Friday, July 4, 2008

We're all in this together, I guess...

High School Musical | rel. 2006 | dir. Kenny Ortega
High School Musical 2 | rel. 2007 | dir. Kenny Ortega

I was going to write this as two separate posts, but what's the point? High School Musical and High School Musical 2 are both rated 6.5/10 in the universe of moi, so there isn't going to be a tremendous difference of opinion anyway. I can easily extract my thoughts about the movies in one post.

I have a feeling that this is going to be an overlong rant that may or may not make any coherent sense. But that's okay. I have lots of meaningless drivel to say that relates to the two movies that I want to get out of my system.

High School Musical's existence entered my life through this girl I knew when I was in eighth grade. Back then, I lived in an abandoned cave right off the coast of a tiny island in Asia so I was pretty much in the dark when this movie first came out. (Simply put, I didn't have cable, thus, no Disney Channel.) At the time, I was a bit of a pretentious snob and would never have sat down to watch a movie that looked like a bunch of ridiculous teenagers prancing around the premises of their high school. Plus, I hated tween romances with a passion.

Tween romances are really just a twelve-year-old girl's fantasy and I guess it's nice for a twelve-year-old girl to see their fantasy on TV, replaced by amazingly aesthetically-pleasing people. That is sort of the point of the High School Musical franchise.

Now, I'm more willing to watch tween romances and accept them as they are. They are not made to be taken seriously or be considered masterpieces. I had to get that through my thick skull several times. Disney is making a lot of money off the franchise by creating a cast set of plastic dolls and printing the film's promo pics on a pillowcase. All the films are completed in a very short time-frame too, so I bet that saves tons of money. It's just pretty hard to take the films seriously even if I really, really try. But hey, not everything is art.

My interest in HSM peaked when I saw the new Disney Channel original movie, Camp Rock. It's supposedly a rip-off of HSM. In my opinion, it's not quite a rip-off, but it's not as guilty pleasure worthy or as entertaining as HSM. But that's a different post altogether...

For those unfamiliar with HSM's basic plot line (which I highly doubt is possible because I feel like I'm the last person on the planet to see the movies), a popular jock meets a brainy girl on vacation and they form a special connection as they sing karaoke together. Turns out, the brainy girl is the new girl at the guy's high school. They have to defeat all obstacles and step out of their comfort zones in order to obtain the lead roles for a school musical.

The entire concept of the film sounded predictable and kind of corny. But whatever. I needed to know what was at the core of all that hype. (Same reason why I want to read Twilight.)

I watched High School Musical almost right after I saw The Lizzie McGuire Movie. I was in good spirits after being charmed by my own childhood nostalgia. There was nothing in the world that could bring me down. And HSM did not bring me down at all. Not at all...

I was pleasantly surprised by the first song in the film, "A Start of Something New," sung by Zac Efron's Troy Bolton (Efron's voice was mixed with Drew Seeley's) and Vanessa Hudgens's Gabriella Montez. It's not a bad song, and in fact, it's truly poplicious in the way Disney songs usually are. (I have a soft spot for all the pop Disney has to offer--that ranges from Hilary Duff to the Jonas Brothers.) Sadly, the film makes no attempt to cover up the fact that all the songs were recorded in a studio and edited before they were inserted into the movie, but that's not a big deal. I don't nitpick too much when it comes to movies aimed at a certain age group, and that's why I gave The Lizzie McGuire Movie an 8/10. I mean, I highly doubt the kids who watch HSM cares if the songs were dubbed in or not. Honestly, I don't really care either.

But I couldn't stop laughing.

Is it just me, or was Zac Efron really exaggerating every muscle in his face in HSM whenever he started singing? He just looks so extremely weird whenever he started singing. When he sings "A Start of Something New," "Get'cha Head in the Game," and "Breaking Free," he looks as if was trying to stretch his facial muscles all the way, until they rip. I don't know if it was due to the fact that he was extremely nervous (I definitely would've been) or that was the way he was told to perform--I have no idea. But it made me laugh pretty hard: I had tears in my eyes and I couldn't really stand or sit.

Enough about how Efron caused my unintentional laughter...

I can't stand the romance between Troy and Gabriella. I mention chemistry or the lack thereof in my reviews very often when it comes to romantic films. A romance can't work if the two leading actors share absolutely no chemistry; it only works when the audience is convinced that the two characters are in love with each other.

Efron and Hudgens did not convince me. There are some sparks in the early karaoke scene, but I think it all went downhill from there. Apparently, they are dating each other in real-life. Whatever they may share off-screen, it doesn't show on celluloid at all. Unless it's some unnecessary publicity stunt by Disney...but who really knows?

I have the same complaints with Camp Rock as well. Demi Lovato and Joe Jonas have even less chemistry than Efron and Hudgens. But they are not "dating" in real-life, so I guess that is a good enough excuse.

