High School Musical is one of those phenomena things that's hard to explain. What started out as a made-for TV movie on the Disney Channel has turned into a massive, astounding success. It has spawned, among other things, two sequels, one of which was another made-for Disney Channel original and the other a theatrical release which has gone on to gross over 90 million dollars domestically. The original Disney feature has now come to Blu-ray.
The story is simple enough – boy and girl from different worlds fall in love despite what their friends and family have to say. It is, to use Disney terminology, a “tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme.”
The boy, in this instance is Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) and the girl is Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Anne Hudgens). Troy is the star of the basketball team and Gabriella is the brainiac new girl who constantly find herself switching school due to her family's moving. The two actually meet and start their romance over Christmas break, when both families are on vacation, only to return to school in the new year and find that they're now at the same place.
Troy's friends, the members of the basketball team, led by Chad (Corbin Bleu) become worried about Troy losing his focus on their upcoming championship game, and only become more distressed when they find out that Troy wants to… gasp… sing in the musical opposite Gabriella. The brother and sister who star in all the musicals, Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale) and Ryan (Lucas Grabeel), become upset that their supremacy in that arena is being challenged, and Gabriella's friends aren't so sure about this turn of events either. Of course, by the end of the movie everything works out just fine (even if Sharpay and Ryan don't get their lead roles).
Anyone who has heard of Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story, Grease, or a myriad of other similar tales will recognize that very little in High School Musical's plot hasn't been seen before. But, perhaps that's because there's something inherently true about it, about the struggle we all have as youths to find our place and where we “fit in.” And, certainly one of the reasons High School Musical manages to succeed is due to the infectious enthusiasm on the part of the cast in nearly every single scene. The songs that are sung throughout the film are, if not horrifically original, incredibly toe-tapping, and the dancing over-the-top and fun to watch.
Oddly, there are parts of the plot that if one thinks about too much don't seem to fit with the overall feel of the film (like the trophy case which presents Troy's father as a basketball hero and which also seems to indicate that he must have become a father not too long after his high school success, perhaps even during it). But, with the film's 98 minute runtime and a ton of songs to get through, none of these incongruous moments is focused on for long.
The Blu-ray release is the “Remix” edition and features a number of bonus features. There are a couple of basic behind-the-scenes featurette, sing-along subtitles, some music videos, and two different dance featurettes which attempt in various ways to teach the viewer how to do the steps from some of the songs. One of these last featurettes actually features many of the stars of the film, and presents the steps for two dances at slow speed, half speed, and full speed. Anyone who wanted to learn the dance moves for those songs (and who had the ability to do them) probably could from what they're shown. Unfortunately, the bonus features (the dance lesson included) are presented, but not filmed, in widescreen format (they are listed as existing solely in standard definition on the Blu-ray case). Consequently, the people on screen generally appear stretched out, but when the featurettes flip to scenes from the film, those are presented in the proper widescreen aspect ratio. The problematic stretching is terribly disconcerting and something that should have been considered prior to the release.
The feature itself looks spectacular on Blu-ray, with bright, vivid colors (and, naturally, flawless features on all the stars). The 5.1 channel sound is also presented well. There are no explosions – save in musical form – in the film, but the 5.1 channel sound still makes one feel present in any crowd scene.
For adults, High School Musical may appear slightly hokey and over the top, something which won't bother any tween. If adults are able to set aside the overall generic nature of the plot and simply focus on the good time everyone on screen seems to be having singing and dancing, they too will enjoy the film. Tweens, of course, are already sold on it.