I have never watched High School Musical. I have thought about it, perhaps many a time, but never have I actually thought about it in a serious fashion. However, with the sequel airing tonight and being a bit of a cultural phenomenon, I figure I should jump in feet first, if you will.
And, well, jump in I did. I’ll be honest in saying that although I have all sorts of various problems with the film’s construction, High School Musical 2 features some strong choreography, some strong musical numbers and what I can only guess to be a decent continuation of the first film’s successes. And, as a result, it is not a failure of a film by any means. However, I think this is a key area where, rather than poor writing or directing being at fault, it may just be the fault of the original film’s success that we have a frustrating, frustrating piece of filmmaking.
Focusing so much of the film on Zac Efron makes perfect sense from a business perspective: he’s a huge draw in film, he’s a teen heartthrob, and he’s a pretty good dancer. The problem is that Troy is a character who needs to be the movie’s hero, but also display some level of emotional diversity…and Efron didn’t do it. Sure, the writing basically killed him, but Efron is not a star: he is a supporting player.
And there’s the thing: he really is not someone I would peg as a star. I fear for Footloose, the remake in which he is starring, simply because I don’t see how he can do anything beyond his admittedly great dance skills. I just don’t see it happening, because what we saw here was an overwrought and overbearing performance of a character who, in my book, couldn’t be more unlikeable.
The problem is that Troy and Gabriella, the ostensible star-crossed lovers, are one-dimensional and boring. Ryan and Sharpay, heck even the rest of the Wildcats, all seem to at least offer some level of either coherent thought or actual character development. The film’s musical numbers were its highlight, but when the film slowed down to look at Troy and Gabriella’s plot it slowed to a crawl. I liked all of these characters, and felt they were spending time with my least favourite, and with the least compelling in non-musical settings.
But that’s not what this is about, and I won’t deny that it succeeds at being a song-and-dance festival like no other Disney Channel television movie ever before. However, forgive me, but I am just curious as to whether its priorities were in the right place. I’d rather have a musical where Sharpay and Ryan have a meatier role, and it’s less the Zac Efron show. I wonder what a sequel to the film would be like if he hadn’t exploded onto the scene, and if the first film hadn’t been such a monsters success.
Perhaps a better film would have resulted. Regardless, that’s that. Here’s my LiveBlog commentary of the film, for those who want to basically read my every thought. That would render you somewhat insane. I’m okay with that.
9:00pm: It’s East High School, and I’d say it’s summer: mainly because it’s empty and really Kenny G like music is playing. This always, in my view, indicates summer. And there was also an illuminated moon. And…now we’re in a classroom and there’s a really annoying teacher who is…well, it’s kind of annoying.
9:01pm: What do you do when you’re annoyed by a teacher talking about summer? You start a song and dance number. And it appears that Troy and Gabriella (I think that’s their names, I won’t know any more of them) are looking forward to a summer of awkward team love. Meanwhile, their rivals (Sharpay and…Ryan? I don’t know yet) get a far more satisfying verse but unfortunately get shafted in the bridge.
9:04pm: Wow, okay – there’s some rather insane choreography going on here. It’s actually ludicrously complicated.
9:05pm: Troy just said “I gotta make bank.” Sharpay, meanwhile, makes a complete and total fool out of Gabriella.
9:06pm: Holy crap, he totally just branded her! I mean, seriously, could it have been something less obnoxious than a T? That’s unfortunate. Meanwhile, Sharpay hatches the obvious plan to bed Troy in order to establish herself as the Queen of East High while Ryan tries to put on a brave face. And then everyone fances out of the school as we get our first reprise of the opening number. I expect more to follow.