21 August 2007 | MeloDee
Not quite as magical as the first, but can stand on its own.
High School Musical 2, like its predecessor, is set in the season of its release- namely, summer (last time it was winter). The movie begins with drama teacher Miss Darbus droning on in the classroom. The kids began to chant "summer" as the clock slowly counted down to 3 PM. Then they threw their papers in the air around a slightly uncomfortable Troy Bolton, and began singing what I consider the worst song of the film- "What Time Is It?" Which should have been called "What Time Is It? I Think This Song Is Lasting Forever." Upon the initial viewing, this movie seemed kind of...oh, how do you say? Rushed. There were about 10 songs (including remixes) versus the 9 in the first movie, but the way they were presented made them feel a little smooshed together. For example, there are 3 full-length songs within the first twenty minutes. As a person who hadn't been watching Disney Channel incessantly before the film's premiere to familiarize myself with the songs, I felt that they were coming at me so fast (sometimes) that I couldn't fully enjoy them.
So I watched the movie again, the very next day.
That's when I realized, that many of the songs were not as memorable as they had been in the first movie. I wasn't singing "You Are the Music in Me" the way I had been singing "What I've Been Looking For". Most are excellent in the movie, but many don't seem quite as catchy or stick with you quite as well when you're away from the TV. In that way, the producers struck out. "What Time Is It?" wasn't enjoyed by me any more the second time around than it was the first.
I've heard the opinion more than once that HSM 2 was a better movie than the original. The excuse is that the characters "matured" in this film and it is about growing up. I am inclined to disagreement with that angle. What I liked about the first movie is that everything was fresh. Troy and Gabriella were just starting to get to know each other and to recognize their love for singing, and the awkward moments and building chemistry were absolutely adorable to watch. Their "friends" misunderstood so much, that they tried to change them.
A film about them maturing and growing up would have been great- if that film had genuinely existed. HSM has never been loved for a strong plot, so it's no surprise that although there's now a new focus on college and the future, it's more than a little misrepresented. In the end, a lot of weight was put on living in the moment. True, we should remember to keep our friends close even though the future might cause us to go our separate ways, but I felt that the movie didn't communicate this message in a realistic context.
When it came to the characters growing, it was clear that some people didn't learn anything- namely Troy's "best friend" Chad. Though even Sharpay showed some unexpected goodness in the movie, Chad was more-or-less the same self-righteous jerk that he was in the first movie. Back then, he spearheaded the effort to change Troy by distracting him from singing. Now, in the name of keeping Troy from changing into someone else, he gives him the cold shoulder and offers no understanding at all. Chad might have been wise to realize that although he was saving for a car, Troy was aiming to get a college scholarship. His motives might have been noble and Troy a bit misguided, but his attitude was nothing less than aggravating. What's new, though? Ryan was one of the characters that went throughout the most growth in the movie. The "dumb slave" persona that he had in the first movie was really amusing, but it was also good to see him coming into his own in High School Musical 2 as a more developed and rounded character.
Even though there were definitely cheesy moments in the film- namely, all the talk about "changes" and "saving the summer" sounding kind of like a little kid's book- there were definitely redemptive moments too. The similarities between it and the first movie aren't really too hard to miss, but I found myself liking them rather than feeling like I was seeing the same film all over again. Gabriella has another (kind of) solo, Troy has to make a hard decision- only this time he makes it with no guarantee of being able to compromise. Sharpay is her usual self again remixing one of the songs to fit her own liking. Only this time, she is even more funny than before. Her songs were among my favorites.
Though in the end, when Zac Effron and Vanessa Anne Hudgens came together to sing, the magic really happened. No matter how cheesy the line I just heard was, I loved those moments.
There's also something new this time around. Troy has a solo- coincidentally one of the best songs of the movie- and Lucas Grabeel and Corbin Bleu come together to sing "I Don't Dance", a song where swing dancing, hip-hop, and baseball come together to make something great and original. Freshest moment(s) of the film, definitely.
So in the end, we have an interesting paradox. In some ways, High School Musical 2 doesn't have the magic of the first. Yet at the same time, I can watch it again, and again, and again.
*sigh* 7/10 stars.