Since I have about 14 little nieces and nephews scattered throughout my hometown, and most of 'em are just old enough to know what a "movie critic" does, I've heard a whole helluva lot about this High School Musical flick by now. The normal conversation goes like this:
Lovely child: Uncle Scott, um, do you review High School Musical because me and Jenny watch it alllll the time and Jenny's mom said she's gonna buy her the DVD and I want it to because the music is soooooo good and it goes like this... (Child starts singing and dancing like a lovely little spaz.)
Now, when twelve different ten-year-olds recommend the same movie, one's curiosity begins to get piqued, so when I saw this new High School Musical: Remix DVD available in the queue, I thought it might be fun. Hell, I love corny musicals! Well, sometimes I do. But rest assured that, right this very minute, I am placing the disc in the player and approaching High School Musical with an open mind. OK, here we go...
(By the way, the "remix" thing is that you can choose to watch the movie with karaoke-style subtitles that pop up during the musical numbers. It's not an extended version of the movie, or at least I'm pretty darn sure it's not.)
OK, so right from the very first scenes I can sense a problem. Like: the thing looks like a sitcom, and not a very imaginatively-directed sitcom either. Like, Perfect Strangers or something. (Master shots and close-ups are jammed together seemingly at random.) Right now I'm paused during the middle of the first musical number, a Karaoke duet between Hunkyboy (Zac Efron) and Hottie Bookgirl (Vanessa Hudgens). The tune is that ultra-squealy cooing you'll often hear on Radio Disney, which only makes sense; High School Musical was produced by and for The Disney Channel. (Big hit it was, too.) OK, back to the saccharine-style voices...
Based on the first dialogue scene between Hunkyboy and Bookgirl, I'm betting these young actors did their own singing -- because the singing was half-decent, as far as that "youth style" crooning goes, whereas the acting ... not so solid.
So the plot is coming together. Just like in Grease, Hunkyboy and Bookgirl are surprised to find each other in the same high school, auditioning for the same musical, and dealing with the sneering nastiness of Stagefreak Snarlchick. And then there's a bunch of clumsily choreographed musical numbers full of messages about love and friendship and the dangers of conformity, which is kind of ironic when you realize that High School Musical conforms to the formulae of every piece of Disney Channel pablum produced in the past two decades.
But hey, that's just one cynical old bastard talking. To be fair, High School Musical is precisely what it promises to be: Freshly-scrubbed day-glo family-friendly TV fare that's sure to please the kiddies. Me? I saw a schmaltzy little piece of obvious fluff that's directed in truly horrendous fashion and populated by cardboard characters who spit out simplistic platitudes and breathy pop tunes. If I were ten years old, I might have seen something different.
Video: It's a very polished fullscreen transfer.
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 or Spanish 2.0, with optional subtitles in the same two languages.
Extras: In addition to the "remix" Karaoke track (which only really slow children will need, since each song in the movie consists of maybe 14 words apiece), disc 1 also offers a 4-minute Learning the Moves featurette, in which director Kenny Ortega takes you through some really simple dance steps, a music video, and some sneak peeks for Ratatouille, The Chronicles of Narnia, Jump In!, Peter Pan, Meet the Robinsons, The Cheetah Girls 2, Air Buddies, and (yes) High School Musical 2.
On disc 2 we get a two-minute visit to the World Premiere of the film's ... DVD release, a 6-minute interview block called A High School Musical Reunion, a pair of Disney Channel Dance Alongs (16:37) in which the ultra-caffeinated young actors teach you all the "awesome" and "amazing" dance moves, the 9-minute Bringing It All Together: Making of High School Musical featurette, which is just what it sounds like, and four more music videos.
If you love this movie and therefore feel compelled to send me a big bunch of hate mail, do me a favor. Watch High School Musical when you're over 25 years old and then tell me what you think.