2/22/2009

High School Musical Trilogy: HSM: Remix Edition (Blu-ray); HSM 2: Extended Edition (DVD); HSM 3: Senior Year: Deluxe Extended Edition (Blu-ray)


Want More High School Musical?
Check out our Trailer & Photo Gallery for HSM 3



Check out the Restored, Blu-ray Debut of the
Original High School Musical
Also Releasing on 2/17



Get 'Em All & Catch Up:
Go Wildcats!






Introduction

When it came to High School Musical or HSM as the devotees call it, I felt as though I was the last one given the ticket to the prom. Of course, I'm nearly double the age of its target tween and early teen demographic and so, although it was in my peripheral line of sight given the plethora of backpacks, notebooks, folders, and HSM swag all around our community, it definitely flew under the radar of Film Intuition.





Or at least it did, that is until 2008's release of the third film-- not on the Disney Channel this time-- but rather in the theatres where it caused a $42 million sensation, holding "the record" as the "best opening ever for a movie musical" and beating the previous holder in the form of the atrocious Mamma Mia!

Without the power of ABBA's tremendous catalog of music, legions of fans from around the globe who'd seen Mamma Mia! on stage in countless productions of all age groups, the idea that High School Musical could take down a titan featuring Oscar winner Meryl Streep was mind-boggling and once again and prior to Twilight, it showed the almighty power of the tween and once again celebrated the musical genre.





Having originally flourished during the Great Depression with stars like Shirley Temple, Judy Garland, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers-- musicals offered a much needed escape from the world's ills. Of course, I grant that it seems hard to believe that the MySpace and YouTube generation is that concerned with the recession and HSM's adorable stars Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, Corbin Bleu et al will never be mistaken for those legends.

However, you can't overlook the fact that in the larger scheme of things, we're essentially going through another Great Depression-- and thus nonetheless its huge success coming off the heels of Mamma Mia! along with HSM's internationally popular prequels made-for-Disney (as well as with the sheer absence of theatre goers from tonight's overwhelmingly depressing Oscar contenders) signifies that more than anything-- audiences simply want to be entertained.

While I missed the press screening for HSM 3 when it premiered in October, thankfully, the kind folks at Disney gave me the next best thing by sending me the brand new debut of the original High School Musical (Remix Edition) on Blu-ray along with the 3-disc Deluxe Extended Edition of High School Musical 3, also on Blu.





In order to fill in the gap, I rented HSM 2 (The Extended Edition) on DVD as well so-- having immersed myself fully in the lives of the New Mexico high school Wildcats for a little over a week-- I now give you Film Intuition's coverage of the phenomenon known as High School Musical.


High School Musical:
Remix Edition

(Blu-ray)



From using potato flakes for snow to "unwillingly" opting for the film's working-title of High School Musical until they could (but never did) come up with a better title for a Disney Channel original movie initially crafted to play as Grease 3 with different stars, this remarkably intricate Fame-like film was filled with three weeks of dance rehearsal (and basketball practice) before its twenty-four day whirlwind production somehow managed to surpass every other Disney Channel original film that had come before it.



Quickly dubbed into countless languages, releasing the bestselling soundtrack and serving it up as one of iTunes first available films to download before Disney re-released High School Musical in various editions on DVD with bonus footage, pop-up facts, sing-alongs, etc.-- finally after three years of waiting the 2006 hit has made it to Blu-ray with high definition picture and sound as well as a premiere of the film in its widescreen glory.

Admittedly thin on plot as it borrows rather heavily from both Grease as well as the Frankie & Annette styled beach movies of the '60s-- HSM centers on an unlikely romance that blossoms over winter break during an impromptu evening of karaoke as high school basketball star Troy (Hairspray's Zac Efron) and lovely math and science nerd Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens) meet cute, sing in harmony, swap cell numbers and realize they're both returning to the exact same high school.



While Gabriella is dead set on her love of academics and is bashful as the new girl, Efron's Troy finds himself torn between his role as the high school basketball coach's son and star player and his new-found but secretive passion for music. When he and Gabriella audition for the school's "Spring musicale" and manage to take away some of the thunder from the school's resident brother and sister stars Sharpay and Ryan Evans (singing dynamo scene-stealer Ashley Tisdale and Lucas Grabeel), Sharpay and some of the other students try to force the kids back into their neatly categorized labels of nerd and jock in a terrifically staged number telling them to "Stick to the Status Quo" set in the high school cafeteria.

