High School Musical: A Retrospective

If you’re of a certain age you probably know what I’m talking about. 2005, for many of us eight thru ten year-olds at the time, was marked by a TV movie on Disney Channel (‘cease and desist’ me now) known as High School Musical. The story revolved around a popular boy falling for nerdy girl- as a musical. Directed by Kenny Ortega (Hocus Pocus, Newsies), it was a massive hit, especially with the older elementary school crowd, because 3-5th grades were considered older back then.

Let’s all be honest and admit it: we all watched the movie more than once, we all got the songs stuck in our heads and we all secretly loved it. Even me. I went to go see the musical version, thanks I believe to some free tickets, which was exactly like the movie save for lots of screaming girls, which I recall utterly detesting.

Since the first movie made a ton of money and viewer ratings (back when those counted for anything), production started on a sequel released in 2008 that was, by many fans standards even better than the first due to it being watched by over 17 million people the first night. High School Musical 2 had the same cast, crew, and heck, even story from the first one, more or less. The songs…I’ll cover those later.

Nowadays, I look at these two films (oh, there was a third, but nobody remembers that) as a nostalgic ride back to when times were more innocent and I could enjoy musicals with catchy songs and love stories without going ballistic, like I’ve ever gone ballistic over a movie musical with a love story and catchy songs. Oh, right!

Let’s look at the films as a whole, and see how much worse they’ve fared over the years.

The first film had a basketball team with half the color palate of the old Charlotte Bobcats, used flip phones extensively and didn’t age well. Overall it’s not half as impressive as I remember. Save for the songs. Yeah, they’re cheesy as heck and the catchiness (annoyance) can’t be ignored, but they still sound pretty good. On second thought scratch that, they don’t sound good either. What time and experience can do to our opinions!

Overall, I know plenty of people wish high school was what the movie depicted it as.

Second film. The cinematography’s better. New location, check. Same characters and acting talent, check. Same film  crew, check. Songs that aren’t as good (at least in terms of a collective whole) as the previous film, yeah…well not really. Here, I’ll try to sort through this.

For a long time I always viewed the songs in 2 as inferior to the originals. Yet individually, Musical 2 does have good tracks. The “I’m leaving you behind” song is good as are the “group motivation” and “main character self-empowerment” songs. I don’t like the “big ending love song” in this one and the obligatory “ending of film songs” were both “bleh”, so I’m tossing them out.

Yeah, summer break…this was summer break for only millionaires, not for 99% of us.

Both films are cheesy, corny, and obviously unrealistic, especially the second one. Some of the cast could sing better than others. The first one had a easier plot and that’s probably why I remember it more. Of course this may be due to the fact I saw the first one a lot more. Like I said, it was everywhere in ’05. By the time the second one rolled around I was in middle school, and too old to be watching cheesy fantasies anymore, but I did watch it a couple times. I’m sure we all did.

I liken looking at these to one of those “what the heck were we thinking” moments, because did I have any business to like these films? No. Did the rest of us? As I said earlier, we all secretly enjoyed them to some degree, whether it was for laughs, or entertaining a bunch of elementary school girls for two hours while us boys partook in better activities like video games and football, or watching it to pass time while waiting in between commercial breaks.

Oh, name me one actor/actress who became successful in later life? Yeah, out of six main cast members, only one became a “major actor” (he’s not really that good, but whatever).


Well, thought I’d share that little trip down memory lane for some of us. Look for more movie reviews/commentaries to come out soon!



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