Directed by: Kenny Ortega
Written by: Peter Barsocchini
Starring: Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Lucas Grabeel, Ashley Tisdale, Corbin Bleu, Monique Coleman
Summer vacation for students in all levels of schooling represents a time away from the books, to hang out with friends, and for the students at East High, work a seasonal job. Bringing together the fun and the work allows for an upgrade in production value and tension as these Wildcats leave their school setting and face the pressures of clocking in for minimum wage. All the same fun, but just done with more style.
School’s out and the struggle of finding a summer job stresses Troy Bolton (Zac Efron), Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens) until they get the unlikely opportunity to all work at a local country club. As the lovely pair and several of their friends begin employment, they learn Sharpay’s (Ashley Tisdale) parents own the place with her pulling all the strings to whisk Tory away from Gabriella once again.
With the first feature dealing with the intricacies inside a high school with the cliques, High School Musical 2 takes on a larger approach as these students head towards senior year and the unknown future waiting for them. Getting these summer jobs means more than having some discretionary money to spend with their friends. Troy has the worry of how he will be able to pay for college and it drives many of his struggles in the film and the choices he needs to make infringing on his existent friendships. It all becomes a bit more real for these students, but the magic of the songs and choreography certainly did not lose its sparkle, seeing as it only got brighter here.
Monumental success from the first film gave this sequel an opportunity to be bigger and the upgrade in the production value could be seen from a mile away. Larger sets, more extravagant choreography, and a more mature outlook on life help this work as an upgrade. While the songs may not have the same staying power as the ones featured in the previous film, they still have such incredible energy to them both encapsulating the fun these kids will have over the summer and the inner anguish Tory suffers because of the privilege he receives. This ultimately becomes the ultimate conflict the feature navigates.
“Start of Something New” brought the idea of these films being a two-hander for Troy and Gabriella as they go through their own struggles and come together. This film solidifies what gets hinted at in the first film that these movies are first and foremost Troy Bolton’s journey. In this narrative, Gabriella is barely present and mostly shows up to have missed dates with Troy. She moves firmly into the supporting character role, but I do not mind considering Troy deals with his privilege and how it leaves him in comparison with his other friends.
As the main white male lead of the story, Troy has gotten pretty much everything from life and the privilege he receives at the country club from simply being Sharpay’s crush creates all of the tension of the feature. It also shows Sharpay has not learned her lesson from the first and will continue to knock anyone over, including her own brother to be in the arms of Troy. One line, specifically, outlines the privilege Tory reckons with where other characters like his best friend Chad (Corbin Bleu) mention the unwarranted advantages the star basketball player receives, which Troy tries to rebuff. It leads into his iconic “Bet on it ” musical sequence on the golf course, which allows for him to reflect on everything going through his mind. It certainly gets complicated because everything being around Sharpay helps his prospects in getting a scholarship much more feasible but will it be worth the trouble of losing his friends? It becomes the question he has to answer.
An enjoyable reprieve from the rigors of not going to class, High School Musical 2 adds more depth to the characters while allowing them to have fun on and off the court. It continues the character arc of Troy Bolton as he tries to balance everything in his life while also continuing to fall for Gabriella. Great songs, an upgrade in production value, and an overall fun vibe, this feature knows what works for its audience and provides more of it. If you’re not bought in already then this film will certainly not help.