The kids of East High were back this weekend as Disney Channel premiered High School Musical 2, the sequel to their mega-successful film from 2006. The entire cast was back - Zack Effron, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, Corbin Bleu, Lucas Grabel, Monique Coleman - and as the opening number says (what time is is?) it's summer time! And that means no school, time for sun and fun, and of course singing and dancing (it is a musical after all).
Once again, the story centers around Effron's Troy - who has yet another dilemma to wrestle with. Last time it was sports versus singing. This time it is his future versus his friends. Still, Effron is the one who brings in the target audience (tween and teen girls) so naturally he gets the most focus. Hudgens' Gabrielle is more a minor player this go-round except for her inevitable romantic duets with Effron (the two are actually a couple so the romantic chemistry is there). Tisdale's Sharpay really gets a huge focus, which is awesome; she really gets to chew up the scenary with her spoiled rich girl act. Grabel's Ryan gets more focus too as he figures out it is time to come out from under sister Sharpay's shadow. Bleu and Coleman are really relegated to supporting friend roles, though Bleu does have some big parts in some of the songs.
For me, the best part is the huge coreographed production numbers. From the opening "What Time Is It? (Summertime)" to the Sharpay focused "Fabulous" and her version of "You Are The Music In Me" to the sports-themed "I Don't Dance" and the finale "All For One", these are the numbers that stand out. They are toe-tapping, booty-shaking tunes that will be all over Radio Disney for the next year.
I saw the figures for Friday night's debut - 17.2 million households tuned it. That's phenomenal numbers, especially for a summer TV debut and for a cable channel. Yes, we had it on in our household (I was DVRing it for my son who was away with his grandparents in the mountains - though it turns out one of the kids up there had their father tune in the satellite so they could watch it as well).
Expect the soundtrack and the eventual DVD release to do gangbuster sales for Disney, just as the original High School Musical did. Expect the eventual follow up third film, though word is they are planning it for a big screen release.
Personally, I enjoyed it. I always loved musicals about kids, singing and dancing through a storyline. It had touches of Grease, Grease 2, Dirty Dancing, and even some Caddyshack to it. Director Kenny Ortega really pulled out all the stops on this one. And it is great, G rated entertainment for the entire family. Two thumbs up from my household.