High School Musical: Remix (Blu-ray)
Directed by Kenny Ortega
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:11080pAVC codec
Running Time: 98 minutes
Audio: PCM 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 English, French, Spanish
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
MSRP: $ 34.99
Release Date: February 17, 2009
Review Date: February 16, 2009
This is the TV-movie that began a genuine phenomenon. High School Musical, conceived as a light preteen entertainment for the Disney Channel, reached unexpectedly huge audiences, its tremendous acceptance over all age groups taking everyone by surprise. The soundtrack album became the biggest selling CD of 2006. The TV-movie scored ever higher ratings each time Disney replayed it. A concert tour featuring almost all of the original cast sold out venues with numbers that only rock acts could dream of attaining. The DVD sold millions and was quickly double-dipped by Disney for more millions in sales (it‘s the second edition that forms the basis of this Blu-ray release). The Disney marketing arm quickly spread the word through linens, lunchboxes, toys, and games. And, of course, almost every high school in the country requested licensing rights to perform their own versions of the show. High School Musical in its many incarnations has become a multi-billion dollar franchise.
So, it was with great anticipation that I revisited the original film on this new Blu-ray release since I hadn’t seen the original movie in more than two years, being far more familiar with the two follow-ups which likewise generated much attention and enthusiasm. What I found was a confident film which, though much less focused on singing and dancing and production numbers than the second and third films in the trilogy, seemed on solid ground from beginning to end making no excuses for song and dance and spreading feel-good messages about being true to one‘s self and reaching for the stars that all of us, child and adult, often need to be reminded of.
East High basketball team captain Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) meets scholastic honor student Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Hudgens) singing karaoke on winter vacation but really flips out when she transfers to his school after Christmas break. Though part of different school cliques, Troy and Gabriella are drawn together by their love of singing and find themselves auditioning for the school’s winter musical revue. This doesn’t sit well with the school’s reigning diva performing twins Ryan and Sharpay Evans (Lucas Grabeel, Ashley Tisdale) who not only want the stage star spots for themselves but want the two interlopers to stay in their own compartmentalized groups in the school hierarchy. After Troy’s teammates give him a hard time for wanting to sing show tunes and Gabriella’s scholastic decathlon team likewise sets her up to see Troy denigrating musical theater, their odds of landing the starring roles on stage and off seem doomed.
Though this high school is about a million miles from anything remotely realistic in today‘s public education system, the film is so effervescent that the Disneyfied sweetness and light isn’t really hard to take at all. It’s certainly the high school many of us wish we could have attended. Kenny Ortega’s handling of the song and dance numbers (assisted by Charles Klapow and Bonnie Story) is surprisingly imaginative for a lower budget cable movie, and the combination of athletic moves and choreographic hip-hop in the basketball scrimmage number “Keep Your Head in the Game” is thrilling. Also getting the pulse rate hopping is the climactic “We’re All in This Together” and the lovely ballad “Breakin’ Free.” Apart from the musical sequences, Ortega also films some other scenes quite well, the montage of ghastly audition attempts leading the pack. There’s also some nifty triple cross cutting late in the film between Ryan and Sharpay’s “Bop to the Top” salsa number, Troy’s championship basketball game, and Gabriella’s scholastic competition.
At the time of the film’s television premiere, most of the cast had done some small roles on television but none had broken through in a major way. High School Musical has been the turning point for many of the leading players, and they all deliver terrific song and dance performances throughout the film. It might come as a surprise to some that Zac Efron did not do much of his own singing in this first feature. The songs were written for a tenor which Efron’s voice wasn’t equipped to handle, so Andrew Seeley sings most of the role in the movie. (Vocal keys were adjusted for Efron’s lyric baritone for the subsequent films.) Apart from that, though, Efron is the standout in the film making his subsequent stardom something of a no-brainer. Vanessa Hudgens alone among the principals gets her own solo in this movie, the endearing “When There Was Me and You,” and handles it beautifully. Lucas Grabeel is clearly the best dancer of the bunch with expressive moves in all of the numbers while Ashley Tisdale’s egotistical Sharpay is as close as the film gets to a resident villain. Corbin Bleu and Monique Coleman score points as friends of the central couple while Bart Johnson as Troy’s dad and Alyson Reed as the affected school drama teacher also make notable appearances.
Though the TV-film premiered on the Disney Channel in 1.33:1, the Blu-ray edition has the widescreen 1.78:1 framing giving the show a look and feel of a modern theatrical release. In 1080p using the AVC codec, color is very strongly delivered with lifelike and appealing flesh tones and no bleed, even on the school’s characteristic red basketball uniforms. There is an occasional (and surprising) soft moment, though for most of the movie, sharpness and clarity are non-issues. The film has been divided into 12 chapters.
The PCM (6.9 Mbps) 5.1 audio track betrays its original stereo source by being mostly front centric through much of the running time of the movie. Vocals come through clearly in the center channel, and the orchestra occupies the left and right front soundstage with a clear but not overwhelming spread. Very little use is made of the rear channels until the climactic basketball game when they suddenly spring to life. There is some good use of the LFE channel in the music, but bass certainly doesn’t reach any reference levels of depth.
All of the bonus features are ported from the original “Remix” DVD release and are in 480i.
“Bringing It All Together: The Making of High School Musical” is an all-too-brief 8 ¼-minute featurette with the actors and director Kenny Ortega talking about their audition process, the two week rehearsal period, and the thrill of putting the show together for filming.
Five music videos of songs from the feature are available for viewing: “I Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” (3 minutes), two versions of “We’re All in This Together” (1 ½ minutes and 4 minutes), “Breaking Free” (3 minutes), and “Eres Tu,” the Spanish version of “When There Was You” as sung by Belanova (2 ¼ minutes).
“Learning the Moves” features director-choreographer Kenny Ortega and co-stars Lucas Grabeel and Ashley Tisdale” teaching at-home viewers some combinations from their “Bop to the Top” dance. The viewer can watch the lesson in close-up, wide angle, or the finished film version version. The lesson runs for 4 minutes.
“Dance Along” was filmed for a repeat telecast of High School Musical and features the cast demonstrating dance moves for two numbers from the film. Zac Efron teaches the moves for “Get Your Head in the Game” and Lucas Grabeel demonstrates “We’re All in This Together.” The total running time of this featurette is 16 ½ minutes.
“High School Reunion” shows clips from the cast accepting prizes at the MTV Awards as well as their junket to Australia promoting the movie, and talking about their surprise and delight over the worldwide acceptance of the film. It runs for 6 minutes.
“Hollywood Premiere” is a quick 2 ¼ minute montage of the stars arriving at a Hollywood theater for a screening of the film celebrating its initial release on DVD.
The film can be watched in sing along mode which features subtitled lyrics during the song numbers.
The disc contains 1080p previews of Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Bolt, Pinocchio, Earth, and High School Musical 3.
It may surprise you that there are fewer songs and dances in the first High School Musical than in the subsequent films, but that doesn’t make the first one any less entertaining or memorable. A feel-good vibe, a string of catchy pop tunes, and some young actors bursting with charisma make this Blu-ray version of High School Musical the one to get. Recommended!