Two years ago, High School Musical became a tween/early teenage phenomenon for The Disney Channel. It broke all ratings records for a made-for-cable television movie. As a result, it became an instant cash cow for the Walt Disney Company when stars got made and merchandise sales went through the roof. Seeing as today the Walt Disney Company seems to be all about making money, you knew it was only a matter of time before a sequel was made. It shouldn’t shock anyone that the premiere of High School Musical in the summer of 2007 became the single most watched cable broadcast event in television history. But just because 17 million kids between the ages of 7 and 17, and their parents, watched the first airing of High School Musical 2, and have subsequently probably watched it hundreds of times since then, doesn’t mean that this movie is any good. It can easily follow right in line with “The Sequel Rule”, but in the end does it or can it be another example of an exception that proves that rule?
In High School Musical 2, summer vacation is approaching and Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) and the gang are on the lookout for jobs. Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale) still can’t quite get over her love for Troy and her hatred for his girlfriend Gabriella (Vanessa Anne Hudgens). So Sharpay arranges for Troy to come work at the Lava Springs Country Club her family owns, but he accepts the job on the condition that the rest of his friends are hired also. Sharpay decides to get closer to Troy by dangling a basketball scholarship over his head by means of her connections, though only if he’ll perform alongside her at the annual staff talent show. As Troy spends most of his time with either Sharpay or the people that can land him a scholarship, Gabriella and the others begin to feel left out. They try to cope by competing in the talent show themselves with the help of Sharpay’s brother Ryan (Lucas Grabeel), which decidedly complicates Sharpay’s plans.
Teenagers who become big stars in the entertainment industry quickly tend to develop big heads and major egos. They become aware of their success and as a result get less charming and more annoying. As far as the cast of High School Musical goes, nowhere is this more evident than in Zac Efron and Vanessa Anne Hudgens. They became the biggest stars from the original High School Musical, and now in the sequel they are all too aware of their success. So during this film, you will constantly see them mug to the camera more times than not. Whether it is true or not off-screen, on-screen Efron and Hudgens appear to have an attitude and inflated ego to match. This makes these two characters less interesting this time around. Ashley Tisdale and Lucas Grabeel still play two of most over-the-top and campy characters ever, in Sharpay and Ryan respectively, but at least that means their true personalities can’t overshadow and hurt their on-screen characters. Still the most interesting characters that kids can relate to are the supporting characters that are played by Corbin Bleu, Monique Coleman, and Olesya Rulin. Unfortunately, despite the wishes of the fans, these characters continue to take a backseat from the aforementioned characters.
The plot takes the setting of this film out of the high school and into summer locations. That is all well and good, but really this film follows extremely close to the original HSM, and also borrows heavily from previous “pop musicals”. Every move is predictable from start to finish. However, unlike the original, HSM2 seems to be all about the dance routines and songs. Musicals are supposed to have great dancing and singing scenes, but good musicals don’t stop the story to showcase these scenes. In the sequel, there is one big dance scene after another done in a highly-staged, music video style way. It’s almost like this film could have been MTV production.
Fans of the original High School Musical will surely eat up this film and enjoy it immensely. But make no mistake about it, High School Musical 2 is a far cry from the original. Almost everyone involved with this film knows the success they got from the first film, and as a result every move, word, and look is carefully planned making everything feel “over-the-top” and corny. This film is also less of a guilty pleasure for adults that High School Musical was. This one is strictly for fans of the original in the Disney demographic of 7-17 years of age.
So far “The Sequel Rule” is right on for this series of films, which means that High School Musical 3 on the big screen this Fall should be even “bigger” than the previous two. Unfortunately, that will probably mean that it’ll be worse than its predecessor.
The video is given in only 1.33:1 fullscreen color. The original presentation of this film was on TV, so this transfer matches that, but the widescreen transfer should have been included on here as well. It’s not like they didn’t make a widescreen version of this film, because they did. You just have to pay the extra $10 to get the Blu-ray version of this film. Other than that, the video quality is pretty good, but it is only a TV movie so it is not fantastic. There are no major problems, though.
The audio included is available in English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound (only for dialogue), or French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound (only for dialogue). There are subtitles available in English, Spanish, and French as well. The dialogue and music come out loud and clear here. In fact, this may be the best sounding Disney film to date. No major or minor problems at all.
Music Videos (Part 1) –
This is on the first disc of this version of the film. It features four different music videos from different parts of the world. From the United States is a three-minute music video called “You Are the Music in Me”. This mixes footage from the original High School Musical with the appropriate scene in this film and the original soundtrack. From Mexico is the same three and a half minute song performed in Spanish by Paulina Holguin & Roger. From Canada, Nikki Yanofsky sings both a French version and English version of the “Gotta Go My Own Way” song. They both run close to four minutes.
Music Videos (Part 2) –
On the second disc that is exclusive to this version of the film, there is a four minute “All For One” music video featuring the original soundtrack and video of the central cast on the dance floor and inside the recording studio.
That’s followed by a gallery comprised of twenty more music videos from around the world. These include “Gotta Go My Own Way” from Mexico, from Brazil, from Nikki Oil in the Philippines, and then from France; “Everyday” from Justin Lo and Kary No in Hong Kong; “You Are the Music in Me” from Vince Chono & Jaclyn Victor in Malaysia, then from Ben & Kate Hall in Germany, then from Pquadro in Italy, then from Keremcen in Turkey, then from Hania Stach & Andrzej Lampert in Poland, and finally from Molly Zanden och Ola in Sweden; “Bet On It” from Show Lo in Taiwan, and then from Willy Denzey in France; “All For One” from Mota in Spain, and another from India; the Sharpay reprise of “You Are the Music in Me” has a version from Tess Gaerthe & Thomas Berge in Holland; “I Don’t Dance” from Expensive Soul & Bianca Rodriguez in Portugal; and “What Time Is It?” someone in Hungary. There is one more music video called “Stitch Meets High School Musical” and it’s animated music video that features Disney’s Stitch character (of Lilo & Stitch fame) in East High gear, dancing to the “We’re All in This Together” song. All together, the twenty videos run over one hour. There is also a brief introduction from the film’s director, Kenny Ortega. This section is really for hardcore fans only.
