This infectiously upbeat big screen version of Disney Channel's runaway TV movie sensation begins with a blast of energy as basketball star Troy (Zac Efron "Hairspray") not
only leads his team to victory but also belts out a song during the game as the Wildcats win their second basketball
championship. It's senior year at East High and everyone is busy preparing for the senior prom and the year end musical. Troy's best girl Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens "Thunderbirds") is planning to go to Stanford, while Troy has a basketball scholarship to the the U of A, the alma mater of his dad (Bart Johnson "Daddy Day Camp"), where he's
planning to go along with his best friend, Chad (Corbin Bleu "Catch That Kid"). But with graduation on the horizon, things are
sort of bittersweet between the popular couple, with Gabriella pulling away to avoid
To complicate matters, drama teacher Ms. Darbus (Alyson Reed "A Chorus Line") has invited recruiters from Juilliard to come and see the senior year
musical and award one student a scholarship. Troy's in the running but
seems largely undecided about his future. But it's Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale "High School Musical") who wows the Juilliard recruiters despite the fact that she has to beat out her twin brother Ryan (Lucas Grabeel "High School Musical") and her new transfer-student best friend Tiara ( newcomer Jemma McKenzie-Brown), in the process.
Meanwhile on the basketball court, two new players (Matt Prokop "Billy" and Justin Martin "The Express") emerge to try to replace Troy's star power,
although neither of them seems particularly well-suited to fill his shoes. There's also plenty of conflict in the Sharpay-Tiara competition, which produces a
hilarious fight for the spotlight. As in the earlier TV films, director Kenny Ortega ("Hocus Pocus") employs a wide variety of musical genres, ranging from teen-angst rock themes
to the boy-band numbers, adapting the styles to the
particular characters' states of mind at that moment.
The songs are an engaging melange of rock, rap and Broadway-style
ballads, but they aren't truly memorable. The choreographic high point
is a rousing number in an auto junkyard. But all of the actors
have talent to burn. Zac Efron gets plenty of chances to bat his baby
blue eyes, and he sings and dances boisterously. Vanessa Hudgens adds warmth during
their duets. It's too bad that the adults, such as the parents or the
school drama teacher, have such one-dimensional roles. Still young audiences are bound to be delighted with this upbeat musical.