Wildcats Everywhere, Wave Your Hands Up In The Air

Now, we all know it’s not cool to admit you like High School Musical or even to admit you have seen all 3 and own them on DVD, but I am the sort of person who is open to new things and I openly admit I love these films. Singing, dancing, and the small hint of a love story. OK so it may be Disney and marketed for 8 year olds but what the hell. I’m 22 years old and I like High School Musical, now I feel so much better. I can feel you all groaning, going “it’s not a proper film, it’s not Oscar nominated”, yes I know,I know. It is in fact Grease for the kids of today. And there’s nothing wrong with a bit of Disney cheese is there ?

The HSM trilogy is directed and choreographed by Kenny Ortega who has previously choreographed the cult classic Dirty Dancing (1987). He is also set to direct the remake of Footloose staring HSM star Zac Efron due for release in 2010.

HSM is set in East High School home to the Wildcats, the film opens with two lead characters Troy (Zac Efron) and Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Hudgens) meeting at a New Years Eve party, they duet at Karaoke. Cue musical number one “Start Of Something New”. Midnight approaches and they nearly kiss they swap phone/cell numbers, Troy returns home and to school where is the star basketball player and jock of the school. He enters his tutor group/home room to find Gabriella just so happens to be the new girl in school; this is where we meet the other central characters Sharpay Evans (Ashley Tisdale), Lucas Grabeel (Ryan Evans), Corbin Bleu (Chad Danforth), Monique Coleman (Taylor McKessie) and Olesya Rulin (Kelsi Nielsen). Gabriella persuades Troy to audition for the “Winter Musical” but everyone in East High knows Sharpay and Ryan always get the part don’t they ?

Troy and Gabriella ultimately upset the status quo of the school by breaking away from their labels. Cue catchy number “Status Quo”. This musical number is brilliantly choreographed and shows the kids of East High saying “Well if Troy can do it so can I”. Sharpay on the other hand is furious someone is fighting for her role in the musical and ultimately sabotages Troy and Gabriella’s chances by making the basketball game and the scholastic decathlon the same time as auditions. It is clear they are worlds apart, the class geek and the jock simply can’t find the time to star in a musical can they? This is a Disney film so yes of course they can helped by fellow jock Chad and geek Taylor and other fellow classmates they come up with a system to do both the basketball game and make it to auditions. They blow the audience away with “Breaking Free” and its soon clear who the real stars are. In true Disney fashion a big old sing song at the end with “Were all in this together” This is a pivotal song in HSM as the film is essentially about finding yourself, fitting in and realising your dreams in a cheesy Disney bubble gum kind of way.

HSM is one of those rare movies that will make you laugh at its absurdity smile at its cheesiness but at the same time love everything about it. The plot isn’t exactly complex but the dance routines and musical numbers are catchy and well thought out it also has a moral just remember, “We’re all in this together once we know that we are we’re all stars and we see that were all in this together and it shows when we stand hand in hand make our dreams come true”.

HSM 2 is set in the summer as school kicks out for summer holidays/vacation the musical number “What time Is it” plays out with the cast participating in a brilliantly choreographed roller coaster style wave in the school corridor. This year the Wildcats need jobs, Sharpay comes up with a plan to get Troy to herself all summer by getting him a job at her country club Lava Springs, she tells her people to get him here by any means she did not anticipate the any means to be all of the Wildcats including Troy’s girlfriend Gabriella. Troy and his Wildcat friends work in the kitchen while Gabriella works as a lifeguard, Sharpay is furious Gabriella is once again ruining her plans. Lava Springs holds a talent contest every summer which as usual Sharpay and Ryan win every year. Kelsie has written a “Breaking Free” style song “You are the music in me” for Troy and Gabriella to perform but Sharpay is having none of it she takes the song and makes it much more up-tempo she also plots to take Troy away from Gabriella and sing with her, she offers him a better job than the other Wildcats. Troy starts to like his job and what can be offered to him a basketball scholarship and a future but isn’t he forgetting the Wildcats and Gabriella?

Troy loses his friends and acts like a jerk, he finds out Sharpay has stopped his friends from performing in the talent show and realises he has let down his friends, cue musical number “Bet on it” and Zac Efron running/dancing around a golf course. He asks for his old job back and leaves Sharpay without a partner for “You are the music in me” She crawls back to brother Ryan to ask for help he simply states “You’ve always wanted the spotlight. Now you’ve got it”. The Wild Cats sing in the talent show with Troy reconciling with Gabriella and singing “ Everyday”. Although this film isn’t as good as HSM it still has a moral message of respect, respecting who you are and those around you Troy learnt the value of love and friendship. The catchy dance routines and musical numbers are back this time with a beautiful backdrop of glorious sunshine.

HSM 3 is entitled Senior Year and was released in the cinema and you bet I went to see it, a cinema screen’s worth of Zac Efron who could turn that down. The only downside of seeing it in the cinema was me and my two uni friends were the only people in the cinema without children. The experience of seeing it in the cinema was pretty amazing and in my mind it is on a par with the first film. The third instalment of the HSM trilogy centres on the Wildcats as they prepare for graduation and college its time for big decisions Gabriella has been accepted to Stanford and Troy has to choose between basketball, singing and Gabriella. The other Wildcats are facing their own tough decisions, Sharpay as usual wants the limelight to herself and when the drama club announces a spring musical Gabriella persuades her fellow Wildcats to participate.

The musical will reflect their hopes and fears of the future and will be something they can do together before they graduate. Gabriella suggests they hold the perfect prom. The film deals with issues all kids will have to deal with at some point in their lives, a split amongst established friends or loved ones, it is a film about closing a chapter in your life and looking forward to the future. This is a Disney film so don’t expect it to be deep, its fun and a refreshing take on the musical genre. The film has a more romantic tone throughout with musical number “Right here, right now” Troy and Gabriella sing “Right here, right now I’m looking at you at my heart loves the view cause you mean everything” this song reflects how torn Troy is between his future and a future without Gabriella. “Can I have this dance” is a dance routine/song set on the roof of the school where Gabriella is teaching Troy to dance for the prom, the scene is well choreographed and well danced by the pair and they burst into spontaneous song singing “Its like catching lightning the chances of finding someone like you, Its one in a million the chances of feeling the way we do….let it rain let it pour, what we have is worth fighting for. You know I believe we were meant to be”.

In this film the characters have really grown up and the songs reflect how they are feeling. Gabriella has to go to Stanford meaning she will miss the musical, she starts to feel she shouldn’t come back as it will be to hard to say goodbye again, Troy senses something is wrong and travels to Stanford telling Gabriella she should come back she finally agrees and the pair head back to East High where the musical’s already in full swing will they still make it for their performance? Well this is a kid’s film so of course the pair steal the show, at the end of the performance the Wildcats are asked about their future what colleges will they attend. When Troy is asked he states, “I’ve chosen basketball, but I’ve also chosen theatre. The University of California in Berkeley offers me both. And that’s where I’ll be going next fall. Most of all, I choose the person who inspires my heart, which is why I picked a school that’s exactly 32.7 miles from……you. Gabriella Montez. Stanford University School of Law”. Cheesy yes, romantic, yes and a very Disney ending. The film ends with a song entitled “High School Musical” and the Wildcats graduate and leave East High with new dreams and aspirations but most importantly with each other.

So yes these film may not be everyone’s cup of tea but if you have kids, like musicals, dance films, or simply just want to check out Zac Efron looking a bit fit then I would recommend you watch these films. What’s the worst that could happen you could find out that you secretly like them?

© BRWC 2010.

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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.



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