Of course, the rest of the film revolves around diva Sharpay's behavior not to let herself be All About Eve'd out of the musical and the schoool's grudging acceptance of not just Troy and Gabriella's star-crossed clique-clashed romance and decision to sing and dance but sure enough by the end, they realize they're "All in this Together," in one of the film's standout numbers. Featuring impressive choreography from its Newsies director Kenny Ortega a.k.a. the choreographer of Dirty Dancing, Ferris Beuller's Day Off and director of Broadway's The Boy From Oz starring Hugh Jackman-- and co-collaborators responsible for the Salt Lake City Olympic Games and L.A. Sparks, it's safe to admit you get the impression that not once during the course of the production for this made-for-cable-television film did those involved ever try to limit themselves by thinking inside the "small box."



While the plot is virtually non-existent and seems entirely recycled from Grease and is unfortunately repeated pretty much ad-nauseum throughout the entire trilogy, one can't help but admire the sheer spectacle of the film's incredible talent and the way they managed to craft a picture with much more care and attention than some big-budget blockbusters seem to use (e.g. The Love Guru, What Happens in Vegas).

From dazzling us with basketball laced movements in "Get'cha Head in the Game" to Tisdale's remarkable voice and her gleeful launch into the quintessentially villainess role-- while Efron and Hudgens were affable from the start, they improved considerably over the course of the series and it was cool to watch the evolution of the kids from relative amateur singer/dancers to seasoned pros by the time the third one rolled around.

Featuring some terrific bonus features including five music videos (complete with the Latin cover of "When There Was You" as sung by Belanova in "Eres Tu), new remix versions of some of the film's beloved hits, and an in-depth featurette on the choreography inviting you to dance or sing along with the film. However, my personal favorite extra was "A High School Reunion," which catches up with the cast post-production as they try to process the experience, beginning with confessions of working at Blockbuster and mall stores to weeding through hundreds of applicant auditions to callbacks which found them having to prove their quadruple threat ability to as Ortega argues in the "making of" doc sing, dance, act, and connect" with an audience, which if the success is any indication, managed not to be a problem.



While it's easily forgettable and sure not to garner the same cult-like worship in fans over driving age, all in all it's refreshing to see a return to one of my favorite genres and a wholesome family friendly work that reminds kids that it's okay to show all sides of your personality from jock to brain to actress and the always relevant moral that if you're ridiculed for being yourself, then your friends really weren't your friends to begin with.


High School Musical 2:
Extended Edition

(DVD)



Despite a truly groundbreaking opening number "What Time Is It" that seems as though the cast and crew must have been running on caffeine overload and daily B-12 shots as they run up and back-flip off lockers and cheer the end of school in a way in which you fear they will barely survive the dance sequence and the fact that Ortega steps up everything in the sequel to even better effect-- while overall it's a better film than the original-- ultimately this HSM could be dubbed "second verse, same as the first."

Spending very little time with the kids at school as they go off to celebrate summer vacation-- the dedicated HSM screenwriter Peter Barsocchini puts the ingredients of HSM, Grease, and Ortega's Dirty Dancing in a blender for this frothy country club set adventure that within minutes, really makes you wish that the filmmakers had come up with a more fitting title since this time around, it's not applicable in the least.



Giving our favorite blonde baddie Sharpay (Tisdale) a chance to show the rich young woman's place in the sun-- Sharpay decides that to retain her status as Queen Bee, she'll take a G-rated cue from the playbook of Gossip Girl's Blair Waldorf by engineering a summer job for Troy at her family's country club.



Of course, figurative boy scout that he is-- Troy sticks to his belief that you can't separate one cat from the entire pack of the school's Wildcats so the entire gang comes along with an interesting gender reversal approach as the petite Gabriella goes on lifeguard duty and the boys work in the kitchen.

However-- my apologies to Sweet Charity's Lola-- for, in the world of HSM, whatever Sharpay wants, Sharpay gets so she quickly maneuvers her way into his life by giving him the opportunity to make important connections for a college basketball scholarship, as long as of course, he'll spend increasing amounts of time with her family and become Sharpay's summer talent show partner.



While this one is essentially a retread of the first film as Troy and Gabriella come together, break apart, and come together once more (are we sensing a pattern for the third film?), the screenwriter is astute enough to realize that the summer before senior year is fraught with pressure as the teens must really start to plan for the futures their parents have all seemed to have mapped out with worries of how to fund their education lying before them and questions of what it is they really want.

