High School Musical 3: Senior Year

Directed by Kenny Ortega


[High School Musical 3: Senior Year trailer here]

A Disney-produced teen movie which is also a musical whose numbers resemble contemporary pop music videos rather than traditional Broadway tunes. It’s hardly the most sophisticated concept. In fact, it’s this initial idea that will likely turn most hardened cinema-goers off from forking over $15. But to see such a perverse idea pulled of in such spectacular style is why this film was so surprisingly and ridiculously entertaining for me.

The synopsis: Zac Efron plays basketball jock Troy Bolton who is struggling with the idea of being separated from his girlfriend Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens). Gabriella has a chance to go to college early and is more prepared to say goodbye forever. Meanwhile Troy is having trouble deciding whether to follow a career in basketball with his best friend Chad (Corbin Bleu) or a career as a stage performer, an extra-curricular activity he secretly enjoys but can’t admit to his friends and family. He’s performing in the school musical which reflects the students’ struggles in their senior year, hence the name. Putting a spanner in the works is the narcissistic Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale) who is miffed that Troy and Gabriella always get the best songs written for them and conspires to take Gabriella’s role.

High School Musical 3: Senior Year is set in a fantasy high school landscape where all the kids are disconcertingly attractive, save for a few token fatties who are probably there to make up the diversity quota. The diversity might seem a tad artificial but it’s also comforting to see a mainstream kid’s film that is so comfortable with representing minorities. There’s even a gay character, who, I must admit, might come off as too much of a stereotype (we only know he is gay because his sweater vests and flamboyant vests code him a such), but in a mainstream kids’ film, it’s still nice to see.

The musical numbers themselves are incredible. They’re imaginatively staged, well shot and brilliantly choreographed. I saw that director Kenny Ortega threw some Michael Jacksonisms and some Kevin Baconisms into the mix but I was especially pleased to see Kenny Ortega making some sly cinema quotations including a nod to Fred Astaire’s “You’re All the World to Me” (Royal Wedding, 1951). What really surprised me though was the number The Boys Are Back in which Troy and Chad reminisce about their childhood in a tireyard. There’s an unexpected nostalgic sentiment to the number and the direction exhibits a level of whimsy that I’d usually expect from a Michel Gondry video clip.

Apparently audiences will be flocking to escapist entertainment due to economic anxiety. If you’re one of these people then I strongly suggest seeing HSM3 over Australia. It’s not a difficult achievement but in terms of building a compelling romantic story, HSM3‘s creators are miles ahead of Baz’s mess. I haven’t really addressed a lot of obvious problems with the film. A lot of the humour, aimed at a younger audience, falls flat and the music only works if you are the sort of person that on some level can enjoy N’SYNC. If you can get over that and the fact that no one is going to think you are cool for liking this film, then you’ll realise that High School Musical 3: Senior Year is supreme entertainment.


Grease (Randal Kleiser, 1978)


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