Disney // 2006 // 98 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Justice Michael Stailey // February 17th, 2009
This school rocks like no other!
I missed the boat on the whole High School Musical phenomenon, so when it fell to me to review High School Musical 2, I was a bit lost. Now, having gone back to the original, I can see what all the fuss was about.
If, like me, you've been off planet for a few years, here's your Wildcat primer:
Sophomores Troy (Zac Efron) and Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens) are thrown together as karaoke partners during a teen New Year's Eve party at a mountain ski resort. By the time the music is done, kismet has taken hold. But, like Cinderella at the ball, midnight strikes and the prince is left holding the glass slipper, or in this case, her cell phone number. Flash forward. The holidays are over and life at East High returns to normal...or does it. A new transfer student, Gabriella, upsets the delicate student balance, bringing jocks (Corbin Bleu, Chris Warren Jr.) and geeks (Monique Coleman, Oleysa Rulin) into the drama department and freaking out the resident twin stars, Ryan (Lucas Grabeel) and Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale), whose future now hangs in the balance. With the Spring Musical, Scholastic Decathlon, and the Basketball Championship all happening at the same time, how's it all going to work out? Through musical dance numbers, of course!
High School Musical is Grease for the next generation. Two unlikely people meet and fall in love. But when unlikely person #1 shows up in unlikely person #2's high school home room, the two try to cultivate a relationship amidst angry friends and family who feel the couple's time together is throwing off their priorities and responsibilities. It's fresh faced family fun done Disney style, hitting on basic resonant themes of kids coming into their own, under the guidance of midas touch choreographer turned director Kenny Ortega, who had a hand in giving the world similar teen classics in Dirty Dancing, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and Pretty in Pink.
The music is a mix of contemporary pop, latin, hip-hop, and Broadway, albeit a touch overproduced to swallow up any minor flaws in the vocal tracks. The lip-synching is more than a bit off, but once your brain adjusts, it's hard to resist the film's inherent charms. Zac is a bit of a cheeseball to start, but settles in nicely as the story progresses. Vanessa is adorable with her perpetual, natural smile. Ashley relishes chewing every minute of her scenery chewing screen time, while Lucas has fun keeping up. Monique and Corbin rise to the challenge, as the third leg of this principal triad, and hold their own with each inventive sequence. Credit Kenny and his choreography collaborators Charley Klapow and Bonnie Story for putting the kids through their paces. And even though David Lawrence receives sole credit as composer, let's not overlook the fact it took an army of folks -- Greg & Ray Cham, Andy Dodd, Faye Greenberg, Jamie Houston, Adam Watts, Matt Gerrard, Drew Lane, Eddie Galan, Andrew Seeley (who also provided Zac's singing voice) -- to develop the music and lyrics for each of these diverse numbers. The other unsung hero here is 56 year old screenwriter Peter Barsocchini who helped conceive these kids and their world.
I've said more than I intended. Judges Cynthia Boris and Mike Pinksy provided Verdict with exceptional analysis of the original DVD and Special Edition releases, and I strongly encourage you to take a few minutes to read through their reviews. I'm just here to give you the low down on the Blu-Ray release and whether it's worth your time and investment.
If you're looking for new bonus material, forget it. Everything here has been ported over from the Two-Disc Remix Edition. Three featurettes focus on the making of, the DVD release party at the El Cap in Hollywood, and the press/concert tour that followed. There are also sing-along and dance-along options, for those brave enough to venture a turn in the family room spotlight. Plus, you'll get a chance to learn and practice the dance moves on the two biggest numbers -- "Get'cha Head in the Game" and "We're All in This Together" -- before putting on your own family theatre night. Finally, five music videos, including one by Mexican band Belnova, round out this triple dip.
However, this is the first time the film has been seen in its original 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio. Broadcast in full frame and released to DVD in the same format, we now get the full scope of the picture as intended. That alone may be enough to second hand your DVD copy to a non-HD family member and upgrade. Just remember, this was a Disney Channel original movie and never intended to be a big theatrical phenomenon. The production values were designed for the scope of television and all the hi-def enhancements in the world are not going to make it look like the best and brightest Blu-ray has to offer. For most folks, it's the audio upgrade that'll get them to trade up. The PCM Uncompressed 5.1 mix is much more robust than what the kids have been listening to. Granted, many of those original HSM groupies may have grown beyond their fandom and are now into things like Twilight, but the music lives on and your younger ones may just be discovering these tunes for the first time.
If you're investing in the release of High School Musical 3 on Blu-ray, you might as well pick this up at the same time and complete the HD collection. Besides, if your kids are like the kids in my family, that original DVD release has probably seen its better days. The franchise is now a staple in the Disney library and rightfully so. There's something about good musicals that never goes out of style. Not Guilty.
Review content copyright © 2009 Michael Stailey; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Danish)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Norwegian)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Swedish)
* PCM 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Music Videos