Featuring a great breakout from the Sharpay and Ryan more wicked take on the Donnie and Marie (or even Julianne and Derek Hough to use a more current example) styled dynamic-- Gabreel's Ryan crosses over to the Wildcats side in this film by showing some backbone in helping Gabriella and co. plan their own talent show performance to try and take down Sharpay and Troy for good.

Of course, again the childish antics and "let's put on a show" Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland feel do appeal decidedly to its youngest fans and one of Tisdale's mock-Hawaiian numbers is so embarrassingly bad that it goes past the point of parody to just plain awful-- still, overall, the film has a bit more going on in it than the first one so I'm looking forward to catching it on Blu-ray.



Much like the other offerings from Disney in the HSM canon-- it's loaded with fun extras like Karaoke options, Rehearsal Cams and more sure to have your kids singing and dancing along in no time.


High School Musical 3:
Senior Year
:
Deluxe Extended Edition
(Blu-ray)



Since the previous two versions of HSM have probably sent kids and their parents running back and forth from stores, to Amazon shopping carts, and iTunes in a frenzy to pick up every new edition the company has released to its adoring public, I'm pleased to say that for fans-- the absolute ultimate version and perhaps as a sincere thank you to the audience who has made it so incredibly popular-- is the third film's Deluxe Extended Edition in Blu-ray.



The three disc set boasts not only the disc in Blu-ray but a digital copy disc that's compatible with both Windows Media and iTunes (so you don't have to pay yet another fee) as well as a third disc of the film in DVD so that while you're waiting to upgrade to Blu-ray and much like the studio's release of the Blu-ray version of Sleeping Beauty, you can rest assured you won't have to repeat the purchase by watching the film in a high quality DVD transfer in the mean time.

The type of generous move that justifies the Deluxe Extended Edition's price-tag and one in which more studios should take a cue from by offering both versions since even for households with a Blu-ray player, sometimes it's being used by one member of the family when another wants to watch something else and this way can do so on a portable device or on DVD.

Quite possibly in pure high definition quality-wise, the best HSM release in amazing picture and sound as it's going directly from the new theatrical source print to Blu-ray-- the colors are vivid without any tweaking, and it gives you a near concert hall experience from the start as it opens in a lengthy number "Now or Never" which finds the Wildcats basketball team in "do or die" time to hold onto their championship.



And while as countless critics have pointed out-- with a much longer shooting schedule, more money and more pressure than ever, Ortega had much more to work with by taking off on his spirited embrace of all styles of dance and music in the first two in some amazing production numbers (although honestly, I think "What Time is It?" from 2 can't be topped) including a riff on his "Material Girl" Madonna choreography and a Footloose style "The Boys Are Back" number which preps him for his 2010 scheduled update of Footloose-- honestly cinematically, it's the weakest of the three.





Introducing some new yet painfully unoriginal characters that you assume will be set-up for the next-generation of HSM spin-offs as I've already seen Google Ads looking for open audition calls for HSM 4, the Troy and Gabriella plot again takes the center stage and-- going back to the first film-- again the characters have to decide what they really want in their future as Efron's Troy realizes that he's as equally interested in pursuing dance and theatre as he is in basketball.

While some of the supporting characters including Troy's best friend Chad (Corbin Bleu) are finally given more to work with in the third film-- basically, it's too little too late as the bigger is better approach provides first rate musical eye candy but the script is the equivalent of two day past expiration date food you've heated and reheated twice (in the earlier films). Ultimately it should've been pitched a long time ago in favor of new material with either a new screenwriter brought in to help Peter Barsocchini (who was probably pushed extremely hard to produce something new every year that he's long overdue for a break) or moving the movie into the realm of more interesting subplots by utilizing the talents of its extraordinary cast.

And despite the fact that it's sad to see Tisdale do the same thing yet again as her ludicrous introduction with two designer lockers is as over-the-top as the same static plot that finds everyone competing for the same scholarship in the quintessential "who's the fairest diva of them all" style confrontation-- the movie is so determined to entertain at any cost that it's worth a look for musical lovers to watch with remote control in hand to zip through everything other than the musical scenes alone.



Hmm-- a compilation Blu-ray or DVD with all of the HSM performances back to back? I sense another HSM Disney edition coming soon but in the mean time, fans will be thrilled to discover the extras on the disc are as in-depth as the others in the series with sing-along options, bloopers, deleted scenes, cast goodbyes, profiles of the new cast members and more.

Download the Soundtracks on iTunes