

Ryan and Sharpay's parents own a country club and Sharpay, in her effort to win Troy's affections, orders the manager, Fulton, to hire Troy on. Fulton hires Troy, but also hires all of Troy's friends and teammates, including, of course, Gabriella.

From there, the storyline gets even more complicated. Friendships are strained, Troy and Gabriella's wonderfully innocent relationship is strained, and the incredibly manipulative Sharpay seems willing to cast even her brother aside in order to get what she wants.

In this sequel, Sharpay reaches new levels of obnoxiousness. She is so manipulative and selfish that now, when I want to make my girls stop and think about what they're doing, I say to them, "You're acting just like Sharpay!" So far, that line has worked quite effectively.

All that said, this is a decent movie. Yes, the plot gets overly complicated and the music is not quite as good as the first movie, but this is still a movie that I would recommend.

People will enjoy the movie, viewership will be higher for the sequel than it was for the original, and, ultimately, I expect we'll see a High School Musical 3 in 2008. And I have a feeling that the third movie will be better than the second.

Can anything top the first movie? Probably not. But set your expectations properly and you'll enjoy High School Musical 2.

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About David

  • A Sort-Of Concerned Citizen

    I saw this tonight with my little sister. It all seemed kind of fake to me . . . whereas in the original they had a lot more genuinity. Hopefully they’ll be able to recapture the genuinity they had in the first movie in the third one.

  • http://viewpointjournal.com David Flanagan

    Thanks for your comment. I think my wife made a good point the other day when she said that, for the first “High School Musical,” you had a story with really good music woven into it. In “High School Musical 2,” she felt that the story was woven around the music.

    I think she may have a good point and, if she’s write, there is a major part of the problem. If you can weave a story around some good music, you have a decent movie. If you can weave good music around a good story, you have a classic.

    And that might just be the difference.

  • Jonathan Keilholz

    Nice review. I like how you’re able to review movies without tearing apart everything, which is what a lot of reviewers do if they don’t like the movie.

    But I definitely agree. It was enjoyable and fun, but probably not Emmy-award-winning material quite this time.

  • 360boii

    i was really let down on this one. but not expecting too much. comparing the prerelease of HSM2 to HSM1, u can tell how much disney is starting to milk this movie series.

    the songs where just the same as the 1st one, the story was wasn’t the most compelling at best and the acting was really cheesey in my opnion. ino people will still enjoy this one but i dont think it lived up to all the hype.

    stay tuned for the downfall of the HSM franchise when disney attempts to bring it to the big screen, fall of 2008.

  • Ms. Bernstein

    After directing the stage version of High School Musical this past Spring-I was anxious to see High School Musical2. The performers are vibrant and talented, however, I don’t think that the score in this new version can compete with the first movie. The group numbers are not there in terms of sound, choreography and excitement-the storyline begins with too much focus on Sharpay’s issues-I think that we could have handled a deeper look at some of the other characters-I was glad that they featured Ryan and Chad a bit more-still could have had more moments-Zac Efron is an exciting new performer and will be a hugh STAR especially with his up and coming role as the lead in the remake of FOOTLOOSE. I was trying to imagine HSM2 as a live stage version-I’m not sure it would be as appealing as the first movie version. Everything aside, HSM is a brilliant example of great concept, marketing, and hey, how can you go wrong with the Disneyesque fireworks at the end of HSM2.

  • roxy

    it’s an o.k movie not better than the first one

  • roxy ann

    I think that they shouldn’t make the mistake of taking high school musical 3 to the big screen.I also think that they over did it on the dance numbers it was a little too much for me and i’m sorry.still its a great flim and younger kids will still love it.I know I do.

  • http://nader.blog-city.com Nader Ghali

    I was disappointed. This version of HSM is overkill. Whereas the first film builds to a crescendo both in storyline and dance numbers, this film hits you with the big musical numbers right from the start; some of the beginning sequences matched the intensity of the ending sequences of HSM 1. There was not a single song I liked, and the movie was overacted. Everything about this film was “over”. Even the colors looked oversaturated–fake as a matter of fact. Surprisingly, however, my 9 year old son liked this film better than HSM 1. Why? He said the first one was “too boring”! Maybe I’m just too old…)

  • Hannah Smith

    HSM2 was like totally the same as HSM2. Both of Gabrella’s solos had the same concept in both movies. I was glad that Chad and Ryan were in the movie more…but they could have been in more still. Some dance moves were cheesey and gay and could be better. The kissing seen was just like the one in the Cinderella Story…they kiss and it starts raining or in this case the sprinklers come on…i mean come on, that is so overused. when me and my friends were watching it together we all wer in hystarics during the song when gabrella dumped troy and quit…they were trying so hard to have it sad it made us laugh. During the movie it felt like i was watching the first one. I mean, i liked it but it was totally the same as the first one. could b better

  • Sara

    Totally gay and made me sleep. a disapointment to me and my 3 younger sisters. i think HSM2 will lose quite a few fans.

