TV Review: 'High School Musical 2' looks like another hit
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Bob D'Amico, Disney Channel
Disney Channel's "High School Musical 2" stars Corbin Bleu, left, Monique Coleman, Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale and Lucas Grabeel.
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They're baaaack! The perky cast of "High School Musical," who last year steamrolled across America, capturing the hearts and minds of every 'tween in between, returns to the small screen Friday in "High School Musical 2." And if it reaches even a portion of the 170 million people worldwide who viewed the first movie, it's sure to make the mouse with the red shorts and white gloves very, very happy.
"HSM 2," which premieres at 8 p.m. Friday on Disney Channel, takes place just months after the first installment, as the kids break free of East High for summer vacation. Brother and sister Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale) and Ryan (Lucas Grabeel), the spoiled rich drama queens of the school, are spending the summer at the snooty resort their parents own, and Sharpay concocts a scheme to have basketball hunk Troy (Zac Efron) employed there so she can drag him into her Midsummer's Night Talent Show and win the "Star Dazzle Award" for the sixth year in a row. Troy, in turn, manages to secure jobs for the rest of the Wildcats gang as junior staffers, including his girlfriend, Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens).
Troy starts out as a lowly waiter but, through the behind-the-scenes machinations of Sharpay, is quickly promoted to the role of assistant golf pro, despite knowing nothing about the sport. She also gets him an introduction to the coach for the University of Albuquerque, where he hopes for a basketball scholarship. All these perks, however, depend on Troy singing with Sharpay in the members' talent show. Trouble arises when Troy gets a little too comfortable in his Italian golf shoes among the country club set and ignores his fellow Wildcats. Cast aside by his sister, Ryan gravitates toward the Wildcats, acting as choreographer to their competing entry in the talentpalooza.
The temperatures and tempers in the New Mexico desert rise as Sharpay connives to keep the Wildcats out of the show and Troy has to decide between a shot at a college basketball scholarship and being true to his school friends and, just as important, himself. As Gabriella tells him, "If you act like someone you're not, pretty soon that's who you become."
The movie is a little bit "Grease," a little bit "Dirty Dancing," with a few ounces of "Caddyshack" thrown in the mix. Not quite as innocent as the first installment, "HSM 2" will appeal to a slightly older crowd. The conflicts are more realistic, and the stakes are higher, and there are even a few scenes dripping with teenage angst. While the kids are still supposed to be in high school, they're clearly more mature, with Troy and Gabriella actually interested in each other enough to finally (spoiler alert!) kiss. On the lips. (Eeeek!)
It's hard to sustain the energy and innocence of the first movie, which won two Emmys and spawned a concert tour and ice show, and the sequel feels a bit strained at times, with some songs plunked in awkwardly. (Troy doing an angry song-and-dance across the sands as he tries to work out his problems made my daughters first cringe, then hoot with laughter.) And save for the infectious opening number, "What Time Is It," and the catchy Troy/Gabriella duet, "You Are the Music in Me," none of the songs really stand out the way they did in the original. Kenny Ortega's lively choreography, however, is once again top-notch.
None of this matters all that much, of course. Just about every kid in America, and many beyond our shores, will be glued to the nearest TV screen from the opening credits 'til the final poolside dance extravaganza. Ditto with the "Wildcat Chat" encore Aug. 18 and a sing-along telecast Aug. 19.
What time is it? Time for another Disney mega-hit.
First Published August 15, 2007 5:44 pm