It’s safe to say that nobody expected High School Musical to become the worldwide phenomenon that it did. If you were a kid, it was everywhere. Grease for the Bush era children. Naturally, Disney jumped at the chance to make a sequel and here we are withHigh School Musical 2 –a two-hour victory lap. It’s a chance to spend more time with our favorite group of singing slices of white bread as they take up summer jobs. However, we have some trouble in paradise, with Troy getting a little big for his britches and starting to leave his old friends behind because after all, every great movie trilogy needs its Empire Strikes Back.
See, we’ve found ourselves in a bit of a love triangle with Troy, Gabriella, and Sharpay. Sharpay has gotten the entire cast jobs at the hoity-toity country club that her parents own, exclusively so that she can spend some more time with Troy. Strange that she would also get his girlfriend hired, but I suppose appearances are everything. However, what becomes strangely clear is that in her own psychotic way, Sharpay actually really cares about Troy. She sets him up with recruiters who can get him a basketball scholarship, helps him get into the club talent show and even gets him promoted to a club pro. Honestly, she’s done more for him than Gabriella ever has.
That said, Gabriella is actually a remarkable female role model for a 2007 Disney movie. Throughout the entire film, everybody’s telling her about Troy’s strange closeness with Sharpay and she really doesn’t seem to give a shit. She’s perfectly happy just getting to see Troy when she can. Perhaps she’s just holding out until she finally gets to kiss him, which is more difficult than you might think. It’s hard not to notice that the film deals with their sexual tension in a rather odd way. Whenever they’re together, they’re always around water (that’s where I’m at now, noticing visual motifs in High School Musical 2). They’re always getting soaked together, with Troy even yelling to her at one point “you are gonna get so wet!” while running into sprinklers.
Frankly, it’s amazing that none of the Disney censors noticed this because it was all I could think about. Gabriella really only breaks up with Troy when he starts to get caught up in himself but even then forgives him pretty quickly and off screen, even. Even if I like Sharpay better, she’s a good one Troy, let’s hold onto her.
It’s also hard not to notice that Mr. Fulton (Mark L. Taylor) has a bit of a creepy obsession with Troy. He’s constantly sneaking around behind Troy’s back, waiting in the shadows to make strange comments about how he wants all of his friends to sweat. There’s also a particularly uncomfortable moment where he assigns Troy a golf cart based on his jersey number…at school. Has Mr. Fulton been at east high watching Troy’s games all this time? If so, perhaps its time to call the cops. The entire management of this club is a little screwy, with Sharpay and Ryan’s parents being exactly who I expected them to be. It’s all played very light-hearted, but the fact that these two only fly in on a helicopter to see their kids occasionally has clearly left some scars. They’re a little damaged, but oh well, this is Disney after all.
The musical numbers here are majorly beefed up with a couple numbers that would make Damien Chazelle blush. What Time Is It, the summer celebration that opens the film is genuinely well choreographed and catchy. It’s a strong start that establishes what a romp the rest of the movie is. Although you have to wonder who’s going to clean up all of the thrown papers and notebooks. However, the highlight has to be Bet On It, a truly epic come to Jesus song for Troy. He’s basically having a Footloose factory scene moment on the country club lawn, which frankly makes you wonder if he’s completely sober. All I’m saying is that if I saw a kid dancing like a lunatic on private property, I’d be a hair concerned. Also, good on Efron for doing his own vocals this time around.
However, it’s clear that there’s a little indulgence going on. We take some hardcore detours and not all of them work. There’s a flat-out bizarre sequence where Troy is taken to a secret room by Mr. Fulton to hear Sharpay sing a song entitled humukumunukunukuapua’s. That is no joke. It’s a five-minute scene of Troy sitting in a stone chair watching this strange acid trip occur in front of him. There’s a whole subplot with Chad and Ryan playing a baseball game while dancing that doesn’t really go anywhere (even if we do get to know Chad a little better) and a couple of songs towards the end that are clearly just trying to re-capture Breaking Free and We’re All In This Together.
High School Musical 2 is more confident in its absurd premise and as such, is a much more entertaining film than the first. It’s a goofy summer romp that knows exactly what it is and relishes in that. Hell, we even get some #justiceforzeke with him finally getting to work in a kitchen and even getting a kiss in Sharpay’s yearbook. Thank god, I was worried about him. I’m fairly invested in these characters and somewhat sad to say goodbye to them in the next film. Hopefully, we can get one more scene of Troy stress dancing before it’s all said and done.