Movie & DVD DetailsDirector: Kenny OrtegaCast: Zac Efron (Troy Bolton), Vanessa Anne Hudgens (Gabriella Montez), Ashley Tisdale (Sharpay Evans), Lucas Grabeel (Ryan Evans), Corbin Bleu (Chad Danforth), Monique Coleman (Taylor McKessie), Mark L. Taylor (Mr. Fulton), Bart Johnson (Jack Bolton), Robert Curtis Brown (Vance Evans), Jessica Tuck (Mrs. Evans), Chris Warren Jr. (Zeke), Ryne Sanborn (Jason Cross), Olesya Rulin (Kelsi Nielsen), Kaycee Stroh (Martha Cox), Leslie Pomeroy (Mrs. Bolton)Songs: "What Time Is It?", "Fabulous", "Work This Out", "You Are the Music in Me", "Humuhumunukunukuapua'a", "I Don't Dance", "Gotta Go My Own Way", "Bet On It", "Everyday", "All for One"
Original Air Date:August 17, 2007 / Running Time: 111 Minutes (Original Broadcast: 104 Minutes) / Rating: TV-G
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio), Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
DVD Release Date: December 11, 2007; Also available on Blu-ray Disc
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99 / Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Black Keepcase with Side Snaps and Cardboard Slipcover
By Kelvin Cedeno
The Walt Disney Company has long been famous for its musicals. While musicals don't even account for half of the studio's library, many of them rank among their most beloved works. This is especially true of the animated ones, but several live-action musicals (such as Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks) are considered classics as well. Though 2006's High School Musical can't be called a classic, it quickly and certainly made its mark on pop culture. Never before had a Disney Channel Original Movie found such a large and rabid fanbase. Of course, with such a hit, Disney was determined to milk it for all it was worth. The movie re-aired in both sing-along and dance-along formats, was released on DVD twice, spurned a plethora of merchandise ranging from dolls to backpacks, and was followed by various stage incarnations (even on ice). The only thing left to do was to come up with a sequel. It didn't take long. In the summer of 2007, just nineteen months after the original's debut, we were treated to the creatively-titled High School Musical 2.
The story begins several months after the original. With summer vacation approaching, Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) and the gang are on the lookout for jobs. Despite what the ending of the first film may have implied, Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale) still can't quite get over her love for Troy and her hatred for his girlfriend Gabriella (Vanessa Anne Hudgens).She arranges for Troy to come work at the Lava Springs Country Club her family owns, but he accepts the job on the condition that the rest of his friends are hired also. Sharpay decides to get closer to Troy by dangling a basketball scholarship over his head by means of her connections, though only if he'll perform alongside her at the annual staff talent show. As Troy spends most of his time with either Sharpay or the people that can land him a scholarship, Gabriella and the others begin to feel left out. They try to cope by competing in the talent show themselves with the help of Sharpay's brother Ryan (Lucas Grabeel), which decidedly complicates Sharpay's plans.
As with many other sequels, High School Musical 2 takes a "bigger is better" approach. Unfortunately, such a tactic only magnifies and exaggerates the flaws of the original that have been carried over here. If there is anything this film is not, it's subtle. Every line, gesture, and facial expression is over the top and hammy. Now, such a style can work if a film has its tongue in its cheek, such as with The Princess Diaries or Enchanted. Those films succeed because they know how ridiculous some of their material is, and so they playfully reveled in it. High School Musical 2, on the other hand, takes itself seriously, almost to a disturbing degree.
The performances are quite a mixed bag. The campiest characters in the film, Sharpay and Ryan, actually work thanks to the fact that Ashley Tisdale and Lucas Grabeel seem to realize what level of irony is needed for such corny material. Our two leads, Troy and Gabriella, are hopelessly bland. Usually blandness stems from wooden underacting. Zac Efron and, to a lesser degree, Vanessa Anne Hudgens somehow manage to play their leading parts in a forced and phony manner while still ending up insipid.
The musical numbers here are, to be frank, laughable. This certainly isn't the fault of the cast, though. These kids quite obviously have talent both in singing and dancing. The problem comes from the choreography and songs themselves. Nowhere is director Kenny Ortega's "bigger is better" method more appalling than in these numbers. The dancing on display is too steeped in modern sensibilities to be timeless, and yet it's too showy and stagey to be looked at through serious modern eyes. In other words, it's too hip for Broadway and too Broadway for modern dance. All of the songs have a distinctly electronic sound to them and try desperately to be seen more as MTV-style singles than Broadway standards. They don't even contribute much to the storyline. The number one sin in film musicals is having songs that stop the story dead in its tracks. Three-quarters of the numbers here do just that. They're often self-indulgent, and when they aren't, they simply (and needlessly) re-emphasize what's already been established via dialogue.
The two most unintentionally hilarious scenes stem from the "I Don't Dance" and "Bet on It" numbers. The former makes absolutely no sense as it deals with Ryan trying to convince Chad to join the talent show. Chad retorts with how he doesn't dance... and he expresses this view through dancing. Add to that a level of what one hopes is intentional innuendo that's gotten fan fiction writers across the web going into ecstasy. The "Bet on It" number is hysterical in its own right due mainly to the choreography. Zac Efron leaps, prances, and gyrates his hips uncontrollably through rolling fields and meadows on the country club property. One can't help but wonder what Ortega was thinking while creating and directing this. If this is some sort of statement about the current preteen generation, then the film should be applauded for being the most hilarious satire of 2007. Otherwise, most of the people involved here (especially Efron) will want to pretend this film never existed about 5 years down the road.
