High School Musical 2: Extended Edition

High School Musical has suffered mightily at my hands. I’ve been less than kind to the DVD releases for both High School Musical and High School Musical: The Concert. It hasn’t stopped Disney’s cash cow, though, and now High School Musical 2, which debuted on Disney Channel in August 2007 has been transferred to DVD. The ending of High School Musical brought the East High students almost everything their hearts desired. Troy (Zac Efron) and Garbriella (Vanessa Hudgens) won parts in the titular musical, the Wildcats basketball team were the big champs, rich-bitch Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale) and her not so horrible brother, Ryan (Lucas Grabeel) became a little nicer and more accepted, and Chad (Corbin Bleu) and Taylor (Monique Coleman) got the usual dose of second banana happiness together. That wasn’t enough for the decision makers at the Disney Channel, unfortunately, since the exploits of the Wildcats were so popular they mandated that everything needed to turn crappy on the character’s summer break.

Sharpay, whose personality change at the end of the first movie is reversed for this one, heads for her country club to spend a summer lounging by the pool and buying stuff with daddy’s money. She also wants to win the country club’s talent show and decides she needs Troy’s pipes to do it. Scheming to get him hired at the club, she inadvertently brings the whole cast….errr school into her wealthy enclave. This leads to several subplots including Troy ditching his friends to hang with some college basketball players, a few bumps in the relatively new relationship between Troy and Gabriella, and Sharpay trying to steal Troy as both Gabriel’s singing partner and boyfriend. These are standard youth movie plot devices that everyone knows will be cleared up by the final song.

The plot is really just a vehicle to get to the energetic, non-threatening youngsters out on the dance floor! Not just the dance floor, but the pool, baseball diamond, kitchen, classrooms and anywhere else they can break into song. Director Kenny Ortega keeps the toe-tapping, finger snapping, Radio Disney-ish production numbers both quick and fresh. “I Don’t Dance,” “What Time is It?” and “Work This Out” will make even a cynical member of the household stop for a few minutes to watch and listen. The music and dancing is obviously the highlight of the movie, with the plot and characters being very limited and pedestrian.

Since the first High School Musical exploded, several cast members have raised their profiles (some, like Hudgens, in ways they’d like to forget.) They remain a positive and likeable bunch, which helps the movie be more likeable than it probably deserves. Let’s be real, this thing is made for 8-14-year-old girls and to them it’s going to be top notch. To everyone else, it’s nothing special. The same writer, director, cast has put together a movie that those who loved the first movie will love and everyone else will resist loving but probably won’t be able to hate. It’s just a little too catchy. The High School Musical 2 DVD is billed as the “extended edition.” The DVD adds one song that was not included in the televised version, “Humuhumunukunukuapua'a.” sung by Ashley Tisdale and Lucas Grabeel. The song was included on the CD soundtrack so it will be familiar to fans and can be viewed either as part of the movie or separately as a deleted scene. The song itself is ok, more of a joke song along the lines of Sharpay and Ryan’s High School Musical number, “Bop to the Top.” There is also a four minute blooper reel that shows the usual collection of blown lines and camera mugging.

Grouped under the heading “Music and More” is the interactive portion of the DVD. There are two pretty decent features for the budding singer, “Karaoke” and “Sing Along.” They are both available for every song in the movie with the key difference being when the “karaoke” function is chosen, the cast voices are removed and only the music is heard along with the visual of the scene. On “sing along” the cast voices can be heard. In both options, the words are played on the bottom of the screen, but your kids probably have them memorized by now. The other section under “Music and More” contains four music videos, including songs from the movie sung in both Spanish and French.

The final extra is probably the most impressive and enjoyable for anyone who likes musicals. Entitled “Rehearsal Cam,” all of the musical numbers are shown through the rehearsal process. An option to play the final scene from the movie right after the rehearsal is also provided. Since each rehearsal segment lasts four or five minutes and there are about 10 musical numbers, this is a lengthy extra, especially if you watch the final version of each scene. It will appeal to young dancers who get a backstage view of the effort that goes into professional musicals. Other than an overall introduction by Kenny Ortega, none of the segments have explanations or interviews, just the dances.

The rest of the extras are shameless promotions of future Disney product. The disc lacks a commentary or any real making-of documentary. That’s odd, since having the stars talk to the camera would be a huge draw for the target audience. Disney came out with a 2-disc version of High School Musical, so that might be planned for later on this movie, also. In any case, the extras, while not significant, do add something to the presentation. There isn’t the usual filler seen in movies of this ilk. The energy and good-will seen in the movie itself comes out in the extras as well and the disc will satisfy younger kids and big fans.