Written By: Peter Barsocchini
Directed By: Kenny Ortega
Starring: Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, Lucas Grabeel, Corbin Bleu, Monique Coleman
Country of Origin: United States of America
I am anticipating hate mail for this one. Why, you may ask, would anybody voluntarily pay to see this movie, let alone review it on a sight clinging to what little credibility it has left? Well, if you haven’t found the answer to this question on your own, then you clearly don’t know me very well. I’m digging deep this time to write a different sort of review, especially since this is the first movie I’ve reviewed that is still in theaters. Years down the road, if that’s the answer to a trivia question, you’ll be just as embarrassed that you knew the answer was High School Musical 3: Senior Year.
We’re talking about the Disney phenomenon that started as a made for TV movie, and after millions of dollars made from ratings and merchandising, Disney finally made the logical decision to take their game to the big time with a full-blown cinematic debut. Bigger budget, bigger musical, bigger bank. That’s the simple philosophy we have to follow when subjecting ourselves to the uber-cool society of East High School and our six pack of leads on the home stretch. High School Musical 3: Senior Year is about to help us get our heads in the game.
Before we begin, I humbly implore you to take this review for what it is as I shameless shill for the Disney Company. If you are displeased with this entry, I encourage you to read other entries, like Bordello of Blood, Demon Knight, and if you like musicals, Shock Treatment.
Not surprisingly, our story begins with the same basic plot, following the lives of the East High Wildcats throughout the end of basketball season (as documented in the solid opening number “Now or Never,” which borrows lyrical elements from Cameo’s “Word Up”) and onward to the upcoming Spring Musical and Senior Prom. Everyone is familiar with just what goes down during their final stanza in high school, but rarely do we see it presented with such flash and pizzazz. We meet up again with Troy and Gabriella, each of whom are planning their prospective futures at separate colleges. In case you’re wondering why I single out these two (and you’ve never heard of High School Fucking Musical), its because 92% of the movie is about just what they’ll be doing after they graduate. Whether one will be taking scandalous photos of themselves for the other has yet to be determined.
Other students are eager to leave to, but each has found themselves, in their own way, more or less focused on the Spring Musical and the fate of Troy Bolton. Troy is the basketball stud with aspirations of a full athletic scholarship, but it will leave him thousands of miles away from his beloved Gabriella who plans to attend Stanford. Troy also begins to battle with the decision of going even further away when he learns that scholars from Julliard are willing to offer him a free ride if he impresses them. Tell me, who in the world is this fucking talented?
To be fair, High School Musical 3: Senior Year drags along in points that seem endless and at least five of the musical numbers are weaker than they were in the first two movies. Granted, we get to see a very revealing outfit on Ashley Tisdale during much of these proceedings, and the costuming in general is fabulous, but the movie more or less feels like, well, a made for TV movie. Maybe that’s because even with a bigger budget and all the hype of mainstream media, its still the same old movie as the first two, and that doesn’t make it very good for theaters across the country. At times, you’ll be so stifled by the onscreen antics that you’ll be spotting interesting anachronisms, like how Corbin Bleu is clearly too old to be in this role considering he has a five o’clock shadow.
While it is just as fun and cheeky as the first two movies, new characters and added conflicts do little to bolster this and make it a serious strike on the big screen. Though it will get far with fans of the series and casual moviegoers alike, it hasn’t got much legs beyond that unless you look far beyond the surface to Zac Efron’s performance.
Call me crazy, but Efron’s third time around as Troy Bolton is his best. He’s in an all-too-realistic struggle to decide on a future for himself, all the while knowing that he will be letting down his father, friends, and countless others if he simply chooses what he wants. His frustrations bellow until the swan song, “Scream,” is performed. This song, in any musical in the world, is a passionately driven masterpiece that does more than just serve as passable. “Scream” is the only portion of the movie that transcends the screen and speaks directly to all of us who were torn apart by the choices our futures presented following the learning experience. I won’t spoil his final decision, but seeing as how it’s a Disney movie, you should see it coming.
Member of the crew who should’ve been fired: Wow, I could name a lot of them, but I think I’ll go with lead writer Peter Barsocchini, who managed to neglect several side-plots that he himself created in this third installment. Granted, it is pretty late in the series to create new characters, conflicts, and even relationships, but if you’re going to do it with a hugely adjusted budget, at least you could go all out. I had questions unanswered, damn it!
Best Name in the Cast: Matt Prokop makes his debut in the franchise as a new character known for most of the movie as Rocketman, a basketball player and general burnout who, whether or not we choose to accept it, is a scene stealer every time he’s in it. Prokop clearly has the same charisma that Zac Efron stumbled into and will likely be a name to remember as Disney’s next pet project.
Quote of the Film:
“It’s the night of our nightmares.” -Ensemble during the song A Night to Remember, and I bet you couldn’t agree more.
Final Thoughts: You know, I do honestly hope this is the last one of these movies to be made, and not just because of what it is. From a purely objective viewpoint, too many times do film companies, actors, producers, directors, writers, and anyone else in showbiz create excess sequels in an effort to swindle me out of more of my hard earned money. You already got a minimum of 10 bucks out of me just because I went to theaters to see this movie. Isn’t my shame enough of a price to pay, then to have to sit through another series that should simply be a trilogy and not anything more? It doesn’t get more definitive than Senior Year, unless we have High School Musical 4: GED Equivalency on the horizon.