TV Review: ‘High School Musical 2’

August 23, 2007, Epoch Times

World Premiere Of Disney Channel's "High School Musical 2"

They’re not quite teenagers, but they’re a bit beyond childhood; and they’ve been counting down the days (likely by marking off their Zac Efron calendars with gel-based, glittery pens) to the event that would cap off their summer. Finally on Friday, the tween phenomenon, High School Musical 2, debuted on The Disney Channel and was surely received with more squeaks and squeals than the average adult could stand.

For the uninitiated, High School Musical was one of six made-for-television movies The Disney Channel produced in 2006. This one struck a chord with audiences and became an immediate sensation—surprising even the bigwigs at the House of Mouse. They caught on quickly, though, and in true Disney fashion, rolled out an all-encompassing merchandising campaign (chock full of pillow cases, musical toothbrushes, and character dolls) and set their sights on the sequel.

While the original featured a Grease -like storyline placed at the humorously generic East High School,High School Musical 2 portrays the Wildcats on summer vacation. When the love-struck Troy (Zac Efron) and Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens) along with their friends search for summer jobs, they are led to The Lava Springs Country Club. They are surprised to discover that the owner of the club is none other than the family of Sharpay (up-and-comer Ashley Tisdale): the school drama queen and the story’s antagonist. As Sharpay exercises her position of power to manipulate the interest of school heartthrob Troy, the entire cast of characters is forced to dance around (and face head-on) the challenges of friendship, the values they hold, and the pressure of what the future has in store.

While I could probably write a song about the flaws of this film (not the least of which is the mismatched lip-synching), I’m going to resist the urge. The audience that these films are targeting is already sold and those outside this group have little interest. I think we all know this isn’t exactly Shakespeare, but the depth of the story does go beyond what the High School Musical lunch boxes might lead one to believe.

What’s most interesting about these films and the franchise as a whole is precisely that which sets them apart from the alternatives being offered this niche market. Too often the entertainment targeted to pre-teens and older kids focuses on angst and capitalizes on base humor and innuendo. High School Musicalinserts a healthy dose of idealism to the mix. The characters are good students, are relatively well spoken, and are trying to do their best under their circumstances. The pressures of their college career and beyond weigh heavily on their minds; they are consumed in numerous school activities and sports; and they are trying to manage their social lives and please their parents. Besides Zac Efron’s piercing blue eyes and some catchy musical numbers, it is this positive depiction of teenage-hood that has inspired such fanaticism.

As you might have guessed, High School Musical 2 will not be the end of the road for this craze, as Disney has slated an Ice Show and another installment of the series—Haunted High School Musical—to debut in theaters in 2008. Squeaky squealers, rejoice!

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