Tuesday, December 9, 2008

High School Musical, HSM2, HSM3

I think my girl was one of the last girls in America not to have watched any of the High School Musicals. Until now.

With High School Musical 3 hitting theaters, and last year's gift of High School Musical 2 DVD that still sat unopened, we decided to borrow the first HSM and catch up on all of them.

Honestly, I was bracing myself for a Disney cheesefest--after all the pretty and glorified press on the cast, I was expecting that I'd be clawing my eyes and ear canals out at the second step-ball-change. But it turned out to be similar to my Barney experience.

Anybody remember Barney? When I was a teenager, Charles Barkley did a sketch on SNL where he played one-on-one with Barney and ended up trashing him. This was when Barney just came on the PBS scene and he was taking the infant set and their parents by storm. At the time, I just remembered him as a goofy purple dinosaur and I laughed so hard at every blow Charles Barkley gave him. When I had my own baby, however, and she became enamored with Barney, you can bet your Cinnabuns that I would have kissed his purple a$$ for all the laughter he brought out of my baby girl. I wouldn't necessarily say Barney deserved an Emmy but I came to respect the purpose and life lessons of his show and I enjoyed watching the shows together with my young daughter.

Anyhoo, these HSMs are really well done. Directed by Kenny Ortega (a world famous choreographer who has choreographed for Michael Jackson and the movie, Dirty Dancing), the musical numbers flow easily and the choreography is excellent, reminiscent of great musicals like West Side Story and even Thriller. And the songs are really catchy and are hit pop song caliber.

It helps that the HSMs feature a very talented cast. Zac Efron (plays Troy) totally has a future in front of him beyond Disney. Until I saw his work here, I was pretty much ready to dismiss him as an annoyingly pretty kid. But the boy has got talent. He reminded me of John Travolta in Grease--charming and handsome with great comic timing and musical chops to boot. He overuses a Renee Zellweger pout in HSM2 but really shines in HSM3. Ashley Tisdale (plays Sharpay) is super in this--given a fairly two dimensional character, she is really engaging as the selfish yet popular girl and fills out the role with relish.

Though excellent for movies aimed at the tween set, there are weaknesses. These movies are obviously centered around Troy whose struggles are well fleshed out, but the supporting characters (played by very talented actors) are fairly two dimensional. The worst, for me, being the girlfriend-as-wet-blanket character. Vanessa Hudgens is quite lovely-faced and voiced as Gabriella, whose character provides the focus and conflict for Troy. My grievances are with the dramatic devices her character is given, the worst being some early start program by Stanford that has her start college during her senior year of high school in HSM3. Really?! I'll spare my diatribe on Disney's female characterizations in general. For now. Other talented actors, Lucas Grabeel as Ryan, Sharpay's suffering brother, and Corbin Bleu as Chad, Troy's best friend, get to show off their skills in some of the best musical numbers, but again I feel their characters serve more as devices to move the story along or flesh out Troy's character. But perhaps, that's the nature of musicals. There is, after all, a lot of singing and dancing to be done.

Overall, this HSM trilogy is very well done and entertaining, with huge credit to the director, Kenny Ortega. I appreciated watching them with my tween daughter and I enjoy watching the girl sing along to the songs as I did with musicals when I was a kid.

1 comment:

Pound said...

i can't believe you wrote that much on hsm. :P i love hotwheels and nascar for the joy they bring to ethan but.... even i can't watch a race or play the vid game.