Toon Talk: High School Musical 3: School's Out
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by Kirby C. Holt
High School Musical 3:
Walt Disney Pictures
MPAA Rating: G
Following the phenomenal success of the original High School Musical on The Disney Channel two years ago, which was further cemented by the equally popular made for TV High School Musical 2 last year, the decision to bring the third and (supposedly) final chapter of the HSM trilogy to the big screen as a theatrical release was still a risky one for Disney. As evidenced by this summer’s dismal ratings flop reality series (High School Musical: Get in the Picture), not all things HSM are sure things. However, with the chart-topping box office returns this past weekend of High School Musical 3: Senior Year, all has been righted in the world, this world that will continue to be gripped (at least for the immediate future) in the throes of Wildcat fever.
But how does HSM3 stack up to its predecessors? Not too shabbily, as a matter of fact. While the by-now tried-and-true HSM formula (Troy and Gabriella once again face teen angst-y problems that may rip their true love apart, Sharpay schemes to keep her self-deluded stardom on the rise, all is made happy through peppy pop songs and delirious dance numbers) is very much apparent … so much so that if there is a HSM4 (as rumored), I suspect it will collapse into self-parody. Nevertheless, by the time the diplomas are handed out in a frenzied finale, director/choreographer Kenny Ortega and screenwriter Peter Barsocchini will have you as wrapped up in the celebration as much as if it was your own kin standing there in cape and gown.
Picking up the story in the months leading up to graduation at East High School, Troy (Zac Efron) leads his basketball team to one last victory while the drama department (once again led by Alyson Reed’s now toned down Ms. Darbus) is preparing for the spring musical (once again penned by Olesya Rulin’s spunky Kelsi). Yearbooks and prom nights (both organized by student over-achiever Taylor, played by Monique Coleman) also figure into the mix, not to mention the all-important decisions of what college to attend. This provides the movie with its key dramatic thrust, as Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens) has been accepted at Stanford, while Troy wrestles with his own life-changing options. Should he go to the local University of Albuquerque, the alma mater of his father and coach (Bart Johnson), with his best pal Chad (Corbin Bleu), or try for a school closer to his girlfriend? Making matters more complicated, Troy unexpectedly finds himself up for a scholarship at the prestigious school for dramatic arts, Julliard, an opportunity that pits him in direct competition with resident diva Sharpay Evans (Ashley Tisdale and her new nose) and her fashionable brother Ryan (Lucas Grabeel).
It’s not a spoiler to say that it all works out for the best (this is, after all, still happy musical-land), and fans are treated to some great production numbers along the way, such as the Evans twins’ “I Want It All”, the prom-themed “A Night to Remember” and the guys’ Footloose-esque “The Boys Are Back”. The main lovebirds, of course, have their fare share of duets as well, most notably the charming waltz “Can I Have This Dance”, while Efron gets to atone for HSM2’s oft-derided “Bet On It” with another Michael Jackson-inspired power solo, “Scream”. Plus, not only do we finally get to see the actual high school musical this time, there’s even a song titled “High School Musical”. (It will be interesting to see which of these new tunes Disney decides to push for the Best Original Song Oscar, especially considering the new Academy rules regulating that now only two songs per film can be nominated.)