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High School Musical 3: Senior Year
So I finally got to see what the whole High School Musical craze was all about. After the screams of every twelve-year-old girl in America made Zac Efron into a household name, after High School Musical 2 scored an absurdly high eighteen million viewers when it debuted on the Disney Channel in summer 2007, after those nude photos of Vanessa Hudgens leaked online — I have to admit I was kind of perversely curious to see High School Musical 3: Senior Year.
My conclusion: mostly harmless.
That’s not the same as “good,” mind you. The thing that surprised me the most was that all the songs were total crap. They weren’t even good in a tweeny, annoyingly catchy kind of way. Heck, it seemed like only one or two of them even tried to be catchy — most were just forgettable, with a heavy synthesizer that obscured the cast’s otherwise impressive voices and some of the most laughable lyrics you will ever hear.
I’m not bashing the music because I’m a music snob. I’m not. Your average late-’90s boy band hit single was better than most of the songs in this movie.
I haven’t seen the first two movies, so I don’t know how big everyone’s roles used to be, but Zac Efron (who bagged a reported $3 million to come back) is the clear star in Senior Year. To those unfamiliar — everyone without kids over the age of sixteen — Efron plays Troy Bolton, a basketball star at his high school. He’s dating the adorable Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens) and is best friends with the floppy-haired Chad (Corbin Bleu), who himself is dating class overachiever Taylor (Monique Coleman, who has almost nothing to do in this movie). Then there’s the scheming Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale), who’s perpetually trying to break Troy and Gabriella up, and her flaming twin brother Ryan (Lucas Grabeel).
All of these actors are bright, appealing, great dancers, and refreshingly multicultural (at least for Disney standards). Efron actually does have some leading-man charisma, and I was also impressed with Grabeel, even though the script shoehorns in an awkward scene in which he asks a girl to the prom. She accepts, but then we never see them at the prom, nor in fact do we ever see them even having a conversation again. Why not just be open about his sexuality? I promise, it’s obvious to everyone at his high school, and nobody seems to have a problem with it.
The other actors are a bit more limited. Tisdale seems to have figured out the best way to portray an over-the-top diva is to move her shoulders a lot. A lot. If you end up
seeing this movie, pay attention to how much Tisdale moves her shoulders. Hudgens, meanwhile, has basically gotten really good at being adorable and not much else. Especially watch out for the adorable, disarming smile. When you’re not watching Tisdale’s shoulders, try to count how many times Hudgens flashes the adorably disarming smile.
The “plot” is simple to the extreme, and involves all the kids putting on, what do you know, a high school musical. Then there’s trouble in paradise: Gabriella, who’s been accepted to Stanford, goes to this month-long early orientation program there that causes her to miss the musical. What the heck kind of early orientation program takes seniors out of high school at the end of the year for a month?
Then she decides to stay in Stanford, even after the program is over, because she doesn’t want to have to go back to high school, only to leave again. Or, in her words, she’s “all out of goodbyes.” Wait, what about…like…finals? She still needs a high school diploma, right?
Is it even worth taking issue with nonsensical plot points like these? Not really. I was going to explain how Sharpay’s big scheme this time around is actually quite pointless, has no motivation behind it, and doesn’t accomplish one single thing. In fact, I wouldn’t even call it a scheme at all, except that the background music clearly signals that it’s supposed to be.
Eh, whatever. Little kids will like the movie; sure, I’d rather they see better movies, but like I said, it’s mostly harmless. And really, there’s something to be said for a bunch of teenagers who have achieved fame by being talented performers. I’m fine with anything that makes theater cool. While teenage boys make fun of Efron for his unabashed singing and dancing, their girlfriends swoon over him, and he laughs his way to the bank (and to superstardom).
One thing I couldn’t help but notice: it’s very obvious that at some point, a higher-up at Disney decreed that Troy and Gabriella were only allowed to kiss once per movie. Pretty much every scene they have together morphs into some epic love song that ends with their lips two inches apart, followed by…no kiss. It gets to be really funny after the first couple of times. For a studio so worried about their clean-cut image, I should probably warn them that many of Gabriella’s outfits would be against most high schools’ dress codes.
For Kids: B
For Parents: You’re Gonna Get Roped In Anyway
Overall Grade: C+
High school seniors Troy and Gabriella are facing the prospect of being separated from one another as they head off in different directions to college. Joined by the rest of the Wildcats, they stage an elaborate spring musical reflecting their experiences,
hopes and fears about their future.