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High School Musical 3: Senior Year (A Movie Review)

Updated: Dec 28, 2022

High School Musical 3: Senior Year


Starring Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, Lucas Grabeel, Corbin Bleu, Monique Coleman, Bart Johnson, Alyson Reed, Olesya Rulin, Chris Warren Jr., Ryne Sanborn, KayCee Stroh, Matt Prokop, Justin Martin, Jemma McKenzie-Brown, Leslie Wing Pomeroy and Socorro Herrera.

Screenplay by Peter Barsocchini.

Directed by Kenny Ortega.

Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures.  112 minutes.  Rated G.

This is an interesting new marketing technique – a theatrical sequel to two made-for-cable-TV movies.

Of course, the High School Musical franchise is not merely a normal TV flick, it has become something of a teen phenomenon (well, probably more pre-teen, but…).  However, it still begs the question: will people pay good money and go to the theaters to get more of what they were already getting for free at home?

All of the offshoots of the HSM films (and the added strength of the Disney marketing division) tend to suggest that the kids (and their parents) will line up at the multiplexes – the strong video and music sales, the concerts, the stage musical, the reality show.

This brings up yet another question, though.  Is High School Musical 3 being made because it is a worthy continuation of the story, or just as another way to squeeze some more money out of the concept?  In fact, is it even a new story or just a bigger and better version of what has already been done?

I can’t answer that question, because truthfully, I have never seen either of the first two High School Musical flicks.  (As a single man with no kids, the Disney Channel does not get favorite status on my cable box).

I do know, somewhat ironically, that the original High School Musical film was apparently itself at first supposed to be a third chapter of a musical franchise.  Several years ago, there were a bunch of rumors that a Grease 3 was being made with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John’s characters from the the original film now the parents of cute teens who sang and danced through a high school romance in the 1970s.  Somewhere along the line, Travolta and Newton-John bowed out and the script was placed into limbo and apparently tweaked, the parents written out and the story brought to the modern day, and voila – the world was introduced to High School Musical.

It makes sense, because High School Musical 3 is somewhat reminiscent of the original Grease – it’s not really a good film and yet it was often rather enjoyable.  The story was cheesy, the dialogue ridiculous, the actors are probably a little too old and too uniformly pretty to be playing high school students.  Granted, the pleasures of High School Musical 3 are more sporadic than its predecessor, but there are definitely enough entertaining moments to make the movie worth seeing.  I can’t necessarily say that it is something you have to see in a theater.  It will inevitably be on the Disney Channel in about a year, so unless you are a tween girl (or the parent of one) it’s not like you can’t wait to see it for free.

High School Musical 3 – Senior Year is just what it says it is, the final moments of the characters’ high school experience.  (Several younger students are along for the ride, undoubtedly with an eye towards future sequels).

The kids go to East High School, a huge Arizona school with extraordinary rhythm.  The basketball games, the assemblies, the parties, even the lunchroom are all tightly choreographed.

Although in theory there are about eight or nine main characters here, it all really revolves around our unnaturally adorable lead characters, Troy (Zac Efron) and Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens) – childhood sweethearts who have to come to terms with going to college hundreds of miles away from each other.  Both actors are worthy of their teen heartthrob status – though he’s a slightly better dancer and she’s a better singer, but they complement each other well.

Other main characters include the stuck-up rich girl (Ashley Tisdale), her exuberant and arty brother (Lucas Grabeel) who, because the movie is rated G does have a chaste romance with the nerdette songwriter (Olesya Rulin) – despite the fact he seems kind of gay, the star jock (Corbin Bleu) and his brilliant-but-sassy girlfriend (Monique Coleman).  If it sounds a little clichéd, that is because it is – but no one ever watched a High School Musical film for originality.

All of them are invited by the theater teacher to make their own final school play – a play about all their lives as graduating seniors – leaving friends and loves, moving away, going to college.  (Oddly, the actress who plays the drama teacher is a huge over-actor – this is a movie, lady, you don’t have to play to the cheap seats.)  To give it a reality show feel, the most talented person in the musical will win a scholarship to prestigious Juilliard University in New York.

The music here is not at all theatrical, though it is mostly catchy enough in a boy-band pop sort of way.

The choreography is at different times both exuberantly breathtaking and way overdone (sorry, the eating in time to the beat in the cafeteria is serious overkill).  There are some new-millennium dance tributes to Grease.  A song-and-dance routine at a salvage yard is just “Greased Lightning” on speed and the final graduation dance routine is disturbingly similar to (though, again, with more technical polish and modern effects) the “We Go Together” finale.

It’s not great.  It’s not even very good.  But you will be humming these songs when you walk out of the theater.  If you ever think of them afterwards will depend on how old you are.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2008  All rights reserved.  Posted: October 31, 2008.

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