I feel dirty.
It's generally accepted that films for children are rubbish. For years, adults have winced through endless crap animations and horrid musicals, with little or no chance of spotting a redeeming feature. In the last few years, however, the genre has taken a turn for the slightly-better, with a fair amount of sly-wink grownup humour among the greatly improved animations. Musicals, though? Pretty much still horrid. Which brings me neatly to the ninety-minute mind enema that is High School Musical.
This film is, in a word, Fucking Awful.
I'm not sure quite what I was expecting, but it wasn't this. Small Person has been banging on about it for weeks so I bowed to pester power and bought it yesterday. In my head, we would sit together and watch it and I might even like it, a bit. I had vague thoughts of Grease*, and The Sound of Music, and should really have known much, much better. It's a Disney Channel film, for a kickoff. And in the bland, corporate world of the Disney Channel, there's no such thing as a film without a Message. It made my brain hurt....As they reach for the stars and follow their dreams, everyone learns about acceptance, teamwork and being yourself.....
Yes. That's what we ALL learned. It was relentless. Seriously. The Hitler Youth would have been overjoyed if they could have got Disney on board for a spot of marketing work. It made me want to go out and kick mentally disadvantaged people, just to get the saccharin out of my psyche. The entire film was like that scene from Monty Python's Life of Brian, where the crowd are outside Brian's window shouting in synch "yes! we ARE all individuals!". I'm pretty sure that the cast members were branded with the Mickey Mouse symbol when they signed up. Hell, I'm pretty sure they were branded, lobotomised and made to listen to Phil Collins Disney soundtrack albums for the duration of filming. They were like shiny mannequins - a sort of Village of the Damned, if the Village of the Damned had a really
good dentist. Brr.
There was nothing at all that I liked about this film. The acting was horrible. The miming in the song parts made me want to set my eyes on fire. The soundtrack was like drowning in custard with the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears singing close-harmony acapella versions of Celine Dion albums in the background. The dancing was as spastic as you can get without needing a Statement of Special Education Needs. And don't even get me started on the plot.
I can only surmise that the writers spent the six months before starting the screenplay watching The Young and The Restless and Mary Poppins while ingesting large amounts of magic mushrooms. It had everything - the new girl in school, the troubled basketball player who had Deep Feelings about the new girl in school and was struggling with a nascent desire to perform lavish song-and dance numbers in front of his bewildered peer group, lots of hey-kids-let's-do-the-show-right-here cafeteria dancing, a spiteful blonde girl, a misunderstanding, a random plot device, clonky overuse of modern technology (text me your number...oh, here's my laptop.....oh! look! everyone's in detention for having a mobile phone in class!), a school/home/sports/doing the right thing conflict, a batty teacher, a strict teacher who was also basketball-playing-singing-falling-in-love boy's father (are you keeping up at the back?), and the inevitable ooh, we're all pulling together because the world is a fabulous, special place as long as we can all, you know, understand each other
To sum up. Avoid. Really. I know it's for six year old girls who want to go to stage school and be Beyonce when they grow up. I know I'm not supposed to get it, or like it. But it made me feel like I'd boiled a puppy - guilty and more than a little bit sick.
* By the way, has anyone else been taken aback at how rude
Grease is when you watch it as an adult? I'm not letting Small Person near it until she's at least ten.