R102 High School Musical

(2006, Teen Drama/Romance/Musical, color)


Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

When you get near a melody, hop on.

Rating: ***

In a Nutshell:

A jock and a nerd fall in love while auditioning for the school play.


It's a great day for mediocrity!High school basketball prodigy Troy (Zach Efron) and voluptuous teenage bookworm Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens) meet cute at a New Years Eve party when a pair of sadistic spotlights forces them to perform an impromptu and intricately arranged karaoke duet. They exchange phone numbers and go their separate ways. Winter break ends. Gabriella’s mom changes jobs and moves to a new town. Guess who already lives there?

Troy and Gabriella pair up at school, and despite their divergent interests, they find common ground in the karaoke experience of their recent past. Further duets earn them callback auditions to the eponymous high school musical. This causes some consternation among their respective nerd and jock peers. These groups go to ridiculous (and musical) lengths to pry the young lovers apart, only to be overcome by remorse when the scheme actually works. They confess, and TroBriella (GabRoy?) reunites.

But the real villain of the picture is Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale). As drama club president and (formerly) the only vocally gifted student at school, She of the Canine Name has performed the lead in every school play since her arrival, and she’ll be goll-durned (remember, it’s Disney) if she lets someone else audition too. Her manipulation of histrionic drama teacher Ms. Darbus (Alyson Reed) gets the callbacks moved to Friday instead of Thursday.

Something about hip hop cello creme brulee?Dun, dun, dun!

I guess I should explain. Friday is when Troy’s Big Game and Gabriella’s Big (Nerd) Game are scheduled. They can’t possibly attend callbacks, basketball and nerd games all at the same time!

Dun, dun, dun, dun!

Of course our heroes devise a cunning plan. (Or rather, the basketball players say things like, “We can’t let her get away with this,” while the nerds devise and implement a cunning plan.) Said plan involves cutting power to the basketball gym and setting a stink bomb off during nerd games, forcing these activities to take unscheduled breaks so Troy and Gabriella can perform an elaborate, forgettable pop duet for an auditorium full of nerd/basketball/drama fans.

They get the parts and win their respective games, then dance and sing us into the closing credits.


I guess it's the dawning of the age of aquarius?This movie seems to be allergic to conflict. For a moment it looks like Coach Dad might not approve, but then it turns out he approves after all. The conniving peer groups backpedal so fast, it’s a wonder they don’t crash into the wall behind them. Sharpay would have spent the whole movie twirling a handlebar mustache if she had one, but even she has a change of heart at the end. Had it been set during the holocaust, Hitler would have turned out to be an okay guy.

Also, despite having just watched this yesterday, I find myself unable to remember any complete melodic line, though I can sort of feel my way through some of the more unintentionally filthy basketball song lyrics. This from the guy who can hum most of songs from Barbie: Secret of the Diamond Castle. (Before you ask, it’s because I have daughters.)

Despite these issues, High School Musical is exactly what it wants to be, and a highly polished, well-crafted example of what it is. As long as you’re not looking for anything especially clever, thoughtful or involving, I guess that’s okay. It reminded me of cotton candy, in that it’s brightly colored with the texture of sugary air.

A few favorite riffs: During the first love duet, Mike says, “Abstinence educators now give out recordings of this to prevent sex.” When Sharpay’s creepy brother shows up in one of many embarrassing hats, Kevin wants to know, “Did he make his hat out of bowling shoes?” When Troy breaks into Gabriella’s house to sing his apology song, Bill says, “She’s pocket dialing 911, and then Simon Cowell.” My favorite exchange comes up during an establishing shot of the school, when Kevin asks, “Where are all the thugs and stoners?” “They’ve been sanitized for your protection,” Bill replies. Since it’s a musical, the riffers spend much of the song time drowning out the real lyrics with quotes from other songs (most notably Randy Newman’s “Short People”), though they get tired of this near the end, choosing instead to interpret the line “Breakin’ Free” as an offer of free bacon. The commentary is reasonably funny all the way through, and is sometimes hilarious, but the insubstantial movie occasionally gives way beneath it.