  • Kelly

    Both my family and I are fans of the first movie. But I’m disappointed with the second! The songs are forgettable (the opposite of the first movie). The physical activity between the two main characters is a bit too much for the minds of younger children (after working in a summer camp this year it became obvious to me that the younger children are a huge percentage if not the primary group making up the viewing audience). It’s a poor comparison to the first.

  • britt

    it was a great movie!
    i loved it … great
    songs and catchy movie
    its not gay?

  • Lindsay

    I don`t know what`s going through your guy`s heads.. I loved the movie , it was amazing .
    ( L )

  • HmM

    The first one was deff. better then the 2nd. But thats how most movies are when they make a second one. They try and over due it and it fails, was it good, not so much. Was it horrible, not so much. I think they made Ashley Tisdale just a little bit to much over the top. And once again she loses in the end.. same as last movie swich it up a little in the 3rd one (if there really making one). Best songs were Bet on it and I dont dance. Faboulous was ok and the one where Gab. sings to Troy breaking up was ok. I’ll give the movie a C- and 1st move a A

  • Jess

    I agree with Kelly in saying that the songs were forgettable, unlike the first movie. The movie’s songs sounded more like a pop CD than a musical (“Bet on It” comes to mind).
    I think the problem was this sequel was just too overwhelming and complicated. The songs in the first HSM were just the right amount of repetitive, that was why they were so catchy. HSM’s storyline was also simple and easy to follow, while HSM 2 tried to create complex problems for each of the characters, causing the plot to jumble around from problem to problem. However, no problems had even emerged until about a half hour into the movie.

  • Mommymunn

    I too watched the movie last night with my children. I was looking forward to it as much as they were! I do think the first movie was better but enjoyed this one, too! We loved the baseball song/dance routine. The dancing/choreography was fantastic!

  • mariam

    I thought the movie was cute in some ways. The golf scene with Sharpay was really entertaining in the way she couldn’t hit a ball. It was too complex for younger kids. I don’t think HSM3 will be a big hit in theaters because this one did not keep people watching. I’m sure I will still see it though.

  • Ricky

    I don’t know what these people are thinking. The movie was absolutely brilliant and way better than the first. I do admit it started off a little funny but the last half of the movie was great. I would have liked it to be longer also. Too short.

  • casey

    Way too much focus on Sharpay. A little of her one dimensional personality goes a long way. I thought the choreography was quite inventive – kudos to Ortega once again. The story, however, did not draw me in and whereas I was humming several songs from the HSM1, I couldn’t recall a single one. I do think the Music in You was a nice ballad and Gabriella’s rendition of the parting song to Troy was probably the most believable acting bit. Would rather have seen HSM2 remain in school. The country club setting did nothing to warm me to the story or characters.

  • Amalthea

    The singing had seemed somewhat… FAKE. They looked like they were lip-synching… and they probably were. They could have worked better at it, at least.
    Additionally, the songs were just… (I won’t say they weren’t memorable, as I kept hearing the songs repeating annoyingly in my head after the movie)… the songs did not have a very… good tune that I could actually follow and dance to. The only song that I felt was any good was ‘You Are The Music In Me.’ And even that sounded robotic.

  • http://Madison Madison

    of course there were some corny scenes and some bad dance moves, but that has to be expected with any disney movie. but even with that said, i was a bit dissapointed… they were trying too hard to make the movie just as good as the first, and i think this is one of those movies where it isn’t going to happen. the plot was confusing for young kids, the songs were not as good, and they tried to add way too much into a movie that is not even two hours.

  • Genevieve

    My sister and I have been singing along to HSM1 songs ever since we saw the movie…unfortunately the songs from HSM2 were not nearly as catchy and were way too techno/pop. The plot was cluttered and although there were a few funny parts it did not come close to being as memorable as the first…HSM1 was the type of movie you could watch again and again and still be entertained, this one well, once was enough!

  • http://viewpointjournal.com David Flanagan

    Thank you everyone for the comments. I think the overall pattern here is that people enjoyed the sequel but not as much as the first movie.

    I also see that some of you who seem to be in your teen years and are a bit more sophisticated seemed disappointed. I thought that would be the case.

    My two daughters are young, 4 and 7, and they loved the sequel. But their less concerned with the storyline and more focused on basic elements of the movie, as well as the music.

    Parents who watched with their kids probably can keep this all in better perspective. It is very hard to produce a sequel when the original HSM movie was so incredibly good.

    Just as I mention in my article above, sometimes something extra special comes along, which is exactly what HSM is.

    Regards,

    David

  • sara

    I actually really liked the movie. it was much more sophisticated and i like that. I cried when they kissed. it was so sweet. i love the music. I wish they had Humuhumunukunukua’pua’a. I love that song. But my favorite had to be Everyday.

