Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

‘High School Musical’ is the greatest sports movie of all time

It’s more than just a sports movie
Courtesy of IMDB

What makes a great sports movie great? There are two common threads that run through some of the greatest masterpieces in the sports film genre: an inspirational triumph and an overcoming of adversity outside of sports.

Many movies have executed this successfully – “Remember the Titans,” “Miracle” and “Coach Carter” just to name a few. But one sports movie has been heinously overlooked despite containing both qualities and so much more.

Simply put, it’s the greatest sports movie of all time. And its name is “High School Musical.”

Within the first few minutes of “High School Musical,” you can tell that Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) has two incredible talents, basketball and singing. But the people he surrounds himself with don’t want him to be anything more than a basketball player. Only Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Hudgens) is supportive of his ambitions. Considering the first movie in the “High School Musical” trilogy was released in 2006, this is actually an important and nuanced idea to tackle. The sports world is filled with people who don’t believe athletes should be involved in other avenues and “High School Musical” aims to break that mold, albeit through the context music rather than politics or activism.

This isn’t the only issue the movie shines a spotlight on, either. In one scene the music teacher, Ms. Darbus (Alyson Reed), and the basketball coach, Mr. Bolton (Bart Johnson), both storm into the school principal’s office for a heated conversation. In that moment the principal pretends to view the theater department as an equal to the sports program, but the true hierarchy is shown just moments later when it becomes clear that basketball is viewed on a much higher pedestal. Colleges are faced with this issue more and more as athletic departments receive abundant funding while other crucial academic areas are left with barely enough money to survive. Look no further than recent football coach salaries and benefits to see how lopsided this gap can be.

It seems like a stretch to draw comparisons between a lighthearted Disney channel movie and very real issues in the sports world, but think about the target demographic of 10-16 year old kids that subconsciously have these issues planted in their minds. Those are seeds that can be expanded upon as they grow older. And even if the connection doesn’t prove beneficial, it still makes for great on-screen storytelling.

The biggest message “High School Musical” conveys is to be yourself. Nobody is confined to one thing, and the song “Stick to the Status Quo” delivers on that. An athlete can also be a singer, a brainiac can also be a dancer. Don’t let the world define you, let you define you. These are important messages to send to kids and adults alike. Hell, even I want to make sure I’m not only a sportswriter; I try to expand myself to cover all sorts of different interests.

And even while packing all these messages into a movie less than 100 minutes long, “High School Musical” still delivers on both core sports movie criteria. Troy and the East High basketball team overcome the confusion to not only find themselves, but also to be successful on the basketball court, raising a trophy when the final horn sounded. They showed teamwork on the court, and even greater teamwork off the court, masterminding a plan that would allow Troy and Gabriella to sing their callback audition for the musical and still compete in the championship game and scholastic decathlon as well. And the dynamic duo scored a hat trick, winning all three challenges simultaneously.

“High School Musical” is the best sports movie because it is so much more than a sports movie. It’ll make you sing and dance, laugh and cry and ultimately still deliver the warm feeling of triumph in the end. Sports is about so much more than dribbling a basketball, and “High School Musical” is a perfect representation of that.

Colin McCarthy can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @colinmccarth_DC.

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