High School Musical 3

High School Musical 3, as published December 2008 in The West Australian

High School Musical 3: Senior Year is rated G, stars Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Tisdale and was directed by Kenny Ortega. I gave it  3.5 stars


HIGH School Musical 3: Senior Year is so saccharine sweet, so corny, some local radio types couldn’t hide their guffaws during Perth’s first media screening back in early November.

The snickering started the moment Gabriella appeared like an angel in the bleachers during the crucial moments of Troy’s final basketball game with the East High Wildcats.

While many jaded adults no doubt find the sanitised world of High School Musical completely unrealistic, the market the film is pitched at – tween and teen girls – simply adore everything about it.

Merchandise is walking off the shelves and the soundtrack is sitting pretty in the top 10. Many of my daughter’s friends were able to sing the songs well before seeing the film such is the appeal of the hit franchise that comes to the big screen after two successful made-for-tv movies.

One of those increasingly hard to find G-rated live action family films, HSM3 puts a happy song and dance spin on the issues facing final year students at East High School in New Mexico (it’s a nice change to see teens who are not from LA or New York).

Whether it’s who to take to the prom and what to wear or the bigger issues of which college to choose and what to study, just about every problem can be solved by belting out a catchy song.

The idea for HSM came from producer Peter Borden, who wanted to make a musical he could sit down and watch with his kids like previous generations did with n the Grease or Westside Story.

What Borden and writer Peter Barsocchini have created for Disney is a franchise so squeaky clean, it makes Grease look positively dirty.

There’s no sex, no drugs, no violence and Broadway-styled show-tunes and catchy pop songs instead of rock’n’roll (Troy and Chad’s Grease-inspired car junkyard number The Boys Are Back is about as rock as it gets).

Even the film’s bad girl, spoilt-rotten princess Sharpay Evans (Ashley Tisdale), does little more than connive to improve her star billing in the end-of-year spring musical.

Director-choreographer Kenny Ortega has achieved his aim with all three films, to present a light-hearted story in a musical form without overly complicated characters or plotlines.

This is why HSM appeals to six-year old girls who are years off entering high school or wanting a boyfriend and 16-year-olds that perhaps get caught up in the fantasy of the mostly carefree life of teens it portrays.

Ortega has found a star in Zac Efron (Troy), who unlike Tisdale and Vanessa Hudgens (Gabriella) has no designs on a pop career and seems most likely of all the cast to parlay his HSM success into a solid big screen future.

Efron’s classic good looks have made him just as popular with mums as their daughters. You could practically hear the “oohs” and “aahs” during a close-up on Efron’s sweat-drenched face during the opening number Now or Never in which he impressively sings, dances and plays basketball.

The big decision for Troy in HSM3 is whether to head to the University of Albuquerque with his basketball buddy Chad (Corbin Bleu) or to find a university closer to Stanford where brainiac Gabriella is headed.

Troy’s decision-making is complicated when he learns he has been nominated with Sharpay, her choreography-whiz brother Ryan (Lucas Grabeel) and musical genius Kelsi Nielsen (Olesya Rulin) for a prestigious scholarship to Juilliard. Troy’s ensuing angst plays out onstage and in the gymnasium in the track Scream.

One of the highlights of the film is the over the top Broadway inspired I Want It All, in which show pony Sharpay tries to convince Ryan they can both be stars.

Tisdale displays real warmth and charisma on screen that helps cover up the fact her voice (like Hudgens) can at times be squeaky.

With High School Musical 4 surely inevitable after HSM3’s box office success, producers have cleverly introduced three new major characters including Sharpay’s English assistant Tiara Gold (Jemma McKenzie-Brown) and Troy’s understudy Jimmie the Rocketman (Matt Prokop).

Storylines have also been left open for several old favourites to sing and dance their way back to the halls of East High in cameo roles. As a parent I’d be happy to see High School Musical 10 if it continued to bring as much no-nonsense enjoyment to children as HSM 1 to 3 have done.

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