Question: I'm glad you liked High School Musical 2, but I just couldn't watch it. I stumbled onto the original movie and found it entertaining enough (my child is too old for Disney; I sometimes watch it in secret. I love Kim Possible!). So over the weekend I thought I'd catch HSM2 — I couldn't get through the opening 15 minutes. I know that music — and Zac Efron — are the stars of this show, but the plot should at least be halfway plausible. Instead it was contrived and flimsier than a stripper's veil: Everyone in the high-school "gang" gets jobs at the same prestigious country club — without interviews, or even applications? Puh-leaze! Plus, I think there were three or four songs in the first 10 minutes alone; I guess Disney doesn't follow the "less is more" philosophy. The first HSM movie was the big hit that it was because it was fresh and didn't follow any formula (sort of like the original Pirates of the Caribbean movie), but the second one had the first one to live up to, and I think that made it too self-aware. I don't begrudge the tweens watching Zac and Co. sing and dance, and I'm glad there's wholesome, family-friendly fare out there, but I think a lot of people over the age of 15 would agree that this movie was nothing but an hour's worth of songs wrapped around 20 minutes' worth of story.
Answer: I'm not saying I relaxed my critical standards or was trying to patronize the Disney Channel audience by giving the movie a pat on the back when reviewing it. And I'm also not arguing that it's Emmy-worthy. But in reviewing just about anything on TV, given how diverse the range of projects tend to be, I try to keep the target audience in mind, which is why (for example) I was kinder to Army Wives than I otherwise might have been, because I consider that show to be an absolutely perfect franchise for the Lifetime brand, whatever the show's melodramatic faults may be. With HSM2, I genuinely liked it and found it charming, and I considered its plot holes immaterial (much like it never mattered in those Beach Blanket Bingo movies of my faraway youth). If anything, I was more put off by the long stretch in the middle when there wasn't any music than I was by the opening scenes, which were filled with song after catchy song. I would never liken this to the overextended, unappealing bloat of the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels. HSM2 is a classic sequel, delivering the goods to an audience that was clearly left wanting more after the first film. Is it formulaic? Sure, it almost had to be. But to trash something this harmlessly enjoyable with a cynically above-it-all review wouldn't have done anyone any good.