DVD Review
by Kevin Carr

    MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: **1/2 (out of 5 stars)

    Zac Efron as TROY BOLTON
    Vanessa Anne Hudgens as GABRIELLA MONTEZ
    Ashley Tisdale as SHARPAY EVANS
    Lucas Grabeel as RYAN EVANS
    Corbin Bleu as CHAD DANFORTH
    Monique Coleman as TAYLOR MCKESSIE

    Studio: Disney

    Directed by: Kenny Ortega
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I really don’t watch a whole lot of the Disney Channel. Toon Disney, yes, because I’ve got two young sons at home. But the Disney Channel, not the first stop on my cable dial. I do watch quite a bit of Disney Channel material, though, when it comes to DVD. However, I don’t watch it much from the actual broadcast.

Understandably, I was somewhat unaware of the phenomenon that “High School Musical” became. I was aware of the TV movie because I came home one night, and my wife was watching it. However, I never understood the almost religious fervor that some kids have found themselves in with this movie.

Soon, I found out that “High School Musical” was not just some run-of-the-mill TV movie. It is helping to redefine school musicals. Some have called it the new “Grease,” although I have to say it’s not that great. Still, it is touching a generation of kids the way “Grease” did my generation.

The story behind the film isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. A brainy girl named Gabriella (Vanessa Anne Hudgens) and a basketball jock named Troy (Zac Efron) stumble into each other on vacation and discover that they share a love for singing. However, when they get back to school after break, they have to contend with their separate cliques.

Troy hangs with his basketball team, and Gabriella hangs with her academic decathlon group. Neither has done any musical theatre, but when tryouts are announced, they throw their hats into the ring. Sharpay and Ryan Evans (Ashley Tisdale and Lucas Grabeel) are a brother/sister team who usually get the leads in musicals, and they are not happy about their territory being threatened.

This film is about breaking social barriers in high school and following your dream. Again, this isn’t something terribly unique. The lovers from different circles goes back before “Grease,” even. Anyone ever hear of a tale called “Romeo and Juliet”?

But you have to realize that there are no unique stories out there any more (with the exception of a few screenplays by Charlie Kaufman). It’s not necessarily in the uniqueness of idea that makes a movie, but rather the execution.

“High School Musical” is a fun piece, and the music is surprisingly catchy. It’s not something that’s going to get the Marilyn Manson crowd snapping their fingers and singing along, but it works in its own context. I can see where the mixture of music and teen drama has touched so many kids.

Probably the biggest strength of “High School Musical” is its wholesomeness, for lack of a better term. Sure, it’s made by Disney, but I never got the sense they were trying to make a wholesome film. Rather, the filmmakers were just trying to tell a story. Sex, drugs and violence just didn’t factor into that equation. “High School Musical” is a fine film for families to watch, and you won’t get embarrassed.

The DVD is somewhat trim for as big of a deal as the movie was (snatching more than 35 million viewers in its first dozen airings). The film has two versions – the regular film and a karaoke sing-along version. For high school fans, this is probably more worthy than a director’s commentary. After all, the target market is teenage girls, not independent filmmakers.

There are two additional music videos included on the disc, but nothing more. I would imagine that, depending on initial sales of this DVD and the persistence of its fan base, we will probably see a two-disc collectors edition come to the shelves in the near future.

Specifications: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Fullscreen (1.33:1). English language subtitles for the hearing impaired.

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