  • roxy ann

    I’m 18 and i saw the movie again yesterday and the song that just won’t get out of my head is,you are the music in me.The rest of the songs are o.k but forgetable.I’m relly excited to see High school musical 3,and if thats not a hit than I must be from anoter plant or somthing!
    come on people high school Musicl 2 was o.k ,they should have made the movie just a little bit longer.

  • http://journals.aol.com/vicl04/THESAVAGEQUIETSEPTEMBERSUN/ Victor Lana

    David, my review is up at this time too, so I can react only by saying this: my daughter loved it and kept saying it was better than HSM 1. I don’t know if that’s necessarily true, but it was fine by me and I think the songs will grow on us.

    The soundtrack is already in our car CD player and is being played alternately with Hannah Montana. That’s my world of music these days, but I’m not complaining.

  • ally

    I thought high school musical 2 was defenitly not as good as the first one. The music was not as catchy and the whole storyline was the same as the first one. It was a big dissapointment. I realized it would be very hard to top HSM1, because it was incredibly good. I thought there was too much focus on Sharpay, and her character wasn’t the same as in HSM1. In the first one, she was just plain rude. In HSM2, she was rude and ditzy. I dont know who was in charge of the Script, but i didn’t like it at all. Also, it was quite obvious they all were lip synching and the scenery was SO FAKE! I was incredibly dissapointed.

    -Ally

  • Gina

    I LOVED HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 2 IT WAS THE BEST MOVIE I HAVE EVER SEEN AND I THINK ANYONE WHO DOESNT LOVE THIS MOVIE DOESNT KNOW A GREAT MOVIE WHEN THEY SEE IT!!!!! THE SONGS WERE GREAT, THERE WAS A GREAT PLOT, AND THE CHARACTERS WERE PLEYED BETTER THAN EVER!!!!!!!! PLUS I LEARNED 2 LESSONS, KEEP WHATS IMPORTANT TO YOU CLOSE AND DON’T LIVE IN THE PAST OR THE FUTURE, LIVE IN THE MOMENT!!!!!!!!! THE MOVIE WAS GREAT!!!!!!!!!!

  • Gina

    HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 2 ROCKS!!!!!!!!!!

  • Gina

    Roxy Ann, Sara, Ricky, Lindsay, and Britt all your comments ROCK! I totaly agree! High School musical 2 is the best all of your comments are totaly true. I also cried when they broke up and got back together and when they kisseed!

  • http://helpahorse.i67.org Kelly Allester

    High School Musical 2 was horrible. I couldn’t believe it. They made it sound so good, but I couldn’t even finish watching it. I stopped at the end of the song What Time is It? It was ridiculous! They say that the actors don’t lip synch, but if you look close enough you can totally tell that their lips DO NOT match the music. It’s a little cheesy to be honest.

    High School Musical was awesome. I loved it. The choreography was great, the music was catchy, and it seemed to have ended! There was no need for a sequel anyway. I searched for other reviews of HSM2 and NO ONE liked it.

    The thing that made me stop watching it was the dance moves! They were AWFUL! It seemed like they were dancing around like animals! I felt stupid watching it! I couldn’t even believe it.

    They shouldn’t have made a sequel, especially when there was no need to. The actors in HSM2 were already rich, and had solo careers! Why go on?

    When Troy and Gabriella started going out and taking it seriously, it was kind of annoying. I skipped a couple parts, but when they were at the country club, Troy kept saying “Oh, don’t blame her! It was my fault really!” He said that about 3-4 times, and YES! It did get annoying!

    I was extremely disappointed. The movie was horrible, the actors lacked talent in this movie. I waited 2 weeks for this movie to come out, and when it did, I stopped watching it almost 10 minutes into the movie, and switched to Spongebob. I’d rather watch a talking sponge than to watch a bunch of teenagers lip synch.

  • http://helpahorse.i67.org Kelly Allester

    High School Musical 3? THAT I will NOT watch. 3 is always too much.

    The first movie your like “GREAT! Yes! I LOVE that movie! I can’t WAIT TO SEE THE SEQUEL!”

    The second movie your like “Awesome! That was so good! That had such a great ending!”

    The third movie your like “What? Another one?”

    It does get annoying and I really don’t hope to see another cheesy movie. I think they got lucky with HSM, but HSM2 really shows that they really don’t have what it takes to make a successful movie.

  • Elias Richa

    I really like HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 2 !!! I hope they make a 3rd one which they are coming out in 2008

  • HSMGirl

    I agree with most of the comments saying HSM2 wasn’t as good as the 1st one. I think with all the hype (commerrcials, music videos, contests, etc.) ppl were expecting something phenomenal. i’m a tween and i absolutely loved the first movie but about 20 minutes into the second one i was like “are they serious?” i had to totally fake to my mom that i loved it b/c i had been talking about it for like the past 4 months. i dont know what to expect in the third movie i don’t even know if i want to see it (i can’t believe i just said that)

  • Em

    I thought the movie was focused too much on Sharpay. He’s abrasive and then it’s unbelievable when she seems so friendly towards the end. False!

