Rewatching High School Musical 2 this weekend did little to change my feelings about the movie (still mostly positive), but, having watched it several times already, my attention was drawn to things I hadn’t noticed the first times around. Most importantly, I realized I kept coming back to this movie not only because Zac Efron is sexy and the movie is pure escapist fun, but also because I quite like the music. I’ve always insisted that I’m not into musicals, but over the last couple of years, Moulin Rouge, Hairspray and the HSM franchise have repeatedly proven me otherwise.
It was one particular scene in High School Musical 2 that convinced me that this anti-musical prejudice is simply stupid. Even though I’ve never though of them as such, I realized that many of my old favorites among the animated Disney classics (The Jungle Book, The Lion King) are basically structured as musicals, and and damn good ones at that. (Both of them have actually been adapted to the stage in recent years.) Thus, I should be neither surprised nor embarrassed to embrace HSM2, a film from the Disney offset Disney Channel, and the more unabashed musical. All this dawned on me while watching Zac Efron perform the incredibly catchy solo number Bet On It. (Think N*Sync-era Justin Timberlake, complete with Cry Me A River-like jumpkicks).
Exactly why Efron’s character Troy Bolton at 2:25 into the song suddenly feels a need to stare at his own image in the water as if he was the reincarnation of Lion King‘s Simba is beyond me, but it’s there, and it’s so corny it’s actually kinda cute. Considering the target audience of HSM2 is barely old enough to have grown out of their Simba-philia, it makes perfect sense, too. Kids live off the safe and recognizable, and HSM2 taps into their rather limited arsenal of common pop culture references, whether intended or not. But if you ask how I noticed this, I will have no answer to offer up.
It doesn’t stop there, however. Could it really be a coincidence that when Efron in Everyday sings “I believe that you and me should grab it while we can“, the melody closely resembles when Elton Johns sings “When the heat of the rolling world can be turned away” from Can You Feel The Love Tonight? I think not.
I’m not sure what this does to my assessment of HSM2, but I’m pretty sure it’s not a bad thing.