Toon Talk: High School Musical 2 Extended Edition DVD
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by Kirby C. Holt
High School Musical 2
Extended Edition Disney DVD
All for “2”
No one could have foreseen the overwhelming response that a little Disney Channel Original Movie called High School Musical would receive just under two years ago. But of course, you know that; the sleeper hit and all its various and sundry franchise incarnations (on albums, on stage, on ice) have been documented ad nauseam. With all that HSM money flowing into the House of Mouse, the question was not so much if there would be a sequel, but how soon it would come to pass. And so what if it was just cashing in on an already established brand name?
However, instead of resting on their laurels, the makers of High School Musical 2 (on DVD today) actually did something rare, even though they didn’t really have to: they made a sequel that is better then the original. The first HSM may be this generation’s Grease (although this summer’s Hairspray may have something to say about that now), but HSM2 is far from the next Grease 2.
Director Kenny Ortega has created yet again an unabashed throwback to the movie musicals of old, with a fresh spin that makes those tried-and-true conventions palatable to audiences of today. This time out, Ortega has a bigger budget and better songs, and his returning cast, although more freshly scrubbed and finely groomed since the last time, still burst with talent and energy.
After a splashy opening number that shows that the wholesome gang of East High is as eager to get out of school as the average teenager, the action shifts to the posh digs of the Lava Springs Country Club. Naturally, the fabulous material girl Sharpay Evans (Ashley Tisdale) is the queen bee of this privileged hive, reigning over the worker bees and manipulating poor put-upon manager Mr. Fulton (prolific character actor Mark L. Taylor) into hiring BMOC, Troy Bolton (Zac Efron, Bambi eyes still intact despite all the glare that comes with being the latest Hollywood “It” boy). Seems Miss Sharpay has got it into her head that she and Troy would be the ultimate senior year power couple, and who cares about his continuing squeaky-clean romance with Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Hudgens)?
Sharpay’s master plan is foiled though when Troy gets the rest of the Wild Cats (including Corbin Bleu’s Chad and Monique Coleman’s Taylor, plus larger roles for Olesya Rulin’s Kelsi, Chris Warren Jr.’s Zeke, Ryne Sanborn’s Jason and Kaycee Stroh’s Martha) hired on for summer jobs as well. This being a musical and all, a stage show is involved -- the annual Lava Springs Talent Show, which Sharpay (along with brother Ryan, played by Lucas Grabeel) has won for five years straight (no wonder the first prize is a pink, bedazzled trophy called a “Star Dazzle Award”). The employees get to do a number and, of course, Troy and Gabriella will be the stars of it, which only makes Sharpay’s blood boil even more. So, this being a Disney movie and all, her seduction of Troy entails introducing him to her filthy rich parents (who soon set our hero on the road to easy street with the possibility of a college scholarship) and enlists him for a duet that will surely nab her another victory at the talent show.
His fortunes rising, Troy quickly finds himself on the outs with his friends and, especially, girlfriend Gabriella, a conflict that shapes the last half of the movie, wherein Troy struggles with the balance between securing his future and being true to himself. This being happy movie musical-land, all is set right before the big finale, but in the meantime HSM2 addresses real world problems far beyond who will be cast in the “spring musicale”, earning each emotion truthfully and honestly along the way.