By Charlene Lee, 14, Walnut HS
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I was bursting with so much excitement for the premiere of High School Musical 2 that I canceled all plans and decided to join an opening night party with my friends. I’d been anticipating the movie all summer, breaking out in songs from the original movie and re-watching the movie so often I could quote the entire script. But I had doubts that the sequel would match last year’s Disney Channel phenomenon. It didn’t seem likely that Disney could recapture the energy in last year’s hit soundtrack. Luckily, I was wrong—the new installment came with catchy music, a better and more-structured plot, and the same lovable charm from its cast (plus the same corny Disney lines and scenes).

The movie begins with summer break just starting and basketball star Troy (Zac Efron) and girlfriend Gabriella (Vanessa Anne Hudgens), along with their friends, landing jobs at a country club owned by the parents of flashy classmates Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale) and Ryan (Lucas Grabeel). The entire movie mostly takes place at the country club, where Sharpay hatches her plan to win Troy’s affection. She tempts him with the promise of a college scholarship and club benefits, but only if he sings with her at the country club talent show instead of with his friends. Disney teaches the expected character-building morals when Troy has to choose between loyal friends or the materialistic opportunities that Sharpay offers. 

I had purposely not listened to the soundtrack that was released three days earlier, so I’d have the complete, un-cheated experience. And while the music still delivers cutesy lyrics and melodies, it doesn’t match the passion in the first movie. The voices in many songs such as Tisdale’s in her ditsy number, “Fabulous,” are digitalized, and it seemed like songwriters attempted to write an identical song to every single track from the first movie but ended up with a weaker and less heartfelt version. It was like they were on a deadline and hoped that viewers wouldn’t notice that the sequel’s closing number “All for One” is pretty much the same as the original movie’s “We’re All In This Together.” Still, the upbeat songs and fun choreography are good enough for fans to memorize by heart and join in on the karaoke sing-along version, especially the energy-packed opening “What Time Is It.”

But even more than the half-hearted music, many scenes in the movie, like the original, screamed the usual exaggerated and flawless Disney elements, especially how Garbiella was able to sing (or lip synch), cry, and still look utterly stunning. There was even a scene in which Troy, stuck in a moral dilemma, runs across the golf course dressed in leather-tight black pants and stares at his reflection in the lake, resembling the realization moment that Simba had when he saw himself in the water in The Lion King.

Despite the badly acted scenes, I was impressed most with director and writer Kenny Ortega’s character development. The movie focused less on the relationship between Gabriella and Troy and more on the friendships between each character, making me more interested in the transformation of other characters like Ryan and Chad (Corbin Bleu). Both characters, overshadowed in the previous movie, step up and become their own in an addicting faux hip-hop song. The producers also put a lot more effort into the scenery and wardrobe in the sequel—Troy actually wears a different outfit everyday now (even if he did wear cropped pants in the last number).

And though my brother and friends beg me to stop singing along to the new soundtrack, I can’t help it. It may be far from reality, but it, like the original, provides carefree entertainment that viewers (especially teenagers who think they’re too old for Disney movies) can poke fun at and still secretly enjoy.