The High School Musical gang takes summer jobs at an exclusive golf course. While there, they discover that the club holds an annual talent show and decide to throw their names into the competition. Unfortunately for them, Sharpay’s family basically owns the golf course and she has won the contest every summer. She decides that she should be the one to sing with hunky Troy and does everything in her power to win him over.
When I sat down to watch High School Musical 2, I expected an hour and a half of torture. I expected to roll my eyes and wish I was anywhere but there. I expected to want to slit my wrist about halfway through the “musical.” When the movie started, the kids all sat in class on the last day of school, anxiously waiting for their summer vacation to begin. When they started chanting “summer, summer, summer” and then broke into the opening song What Time Is It? I groaned. The torture was beginning. Imagine my surprise as I began to tap my feet along with the song as the kids danced through the school.
Imagine my surprise when this movie won me over.
I was a late convert to the notion of a musical. However, over the years I developed a love for well made musicals that ten years ago I would have never dreamed of watching. When High School Musical 2 debuted on television in August 2007, it shattered all records for the most watched cable broadcast in U.S. history. 17.2 million viewers tuned in to see the sequel to a movie that was decent at best. By the end of the debut weekend, 30.04 million people had tuned in to watch this movie. I was curious.
The story presents Troy (Zac Efron) and his girlfriend Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens) as they prepare for a summer vacation together, excited about the possibilities. Gabriella had never lived in one place long enough to enjoy a summer vacation with her friends from school and wanted this to be a summer she would always remember. When Troy is offered a summer job at an exclusive golf course, he uses his pull and gets her hired to work there as well. Everything was going as planned for the couple. Troy got all their friends jobs there as well.
In the first movie, these friends were members of separate cliques that believed they were above each other. By the end of the movie, they all sang together as one. This time around, they are all friends – the jocks and the brains – with the only exception being the spoiled rich kids, Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale) and her twin brother Ryan (Lucas Grabeel). Sharpay’s family controls the golf course and she used her influence to get Troy the job there because she believes he should be with her – not Gabriella. When she learns that all her other classmates were brought along as well, she demands that Thomas Fulton, the manager of the course, make their lives a living hell forcing them to quit.
The script is a strong point of this movie, helping it rise above many other films geared towards this demographic. Troy is a great basketball player and his goal is to get a scholarship to play basketball in college. Sharpay uses his dream to her advantage. Her father is an alumnus of the University of Albuquerque, where Troy wants to play. He is able to get Troy private playing time with current U-of-A players and promises him that he can help get Troy a scholarship there. When he starts to receive special treatment at work and sees his dreams starting to come true, he begins to drift away from his friends and loses sight of what is really important.
He loses sight of what this movie wants you to believe is important. My main problem with the script is the movie preaches that friendship is the most important thing in the world, even more important than reaching your dreams. I don’t know if that is a good moral to teach our kids. Yes, friendship is important and you should never turn your back on your friends, but the script goes a little far in losing sight of your future for what you have now. A line of dialogue in the script has Gabriella say “here’s to the future” and Troy responds “No, here’s to right now.” I understand you should live for the here and now but I don’t think you should teach kids to give up your dreams so you can play with your friends over the summer.
The best character development in the story lies in a minor character – Ryan Evans. In the first movie, he was his sister’s dumb lackey. He was her right hand man who simply existed to serve her evil wishes. He starts this movie in the same role, but as the movie progresses he actually starts to make friends. Actor Lucas Grabeel does a fantastic job developing his character in this movie until you really start to like him. By the end of a pivotal baseball game, you really want him to succeed and Ryan really earns his stripes this time around.
Of course, the main plot of the movie is a talent show, same as the first movie. This time around, all the friends want to perform another hit as employees had always got to do an act in the show. Kelsi (Olesya Rulin) writes a song for Troy and Gabrielle to sing with the rest of the group, but Sharpay uses her influence to force her to rewrite it in a faster tempo for her and Troy to sing. Sharpay then uses persuession to force Mr. Fulton to disallow employees from performing that year and uses her dad to convince Troy to sing with her at the talent show instead of his friends. It is up to Troy to make the right decision and choose whether he will remain loyal to his friends or do whatever it takes to get ahead.
The most important part of the movie is the songs. Without good songs and dances, the best story in the world would mean nothing. This movie delivers in spades. You have the toe tapping songs of What Time is It? and Work This Out. You have a couple of really good songs in You Are the Music in Me and Gotta Go My Own Way. To top it off, you have a hilariously ridiculous song called Humuhumunukunukuapua’a. That was the extra song added to this Extended Version and it had me in stitches. Of course there were the eye rolling moments, like when Troy walked onto the golf course and sang Gotta Go My Own Way, which reminded me a little too much of ‘90s boy bands. For the majority of the movie the songs were really solid.
Even better than the songs were the dance moves. Kenny Ortega had the kids using all kinds of props from basketballs to kitchen utensils to a swimming pool and it all seemed to work. These kids can sing and dance and to top it off they can all act too. I am not the age group that this movie was made to attract but somewhere along the way it did the unthinkable. It made a fan out of me. With catchy songs, great dance moves and a solid story that was both funny and interesting this is a movie that I would recommend to anyone.
The look and sound of this film is amazing. With much of the scenery the outdoors of Utah, the colors just popped off the screen. The DVD is in full screen, as it was a television movie, but it looks fantastic. Presented in Dolby 5.1, everything sounded great as well. This was a wonderful transfer, even for a full screen feature.
The first big bonus feature is a sub-category called Music and More. This just lets you go through the movie song by song. The first thing you can see is the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a exclusive scene. As I said before, this scene had me in stitches. In the employee talent show, Sharpay and Ryan developed a huge production with this song and it has to be seen to be believed. Next up is music videos. The first is You are the Music in Me as seen in the movie and then a second time by Paulina Holguin & Roger in Spanish. The second is Nikki Yanofsky performing Gotta Go My Own Way both in French and in English. Finally, you can watch each song in the movie individually either in its original format with the words subtitled or without the actual singing so you can karaoke along with it.
Backstage Disney includes a really neat Rehearsal Cam where you watch director Ortega choreograph each individual dance scene all the way up to the final version as seen in the movie. There is also a sneak peek at Phineas and Ferb and an outtake reel.