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High School Musical (2006)
I feel hoodwinked.
Is it the ultimate irony that this movie plays exactly like it's namesake? The acting, singing, and dancing is the caliber you would expect of a $2 admission to a high school "musicale".
There was so much hype about this movie online. Even Netflix calls it a "smash hit", and I thought that judging by the wait to receive the movie when it was first released that there would be substance to the buzz. But from the first scene I knew I was in trouble. Vanessa Anne Hudgens as Gabriella is beautiful, but her saccharine voice was too much to listen to comfortably. Her singing voice seemed to lack strength and was long on high, nasally breathiness (think a Hillary Duff with a head cold). Even her dialogue seemed dubbed. All the musical numbers were distractingly lip-synched (of course, all singing in movies is recorded and dubbed, but you're not supposed to NOTICE it when you're watching the movie). Zach Efron as Troy was much more watchable, a cutey and his dilemma is understandable, though as the "leading man" he could have no 'sigh' appeal to anyone over the age of 16--though the same could be said for the movie in its entirety. You expect a Disney high school production to have the normal cliques, and these ones were there in spades. But they were almost cartoonish... The characters were one-dimensional to the point that I was confused about what they were supposed to be feeling and why they were reacting in a certain way (the dad/basketball coach is a good example).
A few good points: Corbin Blue, Chad (a.k.a. "the Best Friend"), stood out as one of the more watchable characters; I enjoyed the 'audition' scene--the kids who tried out for comic relief seemed realistic (surprise!) or the normal funny caricatures which made them both amusing and... sad; I was consistently amused by the character Ryan (played by Lucas Grabeel who was very good at portraying what his character was supposed to be... name, "nancy"), thought the fact that he and Sharpay were bro/sis was a little... weird; I kept watching thinking that surely the ending was phenomenal and that was why people left the movie thinking "Wow, that was great!" But... as others have pointed out, the necessary changes of heart that certain secondary characters went through was only because it was about that time of the movie for such a thing to occur--there was no characterization to support it at all.
If you have the urge to watch a teenage "pursuing dreams" type movie, I suggest "Ice Princess" which is a GREAT movie that defies the stereotypes and is emotionally engaging besides. "Stick It" is also great, much edgier, but really sharp and hilarious. Even "Raise Your Voice" is superior to this movie, because there is real, interesting talent on display. The music presented in "High School Musical" is like the dregs of Radio Disney.
I really don't know why this movie has such high rankings. There must be more pre-teens out there with Internet access than I realized.