Wednesday, October 24, 2007

High School Musical

Let me just state the obvious before getting into the review: I'm not the obvious Disney fan, or at least the audience Disney was going for when they put High School Musical out on The Disney Channel in 2006. But there's been so much hoopla about HSM that I just had to see what the roar was all about.

The plot is your basic boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. To a musical score. Think Grease 3, only without any hint of sex.

And the kids are a lot younger. I'm not sure how old Travolta was when he played a high schooler in Grease, but he looked a lot older than any kid in HSM, something Disney did right. If the prepubescent female is their audience, they at least give them something to look at, actors closer to their own ages. Zac Efron and Vanessa Anne Hudgens are very watchable, both in looks and talent. And those who surround them are full of talent as well.

Troy and Gabriella meet over winter break when they're both thrust into the spotlight in a ski lodge party, told to sing a duet. They do so magically, but figure they'll never see each other again. But they do when Gabriella's family moves to New Mexico, and she starts attending the same school as Troy. Both feel rather typecast, he as the basketball hero who can do nothing else, and she as the science wiz. Both are anxious to break that image but have to battle everyone in the school to do it.

As you would expect in a musical, this one has plenty of musical numbers, a lot of dancing, and some really colorful, almost day-glo, sets. Your attention never wavers because it's constantly fun to watch.

It's enchanting to see a Latina character portrayed as the talented and smart student. Not a lot is made of her backstory, and not a lot of attention paid to the fact that she's Hispanic, and maybe that's the way it should be. And there's a diversity of faces in the background, most of whom have a few seconds of camera time and dialogue. The idea that each is trying to break free of a stereotype is an important one for this audience, and it's great to see that even the "fat girl" has her moment. (There only seems to be one overweight girl in the school, however. One step at a time, I guess...)

It's easy to see why Zac Ephron is already a star at the age of 20 (18 when he made HSM). He has one of the most photogenic faces on the screen in the last 20 years. I just found myself wishing he'd cut his hair just a bit, but I guess that's my problem.

It's easy to get hung up in talking about the actors and the characters. But the truth is, the movie succeeds also because of the zippy pacing and the bouncy, singable tunes. The songs aren't perhaps on the same level as found in other Disney movies (e.g., Lion King), but they worked well enough to move the plot along, snap your fingers to, and, as often as they were repeated, I'm sure that every 12-year-old girl in this country knows the entire soundtrack by now. The usual fabulous Disney arrangements made more out of these songs than they probably looked on the songsheet.

Disney has found a favorable formula, one likely to be repeated.

High School Musical isn't too deep, but it's fun entertainment, and the production made stars of its talented participants. Thumb's up.


Post a Comment

<< Home