The opening song of the original High School Musical was snuck under the radar via a karaoke scene. It was as if the producers wanted to gently ease the teenage audience into an unfamilar genre. Now the show is a big, fat hit High School Musical 2 is bursting with confidence.
I’ll admit I hated the original. The second, denied any novelty effect, I like less.
This Disney drivel sanitises the genre in a jumbo-size pack of Rinso. It floats in a sea of blandness, with cardboard cut-out kids juiced up with optimism. Even the teenage musicals of yesteryear, Fame, Grease, Saturday Night Fever and West Side Story explored themes of racism, sexual expression, peer group pressure. Here the biggest issue is who will win the talent night. It’s like an episode from The Partridge Family.
Twink heartthrob Zac Effron, a new-age David Cassidy, once more sings, pouts and basketballs his way through a string of boyband-style songs, knee-deep in shallow banality. “I wanna make it right, that is the way / To turn my life around, today is the day / Am I the type of guy who means what I say / Bet on it.”
He is again joined by the pert Vanessa Anne Hudgens (she who posed for nude photos) and a cast of cheesy, if talented, supports. Lucas Grabeel and Ashley Tisdale return as a Fag and Fag Hag, two Hilton clones: Perez and Paris. Grabeel’s lily-white ‘Ryan’ is cloaked in an ambivalent, pansy sexuality. He resumes his sidekick villain though there is a belated redemption of sorts.
Shot once more in Mormon-laden Utah, HSM2 bursts with more color than Disney’s Fantasyland. The choreography by Kenny Ortega, also the film’s director, is again its strongest asset.
The real tragedy of this phenomenon is in lost opportunity. Kids the world over have sucked up HSM while smaller successes like Camp go begging. Hollywood is raising a generation that will only understand true musicals if they take a wrong turn to Broadway.
You can sit back and let HSM2 washover you with its pretty kids and pep that I suppose passes as modern camp. Or you can get angry like me that Disney, with its rich history in musical masterpieces, has blanded out.
Meet me in the karaoke bar and we can nut it out.
High School Musical 2 airs 6:30pm Saturday on Seven.