HSM has a shining, bright spotlight on one of its young performers and her name is Ashley Tisdale. Tisdale, which many might have been familiar with from the Disney Channel's The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, chews up the scenery in HSM, through and through. Forget about Maddie Fitzpatrick, Tisdale will be best-remembered for Sharpay Evans, the drama queen of East High who isn't going to let two newcomers steal the musical scene away from her. Tisdale undoubtedly delivers the best performance, completely overshadowing her sidekick Lucas Grabeel, who plays her brother, Ryan and truthfully, everyone other main cast member as well. Tisdale just leaves everyone in the dust.

In addition to Tisdale playing Sharpay, Sharpay also get all the best songs in the film. "What I've Been Looking For," is sung in a very classy scene with tons of energy and fun oozed all over the screen; it is my favorite song in the movie. "Bop to the Top" is a catchy tune, sung with ambition and personality by Tisdale and Grabeel.

A performance such as Tisdale's pops like technicolor in a movie like this. You watch her and you think, "This girl's got a future in showbiz."

Even though it was probably made on the cheap and shot in a couple of weeks, HSM is not a poorly-made film. The choreography is fantastic, the songs are catchy, and the story is not terrible. The direction by Kenny Ortega is not too bad either. It's sort of like Grease made for the twenty-first century. (I'm probably the millionth person to point that out, even though I haven't seen that movie in like, forever.)

I wish I could give all the same compliments to the sequel, High School Musical 2.

I have no idea how to explain why I would rate HSM2 the same rating I gave HSM since HSM2 is one of those unnecessary sequels that Disney seems to make all the time now. (The previews on my HSM2 DVD had a trailer for the straight-to-video Cinderella 2: Dreams Come True. Yeah, I totally wanted to see that...)

HSM2 is just as entertaining as HSM, though. HSM2 is a hour-and-a-half soap. (Film soaps, I dig. TV soaps, I can't stand.) All that ridiculous drama is probably why I found so much pleasure while watching the film. It was sort of like watching Spider-Man 3, just, not really.

The plot for HSM2 is rather loose and flimsy. So Troy and Gabriella and the rest of the Wildcats get jobs at a country club owned by Sharpay and Ryan's family. Sharpay is pissed because only Troy was supposed to hired since he's still the guy she wants. Because of Sharpay's favoritism towards Troy, he gets special priviledges that detaches him from his friends. There is also a musical competition at the country club and Sharpay has her eye on the trophy, despite the rest of the Wildcats' determination to beat out the competition.

I would be lying if I said I was bored or uninterested at all.

Again, it's Tisdale who shines. James wrote an excellent blog entry about Tisdale's performance that includes all there needs to be said about Tisdale's portrayal of Sharpay. (The entry made me look forward to seeing HSM and HSM2.) Sharpay has a lot more screen time in the second film and she devours every second she has on-screen. She also has an even a more elaborate number in this film--and it's "Fabulous."

Tisdale has many scenes with Efron and I can't help but think what amazing chemistry they seem to have compared to the lackluster chemistry between Efron and Hudgens. There is the scene at the golfing course that made me sort of squee because of how cool the idea Troy x Sharpay is. I love that scene where Efron's Troy comments on his new shoes and says, "They're Italian." The "You Are the Music In Me" scene between Troy and Sharpay is incredible too because even when Troy is supposed to be hating Sharpay, Efron and Tisdale still have a lot of chemistry. But I guess that's the weird-minded shipper in me that simply distorts everything. Or maybe it was the fireworks. (I love this The Suite Life episode clip with Efron guest-starring and kissing Tisdale. It's epic, everyone.)

"Humuhumunukunukuapua'a" is totally hilarious and worth picking up the DVD for if you didn't get to see it when it first aired on the Disney Channel. (The clip is on Youtube, but I liked seeing it as part of the movie.) Oh, Sharpay! Tisdale never fails to impress me.

Although I felt rather guilty for laughing so hard at Efron's facial expressions in the first movie, I was looking forward for some more painfully funny moments in this movie as well. Well, it had several of those moments, but I did not laugh as much as I did during the first movie. That is mainly due to the fact that I found Efron kind of hot in this movie...but I'm not going to get too into that because that thought has been disturbing me to no end. He got taller, slimmer, a tan, and bluer eyes (in result of the tan or colored contacts?). And his real voice sounds strangely awesome.

Laugh all you want (because I did), but the "Bet On It" scene is already classic. The amount of parodies of that scene on Youtube is piling up.

Other than my love for Tisdale's performance as Sharpay, the Efron and Tisdale chemistry, and Efron's suddenly good looks, the rest of the movie is a dud. But thank goodness that the things I did like occupied about 75% of the film. Well, Efron's good looks occupied pretty much the entire movie, but it didn't really matter that much.

