In 2006, Zac Efron became a Thing. He sang, danced, and shot hoops on The Disney Channel as Troy Bolton, the basketball boy wonder who had a secret desire to star in musical plays. As dichotomous as his breakout role seemed to viewers (who, yes, were mostly middle schoolers), Troy was not a complex guy. He was popular as both a jock and a singer, he had perfectly floppy hair, and he had a megawatt smile that attracted the attention of both the Rich Queen Bee and the Cool New Girl of the school. From there, Efron remained extremely palatable. He became continuously cast as the attractive kid with a good conscience in film after film, after film. He was, for years, “that kid from High School Musical.”
Then something changed: In 2014, the actor tapped into something deeper than the Nicholas Sparksian roles, or the various HSM spin-offs. Efron or at least casting directors, realized that he was funny. Like, laugh out loud, slapstick funny — he was as quirky and weird as he was fit and traditionally attractive. His secret weapon of being able to deliver an absurd joke in a way that felt genuine became his new calling card. The actor was the “hot but dumb guy,” like a Golden Retriever come to life, good hair and all.
The answer to this question is absolutely 100 percent yes, and I’ll explain why that’s a good thing. Efron shines as the dumb, messy jock. It’s hard to bring a largely caricatured role to life in a dynamic way, and he’s done it wonderfully every single time. (Okay, so all the movies aren’t my cup of tea, but I don’t really think anyone other than Chris Pratt or Jon Hamm is as good at being delightfully clueless.) Why not bring his specific charm all the way to the bank?
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer
I’ll admit that when I first went to see the summer flick, I deemed it stupid, gratuitous, and overly-tanned brain candy, and while I still did a bit of an eye-roll at the gratuitous shots of breasts, butts, and biceps that constantly filled the entire screen, the movie works harder than I expected. Just like Efron.
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