Here continues the phenomenon of High School Musical and review number two of my High School Musical trilogy.
If the first movie was popular, High School Musical 2 was, to use the words of HSM2 character Sharpay Evans, “Fabulous!” The day HSM2 came out, approximately 17.2 million people tuned in, making it the most-watched basic cable program ever, according to Nielsen Media Research, more than doubling the number of people who watched the first movie. People had spent the year in-between the HSM movies obsessing about Troy and Gabriella and East High, anxiously waiting to see what would happen over the summer for their favorite Wildcats.
The movie begins in the last class on the last day before summer. The students are anxiously watching the clock (which seems to get bigger and bigger) behind their teacher Ms. Darbus and as the final seconds tick down they whisper “summer, summer, summer, summer.” When the bell finally rings, the classroom explodes, and everyone in school joins in the song, dancing in the halls, celebrating the beginning of summer. They sing about how much fun they’re going to have over the summer, how it’s the time of their lives.
However, reality quickly comes crashing down for some of the Wildcats, as they realize they need summer jobs. They’re all juniors, and college is fast approaching, and some of their parents are encouraging them to earn some money. They talk about the different places they could work, and about what they’re going to do to hang out over the summer.
There are a couple Wildcats who won’t have to work over the summer: Ryan and Sharpay Evans. Their parents own the Lava Springs Country Club, and all Sharpay has to worry about is that her chaise is in a good place for a tan, winning the Star Dazzle Award at the Midsummer Night’s Talent Show, and breaking Troy and Gabriella up so that she and Troy can rule the school senior year. She puts her plan into action by having the manager of the Country Club offer Troy a job, no questions asked. As the summer begins, Sharpay wants the “whole world according to moi” and for everything to be “fabulous.” Troy arrives and she sings “I like what I see, I like it a lot. This is absolutely fabulous!” But then, the rest of the Wildcats arrive right behind Troy and suddenly it’s “not!” because this group also includes Gabriella and she has to re-think her plan. First, she tells Fulton, the manager, to fire them, but he informs her that her mother said that she wasn’t allowed to make that decision, so she tells him to make them want to quit.
Right away, he follows her orders and is much harder on the new employees then he would normally be, which inspires some of the Wildcats ask “how did we get from the top of the world to the bottom of the heap?” as they realize that a summer job is going to be much harder then they thought. Troy and Gabriella encourage them to “work this out” and slowly people join in agreeing that they can save the summer and have fun.
Faster then Sharpay can blink, two of her goals for the summer are dancing out of her reach. Troy and Gabriella are a stronger couple then ever, and Kelsey has written them a song to sing at the talent show: “You Are the Music in Me.” Even as their relationship is as strong as it’s ever been, Troy starts to get really worried about his college tuition. Sharpay notices and finds this would be a perfect way to get him away from Gabriella and the Wildcats.
After getting Troy promoted, and extending “club privileges” to him, which separates him from the Wildcats during work, Sharpay uses her father’s connections to a school Troy wants to attend to get them interested in him. This drives a wedge between him and his friends from the basketball team, including his best friend Chad, as he chooses to do things to try to get a scholarship instead of things he promised to do with them. While Troy plays basketball with the college team, the rest of the Wildcat boys play baseball with other staff members from Lava Springs. Gabriella invites Ryan, who has been excluded from his sister’s plan and performance in the talent show, and he joins in and even though Chad argues that “I Don’t Dance,” Ryan shows him that dancing and baseball both take game. By the time the game is over, Ryan is fitting in with the rest of the Wildcats, which is obvious the next morning when he’s seen wearing the school’s colors for the first time.
While Troy’s relationship with the Wildcats is on stormy seas, Sharpay continues to weasel her way in next to him, forcing him to practice with her for the talent show, using a faster version of the song Kelsey wrote for Troy and Gabriella. But shortly after that, she finds out that Ryan is helping the rest of the Wildcats with their performance for the show, and steps in to keep them from performing by telling Fulton to ban all junior staff members from the show.
This is the breaking point for Gabriella, who confronts Sharpay and tells her to stop messing with her friends. That night Gabriella quits to show Sharpay that she’s not going to take it anymore. Troy overhears the conversation and stops Gabriella to ask her if she was really leaving. She tells him “I Gotta Go My Own Way,” and that he hurt her and his friends by allowing himself to be a jerk in his effort to pursue his future. She leaves him alone with his thoughts.
The next morning, Troy finds out how Sharpay banned the junior staffers and storms out of the kitchen, telling himself that he needs to “listen to [his] own heart talking” and “count on [himself] instead.” He goes back to Chad to make things right and confronts Sharpay, telling her that he took back his old job as a junior staffer and that he wouldn’t be singing with her. She tries to go back to the number she was originally going to do with her brother, but he’d sold his costume and was done taking orders from her.
As the show approaches, Troy goes back to Sharpay and tells her that he will sing with her, as long as the Wildcats are allowed to perform too. However, just before Troy goes out, Ryan tells him that Sharpay wanted him to learn a new song, so he learns it quickly and as they’re about to go on, he asks Sharpay why she switched songs. Sharpay realizes that Ryan tricked her, and realizes that it was for the best.
Troy goes on and starts singing “Everyday” alone, and Gabriella appears to sing with him. They sing, wanting the moment to “last forever and never give it back. It’s our turn, and I’m lovin’ where we’re at, because this moment’s really all we have.” The entire staff comes on stage, including Ryan and Sharpay, to join in the song. After the show, they all go out to watch the fireworks, and Troy and Gabriella have their first kiss.
The next day, during a staff-only pool party, everyone celebrates that they finally got the summer they wanted, and that now everybody’s “All for One!”
Similar to the first movie, the idea that we are all different, and yet all need each other comes up, particularly in the final song. But HSM2 has another major theme: that “there’s more to life when we listen to our hearts.”
In his Footloose-worthy song that would leave Kevin Bacon quaking in his dancing shoes, Troy wrestles with the fact that he has been allowing other people to decide how he’s going to live his life, and he comes to the conclusion that he needs to listen to his heart, and count on himself instead: “The answers are all inside of me. All I gotta do is believe.” This belief is prominent in many people’s worldviews, that if they “listen to their heart” and “follow their heart” they’ll do what’s best. However, Jeremiah 17:9 says that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” In our sinful nature, listening to our heart means drawing out of a diseased and rotting core. Jesus said in Matthew 15 that “what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.”
On the other hand, when we have a relationship with Jesus a change occurs: “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you…and you shall be my people, and I will be your God” (Jeremiah 36:26-27). A Christian goes through heart changes, the kind that allows Paul to talk about “love that issues from a pure heart” in 1 Timothy 1:5. And because of that heart change, we know that we can’t trust in ourselves, we can’t “count on [ourselves],” but rather that we can trust in someone far greater then ourselves and count on Him who has “all authority in heaven and on earth” and who has everything figured out: Jesus Christ.
About Caitlyn Stark: “I am a musical-lovin’-Disney-watchin’-romance-dreamin’ girl, who loves reading, singing, acting, watching movies and plays. God has blessed me so immensely in my life, with his unstoppable faithfulness! I love my family, who gave me a passion for serving, words and music, and taught me about not being worried about being a little weird. I’m a student, looking to be an English teacher, and a dealer of legal addictive stimulants for the Siren who calls Seattle home.”