So the things that sucked, plus other random thoughts (this deserves a bullet list):
  • Vanessa Hudgens. Gabriella doesn't do much in the film other than giggle and say stupid things so it's not entirely Hudgens's fault. But I can't stand Hudgens's one-note delivery of all her lines. I do think Hudgens is a good, if not great, singer. "Gotta Go My Own Way" is actually a pretty good song.
  • I can't think of a more cringe-worthy scene in the movie than the "I Don't Dance" number. I know it is sort of a showcase for Grabeel, who is a good dancer, but I just think the entire scene feels kind of awkward and strange. I guess prancing around on the basketball court is a little better than prancing around on a baseball diamond? Perhaps.
  • The whole Evans family golfing scene is pretty pointless. I understand that it is supposed to develop the interest Sharpay's father has for Troy, but it just comes off as kind of boring.
  • The talking-to-singing transitions really bothered me in this film because they're ALL SO AWKWARD. I remember thinking, "WTF?" when Gabriella (Hudgens) started singing "Gotta Go My Own Way." The transition from speaking to singing in the "Work This Out" scene is also freaking weird.
  • Speaking of awkward singing, this movie is not shy from making it seem oh-so-obvious that they ran the songs through some sound machine. But again, I don't think the kids will notice...yet.
  • Troy basically says, "Screw my future, I love my friends more" near the end of the film. I don't think Disney exactly meant it that way but it just came out wrong. At that point in the film, Troy has been a total jerk to his friends because he has gotten a little too full of himself. But his friends are just so freaking annoying so I don't know...I mean, I feel like defending the message because I think I know what it was supposed to mean but...never mind. I don't get it either.
  • So were Chad (Corbin Bleu) and Taylor (Monique Coleman) supposed to be an item? I don't remember any mention of it at all in this film...not that it would really add or subtract to the film, but just wonderin' you know?
  • I don't understand Kelsi (Olesya Rulin). I like it when Sharpay gives those boring ballads a makeover. They always turn out more to be significantly more kickass.
  • I kind of hated the last scene: "All For One" is not a very good song at all.
...but I still found myself liking the movie. HSM2 qualifies as a the quintessential guilty pleasure for me.

I can digest crap unlike anyone else I know. I'm one of those rare people who can look at you in the eye and tell you how much I honestly enjoyed Batman & Robin. I kinda-sorta like both HSM films, even though they are both considered "crap" by a lot of people over the age of twelve. Well, I think they are supposed to be fun and they are fun. There is absolutely no harm in that. Kids like them, Disney is making a fortune off them--everyone's happy. Don't ask me why, but I'm looking forward to High School Musical 3: Senior Year. (I think my post already speaks for itself, haha.)

But I'll always have a special place in my heart for Sharpay. Tisdale makes her gold.


I hope everyone living in the U.S. had a lovely Independence Day!


  1. I couldn't agree with you more in your assessment in the HSM movies. I find them completely trashy, horribly rushed and stupid beyond belief- and yet I find myself obsessed with them and counting down the days until HSM3.

    My dream is to one day see a film where La Tisdale and Zac Efron are the romantic leads because every time they came on screen together in HSM2 you can just see the energy and chemistry. My friend showed me that clip from The Suite Life and I nearly died at how amazing/hilarious it is. You just can't beat La Tisdale. Vanessa Hudgens can hardly read a line and not embarrass herself- it's no wonder her and Efron have nothing between them onscreen.

    I, for one, loved the Evans family in HSM2. They might not have added much but they were so loony and crazy they totally cracked me up. I would love the see the Evans family with their own Disney channel show- I'd probably watch that.

    I also don't get the whole Chad/Taylor dynamic (why bring them back if you're not going to do anything with them?) or Kelsi (her ballads do suck- only when La Tisdale makes them her own do they truly work). And that whole message that Troy learns about choosing his friends over his future struck me as odd as well. Where the hell were they going with that? I understand the 12 year olds who watch this won't understand it but come on. Someone should have caught that along the way.

    Great post! I love a good HSM rant.

  2. James, glad you enjoyed my HSM rant. I feel myself becoming slightly more obsessed with HSM as the days go by. The worst part is, I really have no idea why. At random times of the day, I would hear a song from the HSM soundtrack automatically playing in my head. It's kind of creepy.

    I can't wait until HSM3 either. I almost feel that I'm getting more excited for HSM3 than I am for The Dark Knight.

    Watching a film where Tisdale and Efron are the romantic leads will complete me. Even if the script is the most corny, contrived, and stupid piece of garbage ever, I'll still love it. Have you seen this making-of video of their "You Are the Music In Me" scene? I can only dream...

    Sorry to disagree, but the Evans family golfing scene felt like a SNL skit. For me, it was funny for about five minutes but then I just stopped caring.

    The whole Chad/Taylor thing is the conventional hooking up of the best friends of the romantic leads. But it's pointless.

    My first reaction to the whole "Troy choosing his friends over his future" thing was that the movie wanted to show that you shouldn't turn into a total jerk just to get ahead in life. But the thing is, he didn't even turn into that much of a jerk and his friends were just being whiny and annoying. Big mistake that no one bothered to change that one line in the script that is supposed to be the "moral" of the story.