Whether you call it a “smash hit” or a “cult phenomenon,” High School Musical is equivalent to the crazes over New Kids on the Block, Transformers, slap bracelets, and most recently Hannah Montana to their respective generations and genders. Full of pop tunes and dance moves, High School Musical is more than a sing-and-dance “Disney Channel Original Movie.” It’s a hand-clapping, foot-stomping – albeit tacky and juvenile – musical adventure.
In an instance of happenstance, basketball captain Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) and “Einstein-ette” Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Anne Hudgens) bond at a “teen” New Year’s party while on winter break. Chosen at random via spotlight, the pair is forced to sing a karaoke duet. As they discover their mutual love for song, the party soon comes to a close and the two go their separate ways.
On their first day back to school at East High in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Troy and Gabriella are surprised to find themselves in the same homeroom class. As they recollect the song they shared, Troy wants to keep his singing a secret and Gabriella prefers to blend in before becoming involved.
Be that as it may, when Ms. Darbus (Alyson Reed) repeatedly reminds the students of the upcoming musical, Troy and Gabriella can’t help but let their love for music shine. Once the pair is awarded a callback for the lead roles, they send “ice princess” Sharpay Evans (Ashley Tisdale) and her metrosexual brother Ryan (Lucas Grabeel) into competitive overdrive.
In order to appreciate High School Musical to the fullest, one must pardon the elementary lyrics and sub-par choreography and take in the made-for-TV innocence of the “music-al.” While the tale contains only a handful of memorable numbers and two annoying fade-outs/fade-ins that account for the commercials during the television premiere, it’s also as fun as the third installment of Grease with Troy and Gabriella reprising the roles of Danny and Sandy. Only now, the new age players are equipped with cell phones.
More than anything, High School Musical is about breaking stereotypes and discovering who you really are. Regardless of what’s expected from the jocks, nerds, and Barbie dolls, each should be able to show an interest in and accomplish anything without fear of embarrassment or peer pressure. High School Musical succeeds in planting this message and allows its leads to break free from the status quo.
Speaking of which, the most memorable songs are “Breaking Free,” “Stick to the Status Quo,” and “We’re All in This Together” (the kiddy-pop climax), while the more touching numbers are “Start of Something New” and “What I’ve Been Looking For.” In these songs, the vocal talent is evident; even though Efron’s and Hudgens’ voices may come off as young and nasally, the duo thrives in exhibiting earnest emotions and sincere eye contact.
On the other hand, with songs like “Getcha Head in the Game,” “When There Was Me & You” (Gabriella’s teary solo featuring the large Troy banner), and “Bop to the Top,” viewers are forced to witness High School Musical’s extreme cheese factor. Adding to this cheesiness is Bart Johnson, who plays Troy’s father and coach. Johnson is the pits of the feature and his tendency to go over the top pushes the storyline below the bar.
The most unforeseen aspect of High School Musical is that by the end of the film, the musical itself has not even begun. The leads are announced, and the show is set to be performed. But, before the actual production begins, High School Musical concludes! Viewers only get to observe the tryouts, rehearsals, and callbacks.
Nonetheless, it is easy to see where the fascination lies. For those who appreciate song and dance in any form, High School Musical is a genuine good time. If you fall within this target audience and haven’t yet received your driving permit from the D.M.V., then put your hands together High School Musical, and go wildcats! Otherwise, it’s understandable to approach and leave the experience with mixed emotions.
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