Wednesday, November 12, 2008

How come my senior year wasn't this fun?

The first HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL movie to be released straight to the silver screen, HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3 finds the cast of the beloved earlier installments, all students at East High, dealing with the ups and downs of senior year. While all the characters have their own dilemmas, the central issue, as in past films, is the relationship between sweethearts Troy (Zac Efron), the captain of East High's Wildcats basketball team, and the bookish Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens), who face the possibility of imminent separation when Gabriella gets a chance to attend college early.
With this third outing in the wildly popular Disney series, director Kenny Ortega takes full advantage of HSM3's big-screen leap, staging musical numbers that go far beyond the scope of the movie's predecessors (see the lavish "I Want It All" by resident East High diva Sharpay, played by Ashley Tisdale). While the series regulars are in fine form and a few new characters are introduced, the film really belongs to Efron, who gets the most screen time and is clearly on a trajectory for stardom beyond HSM. Rather than hold back their budding leading man, the creators and producers of HSM3 let Efron take the spotlight, much to the movie's advantage. Designed to welcome the few viewers who might be unfamiliar with HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL, SENIOR YEAR certainly offers plenty of valedictory excitement, and will leave fans giddy with delight. As the movie opens it is senior year at East High and the Wildcats are in a battle to be state champions. Team Captain Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) is rallying his team for one final victory. He is being cheered on by his girlfriend Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens). His best friend Chad (Corbin Bleu) is also on the team and he is being cheered on by his girlfriend Taylor (Monique Coleman). Meanwhile school drama queen Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale) is planning how she and her brother Ryan (Lucas Grabeel) can make it big on the stage. She is also planning to convert the senior musical into a show spotlighting her talents. But then Troy and Gabriella get involved and that makes things more complicated. While they deal with this, the prom, the big game and graduation, they once again put together their spring musical - a celebration of their high school lives. Hudgens is sweet if somewhat insubstantial, but she has a nice chemistry with the vastly more talented Efron. While his teenage angst is occasionally overwrought when translated into song, his dancing has a grace and physicality, and he makes his perfect-boyfriend dialogue more realistic than it has a right to be. Also memorable (though in a very different way) is Lucas Grabeel as the put-upon twin brother of the villainous Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale). It took a while to figure out why he looked so familiar, but eventually it became clear that his exuberant choreographer-wannabe character was channeling the late Peter Allen. So, as I sit here almost in my thirties I will admit that I liked HSM 3 and I would like to see the first two. All The hype was well deserved. I actually had fun. So go ahead and take your pre-teens and teens to see this movie and maybe you parents will enjoy it as well. A hefty 4 on my "Go See" scale.

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