High School Musical 2
Just like anyone born in the early fifties I grew up with Walt Disney. I looked forward to the treat of seeing one of his animated feature length movies in the theater and one of the high points of every week was the Disney television show. Now the House of Mouse has expanded to one of the best cable networks for young people. There has always been some sort of programming for the kids in grade school but the Disney network has devoted a lot of resources to the growing ‘tween demographic. The kids range from pre to early teens and Disney has programming that entertains and never talks down to them. Besides imaginative series in the late afternoon and early evening Disney has a series of movies for this age group. One of the most successful was ‘High School Musical’. The legion of fans watched the movie on television, purchased the DVD, soundtrack and a plethora of brand merchandising. When the sequel was announced these fans were elated. Millions of them stayed home forsaking the holy land of the mall to watch. Now Disney has the extended version DVD and it is certain to be a wild success.
The movie starts off with something universal to every student. It is the last day of classes before the start of summer vacation. The teacher drones on trying to finish out the class but every student is too busy watching the abominably slow second hand of the class clock move towards the second that they will be free from school. For the last ten seconds the class starts chanting ‘summer’ until finally the bell rings and they break out into song and dance with ‘What Time Is It’. One thing you have to say about a Disney original movie, they know their audience and ‘tweens don’t want to wait for the first musical number. After the initial festivities Sharpay Evans (Ashley Tisdale) the school diva pulls her ‘frienemy’ Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Hudgens) to the side to gleefully wish her goodbye. Gabriella has move to a new town for the last five years and Sharpay was hoping she would be gone leaving the field wide open for the affections of Troy Bolton (Zac Efron). Gabriella assures Sharpay that her mother gave her an assurance that she would stay in the school until graduation. Troy gives Gabriella a necklace with his initial ‘T’ on it as a token of his feelings for her. The next number, ‘Fabulous’ details how Sharpay and Ryan Evans (Lucas Grabeel) plan to spend their vacation lounging at the Lava Springs country club while their classmates have to find summer jobs. Since Shapay is a Joan Collins in training she also plots to break up Troy and Gabriella. To this end she arranges for Troy to get a job at the club. Her plan starts to backfire when Troy speaks to the manager Mr. Fulton (Mark L. Taylor) and not only gets Gabriella a job there but also employment for their best friends Taylor (Monique Coleman) and Chad (Corbin Bleu). Sharpay tries to get Fulton to fire them leaving Troy to herself but her mother (Jessica Tuck) sits on the board and approved the hires. Sharpay does get Fulton to make life horrible for Gabriella, Chad and Taylor by assigning them to the kitchen. True blue Troy is there in a snap to sing a song, Work This Out, to lift their spirits. Sharpay puts more pressure on Troy through her family who assures the boy that he can have a great life if he leaves his working class friends behind. Added to this is the appearance of a college basketball team, the Red Hawk, to tempt Troy and the old staple of the youthful music, a talent show and you have a fun time for all.
There is only one word to describe this film, exuberance. The cast has an obvious great deal of love for the project and that works a long way to carry the film. Kenny Ortega steps into the director’s seat for this sequel and propels it beyond the original. His credits are not limited to ‘tweens or children’s faire, he ahs directed episodes of the ‘Gilmore Girls’, ‘Ally McBeal’ and ‘Chicago Hope’. He uses this experience to make this a treat for the grown ups watching. The pacing is rapid fire. There are no slumps in the action. The song and dance numbers are well integrated and allow for a genuine plot to emerge from the film.
Disney is grooming the next generation of pop stars and so far it is working exceptionally well. These are clean cut kids who have professionalism above many older musical actors. Zac Efron is the textbook image of the all American boy. He is good looking, talented in both song and dance and a heartthrob for girls around the world. He also manages to emote properly giving more depth to his performance that the first film. It is a shame that Vanessa Hudgens had a little brush with scandal this year but it doesn’t seem to have gotten this excellent performer down at all. She carries her role with grace and an exceptional voice. The real star of this installment of the High School Musical series is without a doubt Ashley Tisdale. In the previous film she was under utilized as the comic relief and some age appropriate evil. Here she steals every scene she appears in. This role is deliciously wicked as the girl everyone loves to hate. It is also the complete opposite of her good girl role in the Disney television series ‘The Suite Life of Zack and Cody’. What is also outstanding in this cast is the diversity. There are teens of all shapes, sizes and ethnic background, a wonderful example for the young audience.
Since many of the audience already had this film on their DVRs Disney realized that the DVD release had to go beyond the broadcast. They succeeded in fine fashion. This DVD is billed correctly as the ‘extended’ version. It has a number not found in the broadcast version, ‘Humuhumunukunukuapua'a’ which is sheer silly fun. The anamorphic 1.78:1 video is reference quality. The colors are vibrant and pop off the screen. The Dolby 5.1 audio fills the room with music but never overwhelms the dialogue. In Disney DVD tradition there are plenty of fun extras for the kids. The first is the Blooper reel. The kids in this production certainly seemed to have making the film. They mug for the camera between takes and crack up when the inevitable mistakes in the complicate chorography occurs. In ‘Music and More’ there are several entertaining selections. You can go right to the added scene mention above. Then there are four music videos for the film. The great thing here is each one is in a different language from English to Spanish and French. They give a look at the young people who dubbed the songs into that language. You can sing along with the music in the next section where the lyrics are displayed on screen. You can shut off the words, turn off the vocals and basically have the musical numbers presented in any Karaoke style. Lastly there is a behind the scenes rehearsal cam that takes you from the practice right to the actual scene. This is a great deal for the whole family.
The folks over at Disney has come up with a new edition that will get your kids up and dancing around in your living room. This special two disc dance edition is loaded with brand new extras. The first disc is the same as the regular edition. The music and dance numbers included here span the globe with Disney productions in many other countries. Here is what is on disc two.
Posted 09/13/08 (Dance Edition)