Sunday, August 19, 2007

‘High School’

So this past weekend was amazing. The anticipation had been building for months for all of us Disney-philes (you just don’t have to be a 10-year-old to enjoy this stuff!). It was time to see what the East High Wildcats were up to; Friday night was the premiere of High School Musical 2 on Disney Channel, accompanied by an entire weekend of showings.

The sequel, I have to say, is refreshing. It’s much better than the original; HSM2 is also more original than the original. The first movie finds a group of high schoolers in a similar situation as the classic musical Grease and the movie version featuring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John (and Grease is a updated retelling of the classic Romeo & Juliet).

The numbers in the first were well-done, but the plot was a little too cheesy and trying for me, which only added to the fact that the lead character’s voice (Zac Efron’s Troy Bolton) was dubbed over and instead, Canadian Andrew Seeley sang the parts. (This is a little annoying to a traditionalist and purist. But note: Disney has always had an annoying reputation of going audio crazy and altering or dubbing over everyone’s vocal performances in movies and TV shows; it makes things seem so fake.)

The opening number of HSM2, “What Time Is It,” is quite a toe-tapper. Other musical number are just as engaging as the first movie. Though hard to top the musical number “Get’cha Head in the Game” from the original (a number with flying basketballs and a catchy tune), “I Don’t Dance” (featuring baseballs now and a somewhat catchy tune) is a worthy follow-up.

Don’t get me wrong, the cheesiness continues into the new made-for-TV movie. The solo song by Efron in “Bet On It” is a little much and awkwardly filmed as he jumps from rock to rock and runs around singing.

But my point here is that HSM2 (on a whole) is more watchable than its predecessor, while the first is better watched by just jumping from one musical scene to another or just listening to the soundtrack. While movie musicals are hard stand alone with their music, HSM2 does pretty well in the scenes without music.

Throughout the channel’s latest original movie, I found myself living vicariously. I was reliving high school – at least the better part of the awkward and sometimes unrelentingly uncomfortable teen years. During my latter years in high school, I really enjoyed being in the chorus and the musicals; it really got me through school. Sometimes you have horrible days in school, when you don’t want to go back the next day. Music got me to go back day after day (along with journalism and a few amazing teachers). It was something I really loved to do and this movie (along with the original) makes me want to go back to high school for an abbreviated time and do another musical – sort of (I don’t know if I can handle the drama all over again). There is nothing quite as magical as being on stage – or in this case, on the small screen – singing, dancing and acting.

But isn’t this how Disney has capitalized on the phenomenon that is High School Musical?

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