Until I watched the DVD, my familiarity with High School Musical was with basically one scene in the film. One scene that was on every time I turned on the the hotel TV while I was bored on a week-long business trip. Two squeaky-clean teens were singing to each other, microphones in hand, surrounded by ecstatic peers that clapped and cheered. There was no bumping and grinding, there were no baggy jeans around the knees or bare midriffs, there was no acne or bad posture. It looked so, well, CLEAN.
Later I heard about the phenomenon that was High School Musical: It’s the first TV movie to have a number one soundtrack album that sold millions of copies. A movie that was in so much demand by the Disney Channel viewing audience that it was shown several times a day (THAT explains it!). A movie that they’re calling “this generation’s Grease”. Well, High School Musical is no Grease, in that there are no naughty lyrics, no pelvic thrusts, no stitched-on hotpants, and no background images of cartoon wieners jumping into an open and waiting bun. But I have to admit HSM is kind of adorable and oozes with infectious joy.
Like in Grease, the two leads meet cute on vacation, being thrown together for a karaoke tune at a teens party up at a ski resort. Before Troy (Zac Efron, who is, like, totally crush-worthy) and Gabriella (inoffensively cute and blinky Vanessa Hudgens) can protest “I can’t sing!” they are shyly batting eyelashes at each other, doing some shimmying moves, and throwing in “oooo”s and “mmmhmmm”s like pop-star pros. New Year’s fireworks go off, they exchange cell phone numbers, and think they’ll never see each other again. That’s that.
But, wait! When school starts again, it turns out that Gabriella has just transferred to Troy’s high school in Albuquerque. Troy is a big basketball jock on campus, and it turns out that Gabriella is a smart-girl nerd. But secretly they still make cute eyes at each other, and decide to go against their own reputations and try out for the high school musical together. Before the school unravels at the seams out of shock, friends of the pair try to break up our cute couple so that things can get back to normal. But will love and singing triumph? What do you think?
As HSM is a musical, the characters not only sing onstage, but break into song on the basketball court, in the cafeteria, and wandering through the school hallways. Some of the choreography is pretty fantastic when everyone decides to burst into song, with scores of student dancing and leaping and doing moves that would throw out the backs of most adults. Particularly fun is the boys basketball team’s dance involving basketballs as props during the song “Get’cha Head in the Game” (which, unfortunately, is one of the more cringe-inducing songs).
The best extra on the two-disc Remix DVD of High School Musical is an instructional video featuring the actors breaking down the basketball routine and the school assembly dance step-by-step. Push back your coffee table and give it a try (I fell behind when they sped up the moves to, um, “half-speed”). Also included in Remix are music videos, interviews with the cast, behind the scenes at the premiere of the first DVD release, and a home-video tour with the cast as they go to Australia and Europe. And if you make it through all the extras, you, too, will find out that they are already (unsurprisingly) filming High School Musical 2. Squeal! I can hardly wait!