This runs 4 minutes and it’s your standard gags and mistakes made during production. Pretty funny actually.
“Rehearsal Cam” Featurette –
This runs 36 minutes and it documents the choreography and dance rehearsals of every High School Musical 2 song sequence except “You Are the Music in Me” and “Gotta Go My Own Way”. You can watch these all individually or watch that you can view the final product after watching the rehearsing It’s fascinating to see the creative process behind these scenes. The cast improvises a lot of moves and it almost makes you forgot how silly some of these scenes look in the film.
Deleted Scenes –
There are 4 scenes that didn’t make the final cut of the film, and they total 4 minutes. These wouldn’t have added much to the film, but you do get to see some more “behind-the-scenes” stuff with director Kenny Ortega and the cast.
“Sing Along with the Movie” Option –
This is an option to view all the songs in the film with
on-screen lyrics, so that you can “sing along”. They can be watched individually or all together.
“High School Karaoke” Option –
This is an option to view all the songs again with on-screen lyrics, but this time only the sound effects and instrumentals play. This means that all of the lead and background vocals are entirely silent. The instrumentals aren’t that great, though, but if you want to bust this out at a “High School Musical Karaoke Party” it will probably do.
“Dance Along” Feature –
This is an interactive feature hosted by the main and supporting cast members. There are two dances to two songs from the film, “What Time Is It?” and “All for One”, that are taught step by step and along the way, the viewer can choose to view the action from the front, from the back, in half-speed, in full speed, or with blow-by-blow instruction. It’s not the easiest feature to navigate through, but should be a fun thing that kids would enjoy.
“High School Confidential” Featurette –
This runs around 26 minutes and it’s a series of “behind-the-scenes” segments with a game and a photo gallery thrown in there as well. The segments include “The Zac Factor”, “Very Vanessa”, “On Set with Miley Cyrus”, “More Than a Movie”, “The Sharpettes”, “Being Sharpay”, “One Fabulous Scene, “Manly the Dog”, “Cues from Kenny”, and “From Center Stage to Center Field”. The game is called “Who’s That Baby?”, in which you’re asked to correctly identify the baby picture of each of the main stars. A correct guess triggers a menu of four corresponding publicity stills. These are the very same images that appear in the additional “Photo Gallery”, which makes the photo gallery really pointless. But the “behind-the-scenes” segments are at least worth checking out.
Originally Deleted “Humuhumunukunukuapua’a” Scene –
This runs 5 minutes and it was deleted from the original version of the film you might have seen on TV. It was added back into the “Extended Special Edition” of this film last year, and it is once again in the actual movie presented on this same DVD. I don’t know why this is considered an “extra” on this DVD set, but it is here if you want to watch it outside of the film. Not really that great of a song to be honest.
“The Making of ‘Humuhumunukunukuapua’a'”–
This runs 5 and half minutes and it’s the “making of” featurette for the above song. We get a look at everything from the recording studio to the choreography sessions to the final production. There’s some good backstage video here and some interesting trivia on this unusual scene, which make it at least watchable but nothing to go out of your way to watch.
“Cast Favorites” Interviews –
This is 4 and half minutes worth of interviews with Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, Lucas Grabeel, Corbin Bleu, and Monique Coleman. They talk about their favorite singers, songs, movies, actors, pizza types, etc. Zac Efron must be too big of a star now to have participated in this or if you are super fan you probably know everything about him anyways. Still some good background information on the main cast members.
“On Location” Featurette –
This runs 4 minutes and we take a look at the film’s set in St. George, Utah. Kaycee Stroh, who plays Martha Cox, is your host. What is interesting about this brief featurette is that some of the supporting cast members get their turn to talk about the film, but only for a few moments.
“In the Kitchen” Featurette –
This runs 4 minutes and Lucas Grabeel is your host as he takes us “behind-the-scenes” during the first day of shooting this film. The scene being filmed is the “Work This Out” msuical number, which he is not in. Lucas is entertaining as a host and it’s cool to hear the thoughts of the scene from the cast and crew.
“Sneak Peek at High School Musical 3” –
This is a 3 minute “behind-the-scenes” look at, hopefully, the final film of this series. There is glimpses at rehearsals, backstage interviews, comments from Kenny Ortega, and even some clips of the final product. Better than just watching the trailer for the film actually.
High School Musical 2 is definitely like 95% of the sequels out there; it just doesn’t live up to the original film’s standards. If you are a super fan of this series, you will no doubt like this film. You probably already own the first version of this film on DVD, but if you don’t this is the version to get. Knowing the fan base, they will probably “double-dip” and get this DVD as well since there are some great added extra features on this set. If you liked the original and are a casual fan, though, I can only recommend a rental here. This is more of a MTV film than a Disney Channel film, and it really makes you wish the stars of this film lived in a bubble, so that they didn’t know what kind of success the first film had.
Walt Disney Home Entertainment presents High School Musical 2. Directed by Kenny Ortega. Written by Peter Barsocchini. Starring Zac Efron, Vanessa Anne Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, Lucas Grabeel, Corbin Bleu, Monique Coleman, Olesya Rulin, and Mark L. Taylor. Running time: 111 minutes. Rated: G. Released on DVD: September 23, 2008. Available at Amazon.