High School Musical 3: Senior Year
Directed by: Kenny Ortega
Cast: Zac Efron, Vanessa Anne Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, Lucas Grabeel, Corbin Bleu, Monique Coleman
Time: 1 hr 45 mins
Plot: It's senior year at East High School, and the original gang from High School Musical 1 and 2 come together to create one last musical before graduation and inevitable adulthood (hang on, kids! Don't do it!).
Who’s It For? Anyone who likes musicals, anyone who has kids, or even anyone with a soul. Vampires need not apply.
Expectations: I had high expectations based on the extreme popularity of the first two movies and the crazy hype of the third. If you get millions of kids that excited and then let them down, you're liable to find yourself on the wrong end of an angry mob with pitchforks, so I didn't think the filmmakers would do anything less than stellar.
Zac Efron as Troy Bolton: Zac Efron--let me count the ways I lust for thee, oh, pretty, pretty, singing boy--your azure eyes, your sculptured face, your petulant shag, your teen angst turmoil--as a wise man once said, "Sooo hot, want to touch the heinie." And, strangely, unexpectedly, Efron can act. Younger actors tend to rely too much on their cuteness and then they just pantomime emotions like anger, sadness, frustration, etc. Efron has a natural and easy screen presence when the rest of the cast oscillated between full-throttle camp and just above average. Watch out Hollywood--here comes a fresh faced, highly talented dreamboat.
Vanessa Anne Hudgens as Gabriella Montez: Hudgens is as cute as a bug in a rug and she's sweet enough to rot all the teeth right out of your mouth. With her big, brown butterfly eyes and her bottomless dimples, she pirouettes both to and fro, spouting wholesome goodness. It's difficult for me, because I prefer female characters with a little more edge to them, but that's how Gabriella is written, sigh. I, personally, would've been happier if she'd had a penchant for knives and was an expert in Krav Maga, but se la vie. Still, she's an excellent singer and a talented dancer, so...
Ashley Tisdale as Sharpay Evans: Ashley Tisdale is campy, histrionic and fun as the ever-plotting Sharpay. There is nothing subtle about her performance, but she's the over-the-top villainous, so it's acceptable. She also has one of the more spirited musical numbers with, "I Want it All," where she leaps and prances her way through various outfits, wigs, and locales, and fantasizes about world domination. At the same time, Tisdale is what you'd expect in this sort of movie--a younger, inexperienced actor.
Corbin Bleu as Chad Danforth: Corbin Bleu does not quite have Efron's effortless presence, but he is still really, really impressive. Chad is Troy's best friend, and their chemistry and interactions are true to life. Bleu is especially fun to watch in the musical number, "The Boys are Back," in which he and Efron stomp the junkyard, and the dancing explodes like wildfire.
Talking: The dialogue is fine--sometimes funny and sharp, never awkward. It does its job without setting the bar much higher than "pretty good," but the dialogue isn't why you see these movies.
Sights & Sounds: The dialogue is a 5, but the singing was phenomenal. The songs were swift and catchy, the dancing was electrified, and most of the musical numbers made me want to leap out of my chair and join in all the merrymaking. All of the kids in the audience were jumping up and down, pie-eyed with joy, and if one of them had decided to start dancing, we'd all still be dancing. High School Musical 3 has an infectious energy like lightning down the spine--outstanding. The musical numbers are just wonderful. Some are slightly more enjoyable than others, but all of them fall into a category of absolute excellence. The movie opens with the Wildcats basketball team fighting to regain the lead, and the action on the court is combined with a fast, power ballad that makes singing and dancing seem muy macho.
Best Scene: Efron, torn about his future, dances through the hallways of the darkened high school. As the song reaches a fever pitch, the hallway begins to revolve, with Zac continuing to dance on the walls and ceiling. It is so powerful and Efron is so good, I think several of the little girls in the audience actually swooned. Could someone please fetch the smelling salts?
Ending: With this type of movie, you don't really want it to end, so any ending is going to feel unsatisfying and precipitous. The movie ends the way it should--there are no bummers and everyone goes home happy. Problematically, none of us really wanted to go home, because no one in our world ever bursts out into a fun song and dance number--and even if they did, we'd probably just call the authorities and have them dragged off and locked up. However, it has to end, because everything has to end; or at least, it has to lay dormant until we can buy High School Musical 3 on DVD and just watch that bad boy over and over.
Questions: I have no questions, per se, because it's a world where everyone expresses themselves by hopping onto the nearest table and singing at top volume. You've already accepted so much at that point, most questions would come off as nitpicking.
Rewatchability: Definitely, absolutely, surely, rightfully so, yes. You could watch High School Musical 3 again and enjoy it just as much the second, third, or fourth time.
An adult could enjoy High School Musical 3: Senior Year, but the real joy comes from seeing it with a kid (or even a whole theater filled with kids). I was lucky enough to see HSM 3 with the mermaid Sara Sorrell, and the happy glow she radiated could've provided Portland with enough alternative energy for the year. The little girls behind us were singing songs from the prior HSM films, and when representatives from Z 100 started handing out t-shirts, you would've thought they were giving away gold bullion. When Efron takes off his shirt to change into his basketball uniform, all the girls tittered and giggled, and whenever Efron and Hudgens were singing love songs to each other, the audience would audibly sigh as one collective, twitterpated entity. The film is entertaining and well done, and its potential for good, clean family bonding-time is invaluable.
Final Score: 8/10