High School Musical: Remix Review

If only real-life high school had been for me what it is for the student body of the fictitious Albuquerque of High School Musical. No real-life adolescence could remotely begin to replicate the smiles on the faces of these students. You know why? Because this is Disney. In all Disney Channel Original’s there are small obstacles that must be overcome, sure, but by the end the plastic characters always reach euphoria, and life settles into that easy going routine that could never be achieved anywhere else.

The story starts with the “it” boy, the star basketball player of a team going to the championship game, and a new girl who’s always been known as the brainiest in the class. Their first two encounters are a throwback to another high school musical, the 1978 song and dance flick Grease.

Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) and Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Hudgens) meet during winter vacation, expecting never to see one another again—but when classes begin, they discover they now go to the same school. (Oh boy!) Thankfully, Troy dropped Danny Zuko’s “tough guy” exterior for this modern rendition of the exact same opening film sequence, and instead of playing it cool in front of his pals, Troy’s excited at the coincidence.

After reuniting and reminiscing about their karaoke adventure over the break, Troy and Gabriella find themselves inadvertently auditioning for the school musical and landing call backs—only it’s on the same day as the basketball championship and Gabriella’s science competition. What are they going to do? True to form, Disney’s given us likable characters, goals and obstacles—and all the audience needs to do is sit back and watch as the clever leads and ensemble cast sidestep the predicaments, all the while joining each other for choreographed dance routines and never once singing off key.

In order to do this movie justice, I’ll need to give my recommendations separately, divided into two groups.

Children, teens, Disney fans:

See this movie! It’s entertaining for a teen mindset and extremely colorful. The characters are nicely fleshed out with a good mixture of school-related drama and a splash of at-home family drama. Efron and Hudgens are attractive, sweet and endearing (and an off-screen couple too!), which makes for the perfect movie for a young teen in puppy love to live vicariously through the characters. The songs are fairly catchy and upbeat adding a very Disney energy.

Adults, anyone looking for something other than a made-for-TV movie:

Do not see this movie! I actually like other Disney Channel movies like Brink! and Johnny Tsunami. Was it the subject matter? Or the fact that HSM is a musical that makes it especially cheesy? Were the 90s movies just better? It’s hard to say. The story was perfectly fine. The acting from most characters was all right, especially because the over-the-top cartoonish quality was actually demanded of the actors. But the dance sequences. Oh the dance sequences. The musical numbers in High School Musical were nearly unbearable.

For instance, one part that I found particularly cheesy because of its contradictory quality, was on the basketball court. Just moments after Troy is berated by his basketball buddies for wanting to sing in the school play, the team joins together for a choreographed gymnasium number, uniformed and all. The basketball moves are even incorporated into the dance.

This is something I’ve never fully understood about musicals—are the characters not aware that they’ve just sung and/or danced? In films like Moulin Rouge or Chicago (both Oscar winning), the characters seem aware when they’ve broken out into song at random—or at least it’s masked by a dream sequence of sorts. But in the far-from-Oscar-nominated High School Musical, the characters seem aloof most of the time to this. Otherwise, the basketball team would not sashay across the court.

In general, it’s important the audience isn’t aware of blatant irony fixed into the story, but here I suppose it’s relatively allowable being that it is after all a musical, and of course, that it’s Disney. And in a Disney movie, no matter what the basketball team has said in the past—it will end up singing and dancing to best prepare for the big game.

The four long years of real-life high school would be much more tolerable if every struggle culminated with the entire school in all smiles. For most people it’ll be too contrived to be enjoyable, but it’s cute and fun for a younger audience. Although completely unrealistic, good for Disney that it’s been it’s M.O. for decades to churn a fairytale out of something as unpleasant as high school.

DVD Bonus Features

The Remix edition Blu-ray is loaded with extras that anyone in the “Children, teens, Disney fans” category will love. It’s got a “Making Of” section, and a “Reunion” section in which the actors are interviewed. These two will be fan-favorites.

The extras get a huge helping of Disney in the three sections in which the audience is invited to sing/dance along with sequences, after they’ve completed the “Learning the Moves” section. And also—there are five “Music Videos” that feature the various musical numbers and the actors creating the sequences for the film, in the recording studio and on the set. The extras are just about as teeny-bopper as it gets, but it’s on par with the movie itself, so as far as extras go—it’s swimming in them.

"High School Musical: Remix" is on sale February 17, 2009 and is rated G. Children & Family, Musical. Directed by Kenny Ortega. Written by Peter Barsocchini (screenplay). Starring Ashley Tisdale, Corbin Bleu, Lucas Grabeel, Monique Coleman, Vanessa Hudgens, Zac Efron.

Erin Burris

Erin is not buff, she’s quite gangly really—but she is a major film buff.  She writes movie reviews because, second to film, her passion is writing.  With a background in writing and cinema studies, she sees film in three ways: as a scholar with an eye for reviewing, as a total film geek and as you see movies.


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