High School Musical 3 (7/10)

Before we get into this, let’s drop all the pretenses and just say it: the High School Musical series is a happy go-lucky cheese fest and this movie nothing more than an intentionally super sappy love letter to the fans of the first and second movie. Is there really any point in reviewing it from any other perspective, any point to approaching it with solid ideals in mind like good acting, originality, or plot creativity? Don’t be silly.

Unfortunately, I have to report on one front that it is a bit of disappointment – the story basically recycles the plot from the first movie, down to Troy having to make some kind of a decision between acting and basketball. In this, I’m sure they even disappointed a few hardcore fans, who had been hoping for a big screen worthy adventure and got merely a glitzed up version of the original. But that’s okay.  Get over it. The movie begins with the Wildcats winning the last game of the season and graduation day approaching fast, and of course  the senior spring music-al (as the drama professor so perfectly cheesily puts it), created exclusively by the seniors, comes along too, with the prestigious arts school Julliard eyeing four different candidates at East Side High.

Pressure mounts all around, and Ashley Tisdale is back as Sharpay Evans, but this time she has a servant from England who follows her around like an obedient little dog, eager to learn whatever mistress has to teach.  Tisdale is as into the act as ever, but in this third outing it’s getting a little bit tiresome. They don’t even pretend to add plot or character, it’s all the exact same thing, which is both a relief and a frustration, because the series’s simplicity has kept its core fans, and by now there’s no way director Kenny Ortega doesn’t know these movies are just for fun.

The performances are decent all around, of course Zac Efron, already on to more professional projects like “Hairspray” and the “Big”-like comedy “17 Again,” is the best, an effortless presence with of course gratuitous shots of his rippling biceps for the giggling teenage girls in the audience. (I was sitting behind five of these girls – Actually, basically a theatre-full.) Vanessa Hudgens, Corbin Bleu, and the rest of the gang are back and still in top form as well, though this time around it’s more about Troy and Gabriella going to different colleges in the fall. The movie focuses on them slightly too much, and it stretches the plot nearly to a breaking point – they share three songs together,  in addition to their finale song, whereas they only shared one, maybe two, in each of the previous ones. It’s entertaihning, but a little bit of an overdose.

There are plenty of other dance tunes kicking it up around the movie, too, of course, from the opening number “Now or Never,” a song that plays over the opening basketball game, to “The Boys Are Back,” where Troy and Chad reminisce about their days as kids in the junkyard pretending to be doing a dozen different jobs at once, to the finale “High School Musical,” which may as well be a song saying directly to the fans, “All right, it’s time to say goodbye, guys. This is the last you’ll see of us.” Most of the dance numbers are fun and energetic, with wow-choreography, courtesy once again of Kenny Ortega, but some of the energy from the second one seems slightly lacking – in this one there aren’t as many impressive mass dance numbers, and because we feel like we’ve seen pretty much this exact same story before, it’s difficult to get involved. At least the second one had the decency to act like it was different.

So yeah, this movie isn’t as amazing as it should have been for its first big screen outing, but it’s still a really fun ride, and if you’re not a fan by this point, why are you even reading this? Leave us “High School Musical” fans to ourselves. This movie will satisfy most fans like a solidly good meal that’s missing just the tiniest bit of something. And despite what the final song seems to say to the fans, you can bet this isn’t the last we’ve seen of the wildcats, in theatres or otherwise.

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