- Rated G
- Buy the BD
All photos © Walt Disney
Reviewed by David Medsker
ovies like “High School Musical 3: Senior Year” are a studio executive’s dream come true. They have a Q rating of approximately two bazillion within their target demographic, and because it exists in a world that bears little to no resemblance to ours, they are bulletproof from criticism. That latter point makes my job, well, pointless, really. Even if the movie consisted of one long shot of Zac Efron, the little girls would declare this to be the Best Movie Ever. So consider this review a guide for the parents of those little girls, and prepare for a shocker: the first half of the movie isn’t that bad. The second half tails off when the story and songs fall flat, but ten bucks says your daughter doesn’t notice or care. And you’ll be so pleased that the first half didn’t have you reaching for your revolver that you probably won’t mind the second-half dropoff, either.
It is senior year at Albuquerque’s East High School (the tail end of senior year, to be precise), and Troy Bolton (Efron) has a tough choice to make. His life appears to be laid out for him, as he and best friend Chad Danforth (Corbin Bleu) are guaranteed scholarships to play basketball for the local university, which has been the goal of Troy’s father and coach (Bart Johnson) since his son was born. The problem is that Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens), the love of Troy’s life, has been accepted to Stanford, and the distance between them has Troy questioning whether he wants to play ball or pursue theater. The rest of the theater group, however, is all in a tizzy about the fact that two scouts from Juilliard are coming to check out Troy, composer Kelsi (Olesya Rulin, the series’ official Pretty Ugly Girl), resident diva Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale) and her twin brother and house choreographer Ryan (Lucas Grabeel). And there is only one spot up for grabs.
Remember what I said about the “High School Musical” universe existing in a world other than our own? You need look no further than the character of Ryan for proof. The fact that someone goes to a New Mexico high school dressing like Justin Timberlake at his most effeminate, and doesn’t get his ass kicked every single day, is all the evidence you need that these kids live somewhere that we don’t…and that’s all right. It is a G-rated Disney movie, after all, so of course there is no talk of the cliques, the malicious rumors, the experimenting with drink and drugs, and the actual going to class (there isn’t a single scene that takes place during English, or Math, or Science) that make high school the second deepest pit in hell that Matt Groening rightly proclaimed it to be. And can you blame Disney for taking this approach? Educating your kids on the realities of high school life is not their responsibility; it’s up to you to tell them how things are really going to be. They just want your money. Now hand it over, suckaz.
Musically, there is nothing here that will make anyone throw out his or her copy of the “Grease” soundtrack – which is a shame, because Hudgens totally has a “Hopelessly Devoted to You” moment in the second act – and blame falls on both the singers (they all sound exactly the same) and the songs (it’s all homogenous teen pop). The same goes for the acting; Efron showed in “Hairspray” that he can do better, while Hudgens has little to do but be adorable, which she does rather well. The choreography, though, is astounding. I was in a couple high school musicals back in the day, and we couldn’t dance like that. Not even close.
Take “High School Musical 3: Senior Year” for what it is: an innocent, fluffy, cute-as-a-button fairy tale. It’s naïve, yes, but not dangerously so. Kids grow up fast enough as it is; if they want to think that high school will be remotely like this, let them. They’ll find out the truth soon enough.
Deluxe Extended Edition Blu-Ray Review:
Disney has always done a good job with the “High School Musical” DVDs, and the Blu-ray release of the third installment is no exception. Along with an extended cut of the film and a handful of special features, the three-disc set also includes a digital and DVD copy that makes it possible for kids to watch the movie both at home and on the go. The extras themselves aren’t exactly incredible, but there’s still some great material to mine through like deleted scenes, a blooper reel, a look at the cast’s last day of filming, and Easter eggs aplenty. The best of the bunch, however, is a featurette that follows the three new cast members from auditions to the world premiere. It would have been nice to include an audio commentary with director Kenny Ortega and the cast (especially since this is the last “HSM” for many of them), but kids will be more excited about the inclusion of a sing-a-long track.