Who's In It: Aly Michalka, Vanessa Hudgens, Gaelen Connell, Lisa Kudrow
The Basics: The music-nerd new kid in school befriends the misanthropic, black-clad, bookworm girl and the used-to-be-popular-but-now-shunned ex-head cheerleader. And it turns out that the erstwhile princess has a garage band that she wants to enter in a competition in order to show up her former boyfriend, a guy who just happens to lead the most beloved band in school. How will this teen battle of underdogs vs A-List kids turn out?
What's the Deal: The answer to that last question, which wasn't rhetorical by the way, is "Exactly not how you're expecting." Because in spite of its formulaic plot and a few detours down some unnecessary plot contrivance paths, what you get here is a High School Musical for people who might actually be in high school. It strikes that nice balance of sarcasm and sweetness, cleverness and cloying behavior that would have made the late John Hughes proud.
Where It Comes From: Director Todd Graff, who, a few years ago, made a thematically similar film about teen musical theater geeks called Camp. Obviously he has a soft spot for dorky kids who want to sing and loves to shoot for that feel-good big finish.
Where You'll Have to Invest All of Your Disbelief Suspension: In Vanessa Hudgens. Go in knowing that she's playing against HSM type as a Ghost World teen (I know, that's why I'm telling you this now, so you can mentally prep and cut her a little slack for being too dang adorable.) and you'll walk away feeling good about how hard she's trying to be all deadpan and edgy.
Hey Marketing Team, What Gives? You've got the sweetest, funniest, most decent and happiness-filled teen movie of the year on your hands, one that parents can take kids to see because it's a solid PG film with no profanity in it and adults can enjoy as a way to relive their less-than-movie-like youths. So where's the part where you tell people it's actually in multiplexes? Because I paid for a ticket for the first show on opening day and I was ALONE in the theater. Are we waiting for its premiere on ABC Family for the ad campaigns to start?