Judge Cynthia Boris is shocked—shocked, we tell you—to see Disney make a shameless money grab with a double-dip.
Our reviews of High School Musical (Blu-Ray) (published February 17th, 2009), High School Musical: Encore Edition (published July 19th, 2006), and High School Musical: The Concert (published June 25th, 2007) are also available.
We're soarin', flyin'
It's rare enough when a movie soundtrack goes triple-platinum, but when it's the soundtrack to a little known made for Disney Channel TV movie, it's an even bigger coup. Yes, what once was an inexpensive low-key addition to the Disney catalog is now a phenomenon with huge DVD sales, stage show rights, a touring company, a sequel in the making, and coverage in almost every major media outlet from Teen to The New York Times. Needless to say, the young stars have quit their retail jobs—they have "bopped their way to the top," leaving millions of people wondering why and dozens of network execs trying to figure out how to do it again.
It's Disney's High School Musical: The Remix Edition.
Facts of the Case
Troy (Zac Efron) and Gabriella (Vanessa Anne Hudgens) are thrown together singing karaoke at a New Year's Party, and it's a musical match make in heaven. But like their forefathers in Grease, the harmonies are off when the two meet again at East High School. Troy's a basketball star (thanks in part to his coach/father) and his pals (including best friend Chad, Corbin Bleu) aren't too happy when they see him mooning over the new girl in school, Gabriella. They advise him quite wisely to "Get'cha Head In The Game," while Gabriella is cautioned by Taylor (Monique Coleman) to stick with her own brainy buddies.
What Troy and Gabriella secretly long for is another shot at musical matrimony, but in order to do so they must beat out drama queen Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale) and brother Ryan (Lucas Grabeel) for the lead roles in their high school musical. What ensues is plenty of music, plenty of teen angst (when Troy gets convinced that basketball is more important that love), and a drumline-led finale that is bound to get you bopping along.
I feel that I must start this review with a confession. I am another one of those 40-something rabid fans of this teeny-bopper movie. I have the soundtrack in my car. "Get'cha Head In The Game" is my ring tone, and I've attempted to recreate the final dance number in the safety of my own living room (with little success). But then, I'm also a high school musical geek, one of those girls who spent her life mooning over becoming an actress and finding true love with my leading man (okay, one out of two ain't bad).
The truth is that for the young at heart and the young, there's a lot to like here. Sure, it's not Shakespeare, but it doesn't try to be. It's a sweet, wholesome, infectious musical just like they used to make them back in the day.
When my colleague, Mike Pinsky, reviewed the original release of this title, he made a strong case for dancing as a metaphor for sex. I'm not sure I agree whole-heartedly, but I'm certainly on board with his comment about the strangely seductive relationship between Sharpay and her brother. Perhaps it heralds back to the old Disney movies where most familial relationships were dysfunctional (Cinderella, anyone?), because these two sure seem more like lovers than siblings and that scares me a bit.
Of course, the real stars of this movie are director / choreographer Kenny Ortega and the Disney team of musical composers. Ortega manages to pull off the most intricate dance numbers ever seen on TV. As for the music, there are three show-stopping ensemble numbers and five duets that include a salsa number, an emo ballad, and one clever tune, "What I've Been Looking For," performed in both Broadway and pop style. Almost all of the songs are insidiously catchy and you'll find them lurking in your brain long after the movie is over.
The two-disc High School Musical: Remix Edition has all the special features from the original edition and includes an additional thirty minutes of new material along with a Spanish audio track.
From the original, you get the sing-along version of the movie, a nice making-of featurette, a much too complicated dance-along with Kenny Ortega, and two music videos, "We're All in This Together" and "I Can't Take My Eyes Off of You."
The Remix version is blue themed (the original red) and they were kind enough to put all the new features on the second disc in the case.
Up first is the "Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Hollywood Premiere Event," which is actually the red carpet arrivals for the DVD event held at the El Capitan in Hollywood. There are a few interviews with cast members and quotes from other Disney Channel actors and one American Idolwho admits to having never seen the movie, but he's sure he'll love it. Very short and not all that revealing.
The "High School Reunion: Exclusive Interviews with the Cast" is a funny Q&A that has the cast talking about their lives before the movie (Blockbuster and babysitting) and after. It's really interesting to see these young actors remark about their sudden fame, and they all still appear to be a little shell-shocked. A look at the High School Musical phenomena seems more aimed at advertisers as it quotes sales, magazine coverage, and the pimping of their teenage stars, but I found it intriguing.
True to the Remix name, there are two remixed videos, which are mostly interesting because they show the actors behind the scenes. Personally, I prefer the original version of both tunes, "Breaking Free" and "We're All in This Together," but they get points for trying to mix it up. There's also a pretty Spanish language video called "Eres Tu" ("What I've Been Looking For") by Mexican band Belanova.
The best new feature on this set is the "Dance Along," which attempts to teach you two of the popular dances from the movie. Much better than the Kenny Ortega version in the original DVD, this version really gives you a chance to catch on. The four lead actors from the movie are on board with a variety of teens backing them up. One by one, they walk you through the moves with great visual and audio cues to help you learn. Then each dance is performed at half speed before finally going full speed. "Get'cha Head in the Game" is kind of tricky since it's meant to be performed with a basketball, which the cast doesn't recommend if practicing indoors! "We're All in This Together," the show-stopping finale, is broken down into two segments and if you practice enough, you'll have a real shot at this one. If nothing else, it's great aerobics for mom. I really appreciate that the actors constantly remind the viewers that it took them awhile to learn these dances and they shouldn't be frustrated if they don't get it right away.
The big question here is to double dip or not? Most fans of the movie already own the original DVD release, so is it worth plucking down the cash for this one? Yes and no. For the casual viewer, there is only about a half-hour of new material and most of that is forgettable. But for die-hard fans, it's worth it just to see the actors outside of the movie doing interviews and having fun so I'd say, go for it.
I recommend High School Musical for tween girls and anybody who's ever dreamed of being a star, in high school or otherwise. This movie is all about living your dream even if it's not practical and everyone else is against it. To quote the opening number, "anything can happen, when you take a chance."
Take a chance on High School Musical.
Innocent! Now get out of here, you're late for rehearsal!
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Scales of Justice
• Two versions of the film -- original and sing-along
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