Friday, 10 May 2013

High School Musical (2006)

As I'm often after ways to give my movie watching a sense of purpose, eagle-eyed blog readers may notice certain patterns. For example, I try to include a Hammer movie every week (until I have made my way through most of the ones available to me). There was the Steven Seagal quest that almost broke me. I keep trying to get back to that 1001 Movies To See Before You Die list. And I am currently wrapping up my cinematic journey alongside the great Mr. Kurt Russell. So I asked some Facebook friends what I should line up next. "Get your wife to pick your viewings," someone piped up. Others agreed that this was a GREAT idea. The one person who didn't really like the idea was, funnily enough, my wife. She just couldn't recall what I had and hadn't seen already and had no inclination to pick twenty films, the number I decided to go with. But I kept on and on at her so I guess this is my fault. Yes, I now have to watch all THREE High School Musical movies, but at least have The Mighty Ducks trilogy to look forward to after those.

The film opens during school holidays. A young man named Troy (Zac Efron) and a young girl named Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens) end up on stage together, made to sing thanks to the supportive influence of peer pressure. The two work well together in their duet, they chat afterwards and exchange numbers and then go their separate ways, unlikely to see each other again. When school starts back up, Troy is amazed to see that Gabriella is now enrolled in his high school. This is both good and bad news. He likes Gabriella a lot, but none of his high school friends know about his singing ability. In fact, his basketball team-mates would probably frown upon anything that didn't help him to keep his head in the game. The whole situation could get slightly awkward, even more so when auditions begin for the new high school musical and Troy finds himself tempted to go along. If cast in the musical, Troy and Gabriella risk incurring the wrath of Ryan (Lucas Grabeel) Sharpay Evans (Ashley Tisdale), a brother and sister act who always go all out for these things, as well as upsetting all of their friends and classmates. And Troy's father, the basketball team coach, probably won't look too favourably upon it either.

Viewing High School Musical and then writing up a review for it required me to seriously recalibrate my mindset for a while. It's obvious that this isn't aimed at an adult horror movie fan like myself. It's a Disney movie full of teens with perfect smiles and musical numbers with choreography that mixes skill with some attempts to be cool (such as the basketball number, "Getcha Head In The Game"). Recalibrating my mindset is nothing new. Most of us do it all the time. You go into a horror expecting something different from when you go into a sci-fi comedy, for example. It's just that some recalibration requires more effort. I can never seem to recalibrate enough to make watching recent Katherine Heigl movies any less painful to watch.

The biggest surprise for me while watching High School Musical was that I ended up enjoying it. I'm not going to say that I tried to sing along to one or two of the songs or that I tapped my feet along to the rhythms. But I did. My wife pointed out when I was smiling and tried to mock me until I just shrugged and admitted that I was quite enjoying the movie.

It's sugary sweet in places, it's completely predictable and it's full of people that you'd never want to spend time with in real life, but it all works as it's supposed to. The script by Peter Barsocchini does what is required to move the characters between musical numbers, and the direction by Kenny Ortega keeps the energy levels up throughout. Basically, it's aimed at about 8-12 year olds and it delivers for 8-12 year olds (just a guesstimate, apologies to any 7-year-olds who love the movie).

The cast all do a decent job, despite all looking as if they have been taken directly from some Good Guy assembly line in an alternate universe. Zac Efron is sickeningly talented and when I can see past the mist of jealousy that descends before my eyes I end up really enjoying his work onscreen (having already seen him in 17 Again and Me & Orson Welles). This was the big break for him and Vanessa Hudgens, and both show why they managed to build up such a big fanbase and move on to other work. Ashley Tisdale and Lucas Grabeel have a lot of fun as the privileged Evans siblings, and Corbin Bleu and Monique Coleman are both fine as friends of the two leads. The adults are sidelined, for the most part, but Bart Johnson is okay as coach/Troy's father while Alyson Reed is fairly amusing as the teacher in charge of the music-al.

You will already know if you're unable to stand this movie at all. If you think that you'll hate it then you'll probably hate it. But if you're looking after kids on a rainy afternoon and one of them wants to stick on the DVD . . . . . . . . . . . you could do a lot worse.


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