14 August 2007 | nivekj1
What Time Is It? Time To Cash In! (and why HSM does exactly that)
I've finally found out the reason why the High School Musical phenomenon is such a success. Why the first movie's soundtrack was the top-selling CD of last year. Why there are ice shows, stage productions (amateur and pro), karaoke CDs, and karaoke DVDs to boot. It all traces back to the 90s.
You see, the 1990s gave birth to NSync, Backstreet Boys, the Spice Girls, Britney, Christina, Jessica, what have you. But their time wasn't meant for the 90s. They had come too early. Music honestly wasn't ready to cycle back to the confectionery, syrupy, Velveeta meets cotton candy of the late 50s/ early 60s. But now is the time.
The reason that High School Musical, and now Part 2, are such a success is because 1990'S POP MUSIC IS BACK WITH A VENGEANCE!!! High School Musical was the Reset Button, if you will, setting kidz-bop-pop back in its rightful place. Adults have their music, their innuendos, their profane-angry-paranoid-hurtfully honest songs. Why not give the kids a break? A place to be a kid?
The sequel does a great job of avoiding the urge to fix what's unbroken, but instead to polish it. This film isn't darker, but it is spunkier. More attitude, and even more confidence (if that's hard to imagine). This film is strictly for A) kids, and B) people who not only remember but enjoyed being kids. High School Musical 2 is a burst of joyful exuberance. Winks towards adult audiences have their place, but so do productions where a kid isn't talked down to or expected to grow up too fast.
The straight-up theater pop of the first has been replaced with more of a Hip-Hop/ Arena Pop edge. Less Broadway, more Billboard. Plus, the mythological task of defeating high school cliques has been replaced with simply earning a check for the summer. The movie wants to feel bigger than the last, but it's actually more intimate. That's an unintended plus.
The cast goes through some drama this time around, and some changes are made, character-wise. This was the biggest surprise. Disney Channel could have simply done a rehash of the first film, but everyone involved truly did a great job. I forgot that, as corny as the premise - the whole franchise - is, these guys can really act. And sing. And dance. No wonder Disney gonna's make a fortune.
And no wonder musical theater is so rough. Every single participant has to be a Triple Threat. But that's part of the fantasy of the first film: making the audition, giving it your all, and gaining the applause and support of your peers. What's great about this second movie is, really it's about the reverse of that. LOSING the support of your peers. Losing yourself in search of something you don't really need, not yet anyway. It's a good message: The future will come soon enough. Enjoy being a kid and being with the ones who love you while you still can.
Still, if this second movie doesn't match up to the first, it's because of moving it away from the dream of Triple Talent Status. No longer a musical about a musical, it instead becomes a musical about a country club. Instead of risking social status to be yourself, to find yourself, it is now about the dangers of losing yourself, by giving into social status. More dramatic, sure. A stroke of genius, I would say, except for the fact that it's still a freakin' High School Musical movie, not a Country Club Musical movie.
By moving into more complex territory, it grows up. But by default, it is less fun, just a smidgen less, than the original. To its credit, it isn't stale (the new setting keeps it fresh), but Disney Channel, Ortega, and all company involved will be hard pressed to create a three-quel that's just as fun, lively and CHOCK FULL OF 90'S POP as the original. A return to the theater would be welcome.
As for the songs themselves, let's just say I've been fair enough to comment that I enjoyed the MOVIE for what it was. Disney's been great at soundtracks but they'll have to do a lot better for part 3. Aside from the opener and a baseball game/swing number, there's not much to enjoy this time around, once again due in part to the removal of the high school locale.
The kids will LOVE IT, the parents will Tolerate it, Disney Channel will collect money hand over fist, and everyone else will have no idea what is going on because they've failed to realize (A) what it meant to be a kid, (B) that 90's Pop Music is back with a vengeance, and (C) everybody wants to sing and dance, even if they don't want to admit it.