Saturday, May 17, 2008

High School Musical

There isn't much left to say about High School Musical. The film was a gigantic hit when it first came out, prompting mass merchandising, a sequel, a stage version, and another upcoming sequel to be released in actual theaters. There are hordes screaming fans to purchase all this paraphernalia and keep the trends going, and many have wondered why this particular film is so popular with teens. Here's why: It isn't.

High School Musical is not especially popular with teens. Many of us can't stand it. The film is much more popular with nine to thirteen year olds, also known as tweens. Now a little bit of clarification, in case my thirteen year old sister reads this, someone in this age range is not necessarily a tween and you do not have to be in this age range to be a tween. This is simply a term used for those who are so desperate to be a teen soon that they buzz around Disney channel shows (Hannah Montana, High School Musical, etc.) and pretend they know about high school. Tweens are not bad people, a couple are downright pleasant, although after extended exposure they can get annoying.

In the presence of these people, I got to view High School Musical, or HSM, twice (this is twice more than I would suggest for anyone to watch it). The first time was at the house of close friend from church. She's younger than me, so then she couldn't quite be home alone, but we hang out with the same group, and so the job was really more like getting payed to hang out, usually. She had just bought the DVD an CD of HSM. I'd heard of it, but never seen it, so I decided what the heck. Turns out my friend was a bigger fan than I had thought, and throughout the film, she sang along with every number. After a long time, the film was over, and she went to bed. As I read my book, I wondered what she saw in it.

The film itself is extremely formulaic. Two teens meet outside of school, and a spark is felt when they sing karaoke. Then, later, the basketball star, Troy, and the nerd Gabriella, realize that they are at the same school. They both are stuck in their stereotypes, but attempt to break them by starring in the big school musical. However, the school's spoiled brat and her pink obsessed, wussy theater loving brother attempt to take them down. Good wins out in the end and everyone learns that it's not good to just "stick to the status-quo" with some help from the science and basketball teams.

This is a nice neat little message, but the only problem is that the film actually reinforces stereotypes. The villain is the spoiled-always gets what she wants character from every teen movie ever, the geek table is amazed to learn that one of their members likes dancing better than homework, and the theater loving brother is automatically played as a gay character (okay, they don't go out and say it, because this is Disney after all, but it's there all right). The songs are annoying, and the actors are nothing special. After that night I'd have been happy to have never seen the film again.

A while after that I was asked to see the film again when babysitting two boys down the street who were curious what all the fuss was about. They enjoyed the film, although did not become rabid fans. I thought I was rid of High School Musical, but you never really can be rid of it.

Every summer, our church youth group visits the local 6 Flags amusement park. When we all sat down to lunch on our latest trip, Radio Disney had set up a station by the food court. The speaker system was blaring out tunes from HSM and cheery dancers were reenacting numbers from the film. A couple girls from our group sung along or volunteered to be participants in games. The annoying, yet catchy, tunes then permanently lodged themselves in my head, never again to be silent.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

It's Spring Training Charlie Brown

Growing up, I had a Peanuts book. It was mine, and nobody else's, which, when you're small is a great source of pride, even if you can't read it too well. I remember that it was pink or orange with Snoopy and flowers on the cover.  In fact, to this day, I still love Peanuts. I fell that Charles Shultz was a genius and am ardent that the strips should be reprinted in papers until the end of time.

That being said, all copies of It's Spring Training Charlie Brown should be destroyed. The film was written by Shultz, but it has none of the charm, philosophy or humor of the actual strip. In the film, it is the beginning of the baseball season for Charlie Brown's team. They are their usual uncoordinated selves while getting ready for the new season. Some random new character called Leland, a little boy, who seems to be Freida's little brother, who is too small to tie his shoe, wants to join their team. Charlie Brown mocks him cruelly, and then lets him be on the team.

The team wants uniforms, claiming they'll play better with them, and so Charlie Brown tries to deliver. He finds a local store owner, who will buy them uniforms, but first, they have to win their opening game. Oddly enough they are able to win with Leland's help. They get their uniforms, and then promptly lose the next game. This allows them to have two heavy handed cliched morals, it doesn't matter what you wear it's how you play the game, and it doesn't matter if you're big or small, you can still make a difference. These are both good morals, but they are dealt with such seriousness, they are hard to stomach.

Charlie Brown's team actually winning an important game is like giving the Trix Rabbit cereal, you always hope for it for them, but in the end it feels extremely wrong. The whole film has the same unnatural feel. The characters' usual wit and appeal has been sucked right out of them, and they seem like tired cliches. The film, created in 1992, replaced the iconic Peanuts soundtrack, ranging from dreamer sounds like the catch Christmastime to Beethoven, in the background with a rap-like sound which doesn't really fit. This leads to one of the worst moments in the film. It turns out that instead of singing the "National Anthem", the characters do the hokey-pokey, and then, Franklin raps. The rap is something about being the invincible team that never loses (although their record says otherwise) and winning is what it's all about.

This film takes all the joy, humor, and charisma out of a classic comic strip, and I hope that no one out there has the misfortune to watch it.

The Babysitter