    My favorite scene is when Zac Efron jumps around a golf course wearing black skinny jeans in Bet On It. No one’s mentioned that. It was hysterical! (I don’t think it was meant to be…) I was surprised though, it seemed like Efron suddenly took a dark, intense turn, but then popped up in the next movie like he always was. Maybe he’s just bipolar.

    Another this is how the songs all seemed to be made to be music videos that they just stuck into the movie.

  • http://jen136 jennifer

    High school musical was like the best movie well not realy but, high school musical 2 i didn’t like as much. the dances were so retarded and it was like every 5 seconds they’d break into song!!! it was ok i guess but honestly the only part i liked about it is the song fabulous!!!!! lol

  • Somone

    I really LOVED HSM 2!!! I need to learn all the dance moves!!

  • caitlin

    i thought it was a gr8 movie and troy and gabriella finally kissed!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • anyone

    i guess they were so excited about how hsm was embraced by everyone and wanted to make hsm2 better. well they failed.
    i ran to sit down by 7.59pm on the 17th of august waiting for a musical that i will always sing everywhere i go but i was disgusted at what i saw.

    it was the exact same thing as the first one in terms of troy and gabrealla break up and make up, troy’s separation from the group, a musical at the end to keep the audience from sleeping, everything was just a mess in hsm2.

    the must annoying thing about it is that there was a song every 10 minute of the movie. i don’t advice them to make hsm3 because most of hsm fans were lost including myself, except they are going to watch it themselves.

  • Meredith L. Morse

    Is Vanessa Ann Huggens really fired from the High School Musical cast? And is Zac Efron really going to jail for 2 more years? And is the High school Musical cast working on High school Musical 3 and 4? Type back soon I need to know. Thank you,and Sincerly,Meredith L.Morse

  • jolene

    what are some people saying HSM2 is gr8 i love it and its soo not gay

  • archana

    your reviews is good but i have to disagree with it…the fact that the story line is more complicated is what makes the sequal better..personally i loved the first movie but the plot line was really weak and not at all relative to how normal high school students would react, the sequal however is better because the the more complicated plot line is needed because there is know way they could have pulled off another hit with a weak plot line like the first…regarding the music i once again have to disagree..the music in the sequal was a lot more fun to sing a long to to and a lot better to listen to its is really catchy they only problem with the music is that if you listened to the entire soundtrack in order you would pretty much have the entire movie in a nutshell
    i think the reason that you do not like the sequal as much is because you are in a way seeing it for you 4 year old and 7 year old daughters and for children that young simpler plot lines are better however this movie will still be good with that demographic largly because it is a sequal to a hit and also because although it is more complicated it is still relativly simple and this kind of plot line is more of what the older demographic is also looking for

  • http://1230777 siedah

    I LOVE HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 2 THE MOVIE WAS OF THE CHANE.

  • http://1230777 siedah

    CORBIN BLEU I LOVE YOU YOUR SO SEXY.

  • pie person

    bad movie.#1 was way better!!!!
    the songs are sooo…corny,expeshaly bet on it!!!
    i have 2 be onest,when zac started 2 sing bet on it and they just showed his legs i thoght he was a girl!!!!

  • pie person

    u people r strange

  • archana

    vanessa hudgens wasnt fired zac isnt going to jail and yes they are wrkin on a 3rd but they are saying it is going to be the last one and it will not be a tv movie it is gonna be in theatres

  • patrick

    the movie was retarted. and one im sure people of all ages could not enjoy.

  • Mary

    HSM2 was the incredibly obvious sequel to the High School Musical. The movie was cornier and even less like real-life than the original. But what bothered me about the movie was the spoken message. Saying that what people think of you is more important than going to College was an awful message to put into a movie like that. Older children will be able to understand the unspoken and clich√© message “Be true to yourself” but I’m afraid that children under ten may have simply understood that college isnt important.
    Several other factors that bothered me about the movie was the colors. Did anyone else notice they seemed to be enhanced? Also Gabriella and Troy’s first kiss. Are we really supposed to believe a high school guy would wait six months to kiss his girlfriend?

    But After their kiss the lanterns FLEW! Just one question…why? And after the lanterns flew away into the sky, I thought they should have just cut to the credits. I thought All For One was unnecessary and too much like We’re All in this Together (except not as good)

  • sarah-janedavies-griffin

    high school musical 1 and 2 were very good and i expect that the 3rd movie will be as good as all the others

  • James

    im doing a book review on hsm2 and this really helped me alot. thanks to you all:)