Tuesday, March 28, 2006

High School Musical Is Fun Little Film

High School Musical is the phenomenon that surprised America. Thanks to brilliant marketing and cross-promotion, this Disney Channel Original Movie has gotten not only big ratings but big record sales as well. The soundtrack to this film, released back in January, has sold over 800,000 copies and has made its way to #1 on the Billboard Albums Chart twice.

With all the success that the film and its soundtrack have had, there was one lingering question in my mind…is the movie any good? Fortunately, the answer is yes. High School Musical is a fun movie that puts its own spin on the stories seen in classic musicals.

The film begins on New Year's Eve where Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) and Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Anne Hutchinson) meet at a party. The two somehow end up singing karaoke together and they connect. Unfortunately, they lose contact with each other at the party with only cell phone pictures to remember each other by.

Troy is the star player of East High School's basketball team, a team his father also coaches. When returns to school after Winter Break, he's surprised to find out that Gabriella is a new student at his school (and his homeroom). The two reconnect and both seem interested in the school's new musical, much to the chagrin of sister/brother duo Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale) and Ryan (Lucas Grabeel). Troy and Gabriella audition together and earn a callback. The two of them sneak off to practice whenever they can and that draws suspicion from Troy's best friend (and fellow teammate) Chad (Corbin Bleu). Chad later teams up with the head of the Academic Decathlon team (of which Gabriella's a member) to attempt to break the two up and make them focus on their "real" activities. However, things end in the nice way that Disney films do.

I enjoyed this movie. Although a lot of elements of this film are familiar, I liked how it attempted to make them feel a little fresh. Most movies make the differences between the boy and the girl the conflict whether it's families or gangs. However, instead of relying on that tried-and-true set up, High School Musical gets its conflict mainly from the idea of doing something different from what people expect. It's not the fact that Troy and Gabriella are together that is really a problem for their friends…it's the fact that they are doing something different that is taking their focus away from what they "should" be doing.

The music in this film is actually pretty good considering. My personal favorite is "Stick To The Status Quo," a surprisingly sarcastic song. As various kids reveal things about themselves that are different from their personas (a nerd reveals a passion for hip-hop, an athlete says that he loves to bake), they are chastised for having such surprising interests. It addresses the aspect of peer pressure that has kids hide portions of themselves because they worry about what their friends will think in a way that's upbeat and fun. I give the songwriters credit for figuring out that kids will not really think that sticking to the status quo is a good idea.

High School Musical was directed by choreographer/director Kenny Ortega who also directed the Disney big-screen musical Newsies. This probably explains why the choreography is very good. The dance numbers are involved and quite entertaining. I especially enjoyed the dances for "Getcha Head In The Game." Dances that use basketballs always amaze me and this one was no exception. It's also quite funny to see a bunch of basketball players break out into song.

Overall, High School Musical is a fun little film. Although the acting may not be the best at times, the cast is appealing and the music and choreography are certainly a cut above what is expected of a made-for-cable movie. With the DVD due in May, a special edition of the soundtrack reportedly coming this summer, and a sequel in the works for next year, High School Musical will be around for a while.

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