Friday, March 29, 2013

Movie Review: High School Musical 2

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: More fun songs in a decent movie
Cons: Too many familiar plot points and under used characters
The Bottom Line:
So, what time is it?
Fun for a decent sequel
Not perfect but fun

The Second Movie Gets Better on the Second Viewing

Last summer, I jumped aboard the High School Musical bus. I watched the movie and the bought the soundtrack and the DVD within a week. For those uninitiated, the movie tells the story of a jock and a brain who discover a hidden talent and passion for singing. Their pursuit of the passion destroys all kinds of click barriers at their school.

That movie was such a hit for Disney that the matter of a sequel was hardly an issue. High School Musical 2 premiered to record numbers; 17 million people tuned in to see it. And I was one of those people. I didn't particularly care for it, but decided to give it another chance. While it still has its flaws, I enjoyed it better the second time around.

The entire cast of the first movie returns for the sequel. Its summer vacation and the Wildcats (otherwise known as East High students) are counting down the seconds until they are free. Of course, most of them are hoping to find summer jobs and so far having no luck.

All that changes when Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) gets offered a job at Lava Springs, the local country club. He quickly gets jobs for all his friends, including his girlfriend Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Anne Hudgens).

There's one thing they hadn't counted on, however. Lava Springs is owned by the parents of Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale) and Ryan (Lucas Grabeel). Sharpay had arranged for Troy to get a job so she could steel him away from Gabriella. So, naturally, she is furious to see the whole gang show up.

Even more important to her is the talent show. After losing out in the winter musical at school, she wants to retain her crown in the talent show. And the presence of her rivals just might upset that.

So Sharpay sets out to destroy her classmates by separating Troy from everyone else. And as more great things happen to him, he begins to grow distant. Will he remember what is truly important? Who will win the talent show? And will Troy ever kiss Gabriella?

This movie falls into the same trap many sequels do, the retread. Many of the plot points feel like they were lifted from the first movie. Granted, that one was far from original. But watching the same characters do the same things takes away some of the fun. Did they learn nothing from the first film?

The first movie introduced some fun sidekicks and background characters. I was so pleased to see them show up again here. Unfortunately, they don't really get much to do outside the big group scenes. There's no further development of their characters. Frankly, these characters were part of the fun of the first movie, and this one suffers from their lack of involvement.

The soundtrack this time gets a heavy pop push, with most of the songs sounding like polished pop tracks. That makes it even more obvious that the actors are lip synching by the time they filmed the musical numbers. In fact, some of the songs come across more as music videos then songs in a musical. I'm sure the tween intended audience won't mind, but it did bug me.

Finally, there's the climax. Maybe something was cut, but it seemed very rushed. There were several things that happened that made for a good ending, but didn't make complete sense considering all that had gone before.

Okay, if the movie has all these flaws, why am I giving it 4 stars? Because, once again, the movie is fun.

While the songs are overproduced for a musical, they are still good songs. With one exception (Sharpay's song "Fabulous"), they are fun to sing along to. Several of the routines are excellent, especially "I Don't Dance." The cast obvious worked hard on their choreography, and it makes for some fun moments.

Set during the summer before the character's senior year, some of the characters are struggling with their future. In fact, it's this struggle that almost separates Troy from his friends. I liked the fact that this was brought up in the movie. I can remember those fears myself. And it makes Troy's actions believable.

As with the first one, they acting is fine. These kids pull off the script with no trouble at all. The only possible exception is Ashley Tisdale. She plays Sharpay over the top, but Sharpay is an over the top character. In this case, it actually fits.

This movies doesn't capture the fun of the original, but it comes very close. Watch High School Musical 2 expecting a sequel, and you'll enjoy it just fine.

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