Two quick thoughts on High School Musical.

It’s been a slow week, and I’ve been getting some work done, so I haven’t blogged a whole lot lately. But in the meantime, I have also finally gotten around to watching High School Musical and its sequel — mainly because the third film is coming to theatres next month, so although I don’t watch all that much TV, I might need to familiarize myself with this franchise anyway — and two points come to mind that might be worth making here.

First, while these made-for-TV movies do have the word “musical” in the title, the songs that are sung by these characters are produced like regular pop songs, complete with electronically processed background vocals which, in this context, sound a little funny, since there is no one onscreen to sing them. This gives at least some of the song-and-dance sequences the feel of a regular music video — which wouldn’t seem so odd to someone who came across these movies while channel-surfing, but now that the third film is going to theatres first, I wonder if this technique will hold up as well on the big screen. Maybe it will, I don’t know.

Second, it is striking how the first film is all about challenging the “status quo” and overcoming social barriers in order to pursue your heart’s desire, but the second film is all about sticking to your social group and not letting yourself be drawn into alternative social circles that might help you to get what you want. This may be more of a paradox than a contradiction, akin perhaps to the way Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) said the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one, while Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) said the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many — but it’s still an interesting thematic tension.

And man, a few days ago, after watching Casino Royale (2006), I had Chris Cornell’s ‘You Know My Name’ running through my head non-stop. And that was fine. But now I’ve got Zac Efron singing “You can bet on it, bet on it, bet on it, bet on it” running through my brain. And that’s after only one viewing. Make it stop!

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his award-winning film column for that paper, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He has also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005) and The Bible in Motion: A Handbook of the Bible and Its Reception in Film (De Gruyter, 2016).

  • Lance

    Ha ha! Just wait until your little girl gets to be about 9 or 10!

  • jasdye

    i haven’t seen those disney phenomena yet (there’s also Rock Camp or Camp Rock or whatever it’s called), but as far as not getting music out of your head, try this catchy ditty.

  • Peter T Chattaway

    Heh. Yeah, I’ve seen that. Click here for a recent interview with one of the band members.