Deep into this latest ride on the High School Musical bandwagon, the death of a main character's father is treated as less devastating than the social-clique intel it uncovers. Besides that bit of OMG hysteria, Todd Graff's film is written with a desperate cleverness that clamors for attention over the brainless against-the-odds music-competition plot. Chinless new kid Will (Gaelan Connell) finds his encyclopedic audiophilia pressed into service when nervy Charlotte (singer Aly Michalka) wants to enter her garage trio into a regional battle of the bands. He also finds a partner in crime in sarcastic outsider "Sa5m" (played by HSMer Vanessa Hudgens), while his long-necked and fretful Mom (Lisa Kudrow) hovers. Thus, Will achieves the bizarre dream of becoming a band manager, in a story littered with musical references (Bowie, CBGB) that are more 50-year-old screenwriter than platinum teenybopper. The fleeting first kiss between Will and Sa5m is the rare sweet moment on the trudge toward the big night, when a tinny line-up of finalists in various ersatz styles climaxes with Will's nine-piece band—actually called "I Can't Go On, I'll Go On."
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