Saturday, April 08, 2006

Brooklyn Arden Review: "High School Musical"

I was recently introduced to the Disney Channel movie "High School Musical," which is, indeed, a musical set in a high school. It's about a basketball player named Troy Bolton who meets a pretty brainiac named Gabriella Montez at a karaoke contest over Christmas vacation. Back at school, they decide to try out for the school musical together, much to the consternation of his teammates and basketball-coach father, her academic-decathalon buddies, and the Margo Channing of the Drama Club (a girl amusingly named Sharpay). In fact, the kids' breaking free of their usual labels causes schoolwide drama, as another nerd announces she loves to dance, a skateboarder says he enjoys the cello, and -- my favorite detail -- one of the tough basketball guys declares his passion for baking.

Now, you don't get any points for guessing where this is going; the soundtrack list alone shows the school's progress from "Stick to the Status Quo" to "We're All in This Together." The characters are stock, the dialogue and acting cheesy, the music and performances straight out of "American Idol," with lots of oh-ohhhing (and be warned, the songs stick in your head). The direction is by Kenny Ortega, who choreographed "Dirty Dancing" among other beloved movies of my youth. But perhaps because of that, oh(-ohhh), this worked on me -- the heightened emotions of a musical (which I'm a sucker for anyway), the sweet little romance, the fantasy of a whole school coming together and supporting all its kids in whoever they choose to be. I was looking at the 364 reviews of the soundtrack on, and these two stood out to me:

the movie High School Musical is the extremely the best movie EVER! zac efron is such a good singer! vannessa is a great singer 2! (i could go on ALL day!) I watched this movie 7 times and if i LOVE the movie, then i know ill LOVE the soundtrack!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Terrible. Evil. Makes you want to upchuck. How can people my age actully listen to this junk without being rushed to the hospital? This should burn in the fires from wence it came! Under no circumstance should anyone listen to this junk! EVIL!!!! IT BURNS!

"High School Musical" is not, by any real aesthetic standards, a good movie. But its heart extends to include both of these kids -- the teenybopper and the angsty snob, if I were going to apply labels -- and to imagine a world where labels don't matter, the Rudolphs and Ugly Ducklings aren't tortured, and we all just get to sing or bake or play ball or do chemistry to our souls' content. Or to be more accurate, to sing AND bake AND play ball AND do chemistry to our souls' content -- we get to be more than one label. That was the impressive idea in it for me, and if you come across this on the Disney Channel and don't mind resting your brain for a bit, it's charming, enjoyable, and worth checking out.


  1. I heard the buzz on this so finally caught up with it on a night when they also had the cast teaching their "viewing audience' (in the old parlance) the dances so you could do them at home. Now I would have adored doing that and the musical as a teen and so thought it was a hoot. I mean, it is a true old-fashioned musical with folks bursting into song and dance wherever whenever. Don't see many of those these days. At least not of the blowsy old sort which this resembled even if the music itself was newer than "Climb Every Mountain" or "Beauty School Dropout."

  2. oops, annonymous ce moi, Monica.

  3. LOL, I've heard about it, but haven't watched it. It's not that I don't want to, it's just that I have a six-year-old daughter and a four-year-old daughter who I know would watch it over and over and over and over and over and . . . well you get the point.

    I suppose there could be worse things to have to watch over and over (believe me, I know) but I've not been brave enough to subject myself to HSM . . . yet.

  4. My 5 and 8 year old daughters love the movie and still watch it several times a week. The soundtrack is catchy--always on in the car. Kids really connect with the movie and the music. You should hear them shriek when the songs come on at the roller skating rink!

  5. Cheryl,

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  6. I've written a bunch for the Disney Channel, and to me, High School Musical captures most everything that all of their movies shoot for: problems solved by the kids, drama created by kid to kid conflict, and, ultimately, a happy ending. Channel movies are like middle grade novels, but this one just has peppy songs. I think folks who criticize their flicks tend to be judging from the wrong perspective: the movies have a goal and achieve 'em pretty darn consistently. Foo. I wish I'd written it!

  7. I'll have to pass this on to my 17 yr old daughter. She eats, sleeps and breaths drama and speech at her high school. (They have three plays a year plus a middle school play in additon to all their speech meets)

    The current production is Twelfth Night and she's enjoying the role of Viola.