High School Musical 2 is so outrageous that it makes its predecessor seem subtle and nuanced in comparison, no easy feat to be sure.
Note that, on DVD, High School Musical 2 is presented exclusively in an Extended Edition with the originally-cut song entitled "Humuhumunukunukuapua'a" restored. In this number, Sharpay and Ryan perform for Troy the Hawaiian skit they intend to use in the talent show. As with the other tunes, this one does little to propel things forward, though it does clear up a dialogue exchange between Ryan and Sharpay later on in the film.
VIDEO and AUDIO
As with the original, High School Musical 2 comes in a 1.33:1 "fullscreen" ratio, at least on standard DVD. Its concurrently-issued Blu-ray counterpart is actually in the 1.78:1 widescreen ratio in which it was filmed undoubtedly for future high-definition broadcasts. This comes as a disappointment, for while it did air 4x3, one can tell 16x9 was what the filmmakers had in mind. Aspect ratio aside, the disc does suffer from some problems stemming from compression artifacts. For whatever reason, these artifacts are inconsistent. Some scenes look perfectly smooth and crisp, while others (particularly the last 10 minutes or so) turn into a pixelated mess. It's unclear how or why a relatively short film (with brief supplements) could be so unevenly compressed. One can't help but wonder if this was done to make the Blu-ray version all-the-more appealing. Other than that, the rest of the visual components come across fine.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack feels more like a 2.0 track. Dialogue and effects are focused more on front, with only the unnatural-sounding songs giving life to the rest of the speakers. This is undoubtedly due to the film originally airing in stereo to begin with, but either way, the track is a slight step up from what one would expect of a TV movie.
BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING
If the original is anything to go by, High School Musical 2 will probably receive another DVD in due time. As it is, this disc is very light on supplements. First off is a blooper reel (4:09) that differs from the outtakes seen during the film's end credits. It's cute for viewing once, but that's about it.
The Music and More section starts off the deleted number reinserted into the film for this DVD: "Humuhumunukunukuapua'a" (5:11).This is quite pointless considering one can just access the scene from the scene selection menu. A featurette on why the scene was cut to begin with would've made much more sense, but then one suspects the answer may have been to create an incentive for buying the DVD.
A set of music videos come next. The first of these is for "You Are the Music in Me" (3:29). All this does is intersperse the song as seen in the film with assorted clips from both High School Musical films. The song appears again in a Spanish cover version performed by Paulina Holguin and Roger (3:40). Their rendition is harmless, but the video itself is dull the two of them appear in two claustrophobic sets intercut with film clips. The same can be said for the next two videos. Nikki Panofsky performs "Gotta Go My Own Way" (3:44) in both English and French. Both videos are edited the same way, and they're even less interesting than the Spanish video as Panofsky never leaves the recording studio.
One has the option to view all of the film's musical numbers consecutively with on-screen lyrics (40:05). "Sing-Along with the Movie" presents these songs with lyrics that change from yellow to blue as they're being sung. "High School Karaoke" is the same thing, but more useful. It removes the vocals for true karaoke, and unlike the Sing-Along, it has the option to remove the on-screen lyrics.
"Backstage Disney" contains the most substantial supplement on the disc: "Rehearsal Cam" (35:49). After an introduction by Kenny Ortega, rehearsal footage for all of the film's musical numbers is shown (except "Gotta Go My Own Way"). We see how the cast improvises on the set and the efforts they go through to get the moves as right as possible. It's a fascinating and honest look as to what goes into creating musical numbers, and it almost makes one forget how silly those scenes actually look in the final film.
The last supplement is one that should've been relegated to the Sneak Peeks section of this DVD - a promo for the Disney Channel animated series "Phineas and Ferb" (2:01). The only connection this has to High School Musical 2 is in the involvement of Ashley Tisdale, who voices one of the characters.
The menus here show more effort than usual. The main menu (depicting the country club pool) features low-key animation (something needed for the film itself), but the various bonus material menus show animated split-screens of different musical numbers. The disc comes in a standard black Amaray case with side snaps. Inside, there's a two-sided insert listing the chapter index and bonus materials on one side and the various High School Musical DVDs currently out. Also included are a booklet advertising several Disney Channel DVD releases and a Disney Movie Rewards code.
The disc begins with a promo for Disney DVD in general and trailers for Disney Blu-Ray, 101 Dalmatians: Platinum Edition, Twitches Two, Underdog, and Cinderella II: Dreams Come True - Special Edition. All of these can be found in the Sneak Peeks section along with trailers for Tinker Bell, Snow Buddies, Hannah Montana: Lifes What You Make It, The Aristocats: Special Edition, and Disney Movie Rewards.
High School Musical 2 takes the cheesiness adherent to most Disney Channel movies (including its predecessor) and raises it considerably. The musical numbers try to outdo the original's but only come across as ridiculous-looking and sterile-sounding. The performances are all over the place thanks to a lack of cohesive direction and an even-handed teleplay. Picture quality is riddled with compression artifacts in the baffling fullscreen presentation, though the soundtrack is fairly decent. Supplements are mostly negligible with only the "Rehearsal Cam" being of any substance. A re-release coming in time for the theatrical third film seems inevitable, and it'll probably include the "Road to High School Musical 2" Disney Channel interstitials that are conspicuously absent here. This release is recommended only to die-hard fans of this bubbly franchise. To those casually interested, waiting for a new release seems more sensible or merely catching it on one of its surely frequent reairings. To everyone else, the feature only merits a rental for those wanting to laugh at some unintentional humor. Meanwhile, the people who made this are laughing all the way to the bank.