Sweet Suite Life… star Ashley Tisdale may have drawn inspiration from Plastics Queen Bee Rachel McAdams to land her the role of HSM’s mean girl Sharpay Evans but now that her character’s gone solo, Tisdale seems to be channeling Reese Witherspoon’s Legally Blonde heroine Elle Woods in Disney’s direct-to-disc Fabulous Adventure.
And considering just how easily the likably effervescent Tisdale slides back into the pink wardrobe and spoiled mindset of her snap-tastic High School Musical trilogy scene-stealer, this approach should’ve worked fairly well… if only screenwriter Robert Ham and director Michael Lembeck (Tooth Fairy) had watched the right Legally Blonde.
Unfortunately for legions of tween House of Mouse fans from around the globe, when it comes to the overall quality of this tragically unadventurous and less than fabulous spin-off that like Legally Blonde 2 places more emphasis on the dog’s plotline than their blonde owners, Tisdale fares even worse than the Oscar winning Witherspoon did in the jaw-droppingly awful sequel to her smash hit.
Despite never managing to get the boy in the form of Zac Efron’s trilogy character Troy, Sharpay did retain custody of her Yorkshire Terrier Boi (played once again by HSM director Kenny Ortega’s dog), reminding us in her introductory song that “with a poochie in my Gucci, I just can’t be stopped.”
However, that’s before she moves to New York City with the intent to become a Broadway legend in a mere month, only to realize that even though she was the biggest diva in her Albuquerque hometown, in the Big Apple, divas with marquees in their eyes and spotlights dancing in their heads are a dime a dozen.
Dogs like Boi, on the other hand are rare indeed! Although she winds up losing the penthouse of her dreams because even Gucci poochies aren’t allowed in the building, Sharpay finds out through a misguided audition attempt that dogs are always welcome on Broadway.
In addition to capturing the attention of NYU student filmmaker Peyton (Austin Butler), who documents the larger-than-life “pink hurricane” Sharpay as the star of his school project, after Boi gets his big break in a Broadway play, Sharpay aspires to get discovered in her real-life supporting role as the diva holding the leash.
And given the unbelievably corny dialogue Butler’s forced to utter in a thankless role to comprise Adventure's dubious romantic subplot, it’s no wonder that little to no chemistry is generated between the two leads in their second pairing following Aliens in the Attic.
Although I do applaud the filmmakers for refusing to rely on cameos since this isn’t High School Musical 4, it still seems strange that there are absolutely no references to -- if not her friends -- than at least her onscreen twin brother Ryan (played in the trilogy by Lucas Grabeel).
Of course, this detail would’ve been easily overlooked had those involved in this spinoff been determined to craft a new foundation of challenges and interesting supporting players to portray the old character in a new light. Unfortunately, in the case of Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure, the opportunity to create a worthwhile new chapter was definitely wasted.
By replacing the familiar faces with pushover parents and one-dimensional sycophantic minion groupie friends she simply refers to as “Team Sharpay,” it becomes that much harder to relate to and especially root for HSM's former antagonist turned Fabulous protagonist.
And given the fact that in retrospect, it was Sharpay’s overly dramatic, heavily referential, unfiltered mode of expression that ultimately made her scenes in HSM memorable, Robert Ham puts so much energy into crafting Sharpay’s divalicious one-liners that the rest of the film’s dialogue (and overall plot) understandably suffers in comparison.
By waiting far too long to unmask the film’s one-dimensional villain so that predictable final comeuppance feels like an afterthought unworthy of the heroine, Lembeck’s movie lacks any real conflict, so that the unfocused eighty-nine minute movie seems even longer.
After the music video style opening reacquaints us with our spoiled overgrown diva whose father still calls “princess,” Sharpay goes into autopilot, amazingly losing momentum rather than gaining it with the move to New York.
Thus, despite a dynamic Blu-ray transfer and a few terrific songs, Ashley Tisdale’s Sharpay winds up getting lost in the translation. While she never quite fit the label of a “mean girl” in the ensemble trilogy or a “nice girl” in this solo effort, in Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure, regardless of how much pink she wears, she just seems uninterestingly beige – blending into the scenery – and that’s not the Sharpay we want to remember.
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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.