The "High School Musical" gang is back and better than ever!
The most anticipated TV movie of the year splashes onto the small screen tonight with a brighter palette and a catchier, foot-tapping rhythm. In many ways, "High School Musical 2" is bigger and more fun than the sleeper hit that swept the kid nation last year. But it's not all bright and rosy for the Wildcats: The sequel has less charm and includes some scenes that are overproduced with rambunctious music overshadowing the lyrics and emotions.
Troy (Zac Efron), girlfriend Gabriella (Vanessa Anne Hudgens) and their friends start work at a plush Albuquerque country club (looking suspiciously like St. George) thanks to the snooty Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale), whose parents own the resort and who wants Troy for herself.
The even more scheming Sharpay, a rhinestoned teen Cruella De Vil, coerces Troy to star in a duet with her in the resort's talent show. Meanwhile, Troy, the teen basketball star, begins alienating his friends to impress local university scouts.
The wafer-thin story serves mostly as a vehicle for old-fashioned, high-energy dancing and vibrant tunes. The musical numbers, co-choreographed and staged by director Kenny Ortega, have more background dancers and flashier steps. The opening number at East High School, a fun scene on a baseball diamond, and the closing number are examples of the more dazzling musical pieces.
The setting is gorgeous and colorful thanks to the deep green fairways of the Entrada at Snow Canyon Country Club in St. George and the reddish-orange hues of southern Utah's famous redrock.
Not that more of everything works in every way. It would be a better movie than the original if the love story between Troy and Gabriella were more intimate. (It's fun to wonder, though, if they will actually kiss.)
But does any of this matter? "High School Musical 2" is critic-proof and impervious to analysis.
As my 10-year-old daughter said with a grin at the end of the movie, "It was great! I'm bursting inside with joy!"
And isn't that all kids want from this movie anyway?
What time is it? Party time
Radio Disney is throwing a "High School Musical 2" viewing party to remind everyone that "we're all in this together."
The party, which will have giveaways to the upcoming "High School Musical on Ice" show and other prizes, is tonight at the VIP room at the EnergySolutions Arena, 301 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City. The party begins at 6 p.m., and the screening is at 7 p.m.
Admission is free. Tickets are available in advance at the EnergySolutions Arena or participating Comcast locations.
Here are the times "High School Musical 2" is playing on the Disney Channel between now and the end of next week.
* Tonight, 9
* Saturday, 9 p.m.
* Sunday, 9 p.m.
* Thursday, 9 p.m.