The Screening Room
hsm blu ray
"High School Musical" was a delightful and surprisingly sincere ode to "Grease," "West Side Story," and the corny Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland movies of yore. Who would've thought that a low budget movie on Disney Channel could spawn an industry?

“High School Musical” is now available on Blu-ray.

I've probably seen the original "HSM" a million times by now. Repeated broadcasts on Disney Channel mixed in with seemingly endless DVD editions, I've had my fill. Add the live stage show and the sequels, there has been no escape from those perky teens from East High. Nonetheless, after sitting down to the Blu-ray, I was caught up in it.

I don't think the sequels have kept the innocent charm of the original. Despite it borrowing cues from other major musicals, "HSM" still has a goofy innocence. The cast was pretty much unknown, and no one had heard the songs before. Yet Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens were ideally cast. The songs were catchy and well written. No one at Disney, I'm sure, expected this little movie to succeed like it did. I'm sure that Disney's execs, and the filmmakers of "HSM," were tickled pink after nearly every girl in America wanted to be like Gabriela.

There's really no need to go over the plot. If you're reading this review, you've probably already seen it at least once. It's a simple boy meets girl story with a bunch of singing and dancing high school students. I can tell you that my school, no matter how diverse it was, didn't dance and sing around the lunch tables.

The world of "HSM" is highly idealized where almost every kid is squeeky clean. The jocks all are cool and are hardly condescending to the geeks. Which is ironic, the lead geek, Gabriella, doesn't seem like a geek. She seems like she'd be involved with the mall crowd and not books.

For a made-for-cable movie, "HSM" is a nice production. Kenny Ortega does a commendable job in keeping the pace of the on-screen action running. The cast is perfectly acceptable and charming, though after being hit with a non-stop barrage of seeing their faces everywhere, one almost wishes they were unknowns again. It's not their fault. Disney struck cash gold and they were smart to make two sequels while the original cast was fresh.

The Blu-ray disc is a remarkable improvement over the broadcast and DVD versions. To my surprise, the movie was shot in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. I don't recall the DVDs (and I'm too lazy to look for them) being in widescreen, nor was the movie shown on Disney Channel in widescreen. The high-def picture is very good and shows a bit of grain. This wasn't a slickly made movie and the lighting is pretty subdued anyway, so this Blu-ray isn't going to wow anyone. I can't imagine any pre-teen girls complaining about missing the sharp details of Corbin Bleu's hair.

The audio is okay. I applaud Disney's effort, even on a title like this, to include an uncompressed 5.1 mix. The sound does seem to "breathe" more than it does on a standard Dolby TrueHD soundtrack option. This soundtrack, with all of its songs, really isn't that engaging to listen to. It's acceptable for the kids who love this movie, but for anyone who wants to show off their home theater speaker system, this title is not one to use. The recording is thin and doesn't have much impact to it. The uncompressed 5.1 audio reveals how dubbed the music sounds. As I understand it, Zac Efron's singing was dubbed by another singer and it's now easily discernable. Not a bad thing. Just watch "West Side Story" and listen closely to the dubbing job on that classic.

Time will tell if "HSM" holds up. In twenty years when my daughter has her own kids, and the kids of "HSM" have their own kids, I wonder if there will be reunions and specials about this little movie. Will the kids of today be singing the tunes of East High in 20 years? Who knows? All I know is that the original movie is fun to watch, even if it takes place in a total fantasy high school.

Bill Kallay

Special thanks to Click Communications

Photos: © BVHE. All rights reserved.
Blu-ray Quick Glimpse



In case you don't already have the DVD and haven't seen it a million times, it's now on Blu-ray

Director: Kenny Ortega  

Cast: Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Corben Bleu 

Bloopers, extra scene and more


Picture: Very Good
Sound: Good

See how much of "Grease" and "West Side Story" you find in "HSM"

Aspect Ratio (1.78:1)

5.1 PCM Uncompressed Audio
Dolby Digital 5.1 

February 17, 2009
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