3 April 2009

Movie Review: High School Musical 3


High School Musical 3
2008, 112mins, G
Director: Kenny Ortega
Writer: Peter Barsocchini
Cast includes: Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, Lucas Grabeel, Corbin Bleau
Release Date: 24th October 2008

High School musical has literally ravaged the pop culture landscape since 2006, the story of how one little made for TV Disney movie rose up and became a worldwide phenomenon is nearly as fanciful and idealistic as anything featured in the notoriously fantasy fuelled plotlines that inhabit the films. Making stars of its fresh faced and modestly talented cast the franchise received its first theatrical release last year, and it tore up the Box-office just as expected. High School Musical 3 completes the trilogy and delivers a pretty fun opening 40 minutes before descending into the irritating schmuck storytelling that has made the story so appealing to little girls. It’s disappointing that after a promising start the film should fall into the realms of mediocrity it does, after all it’s never worse than average thus compromising the chance to write the really scathing review I’d hoped to scribble.

Now in the their last year at East High and once again victors at the Basketball championships, the students of America’s most morally solid school have to start thinking about life at college. For Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens) that means the prestigious halls of Stanford, for basketball wiz Chad (Corbin Bleau) it’s a sports scholarship whilst Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale) and Ryan (Lucas Grabeel) battle it out for a place in the Julliard School of drama. The person struggling with his decision is Troy (Zac Efron) torn between his love of basketball, theatrics and long time partner Gabriella. Troy has to decide what path he wants to lead but with every sacrifice he risks disappointing someone he loves. As per usual with the franchise the story plays out as the students work on the year’s High School Musical, in this case their last at East High.

The films have become all about the music and in that respect HSM 3 delivers a pretty solid roster of feel good beats. Some songs are bogged down in generic instrumentals and saccharine lyrics (the limp finale is an unfortunate example of this) but for the most part what is offered here is impressive. The standout has got to be “I Want it All” performed by Tisdale and Grabeel about a third of the way in, the song is catchy and director Kenny Ortega offers up a visually lavish setting for the thesps to deliver the rousing number. In many ways this is as much an advantage as a disadvantage, after about 30 minutes there is little left for viewers to see, the picture climaxing far too early. Still as individual listens more than a handful of the songs work and thus the makers should once again have no trouble selling vast amounts of soundtrack and CD related memorabilia.

The actors reprise the roles pretty easily, one thing the series really got right was the casting, with each individual having brought a fair degree of charm and charisma to each of their cereal box smile characters once again. The standout is Ashley Tisdale as the selfish and fame grabbing Sharpay, less of a viable personality than a series of quirks and catch phrases that combine for a proficient comedic foil. She also belts out a show tune like the very best of them. The franchise has always revolved around Efron and Hudgens pity then that for my money they are amongst the least interesting screen entities. Efron can surely sing and has a naturally effective screen presence but his conflicted jock character is uninteresting and distractingly linear. Still he’s turned the one dimensional character into something of an advertiser’s wet dream and Hudgens has had much the same effect as his unnaturally attractive bookworm of a girlfriend. She is the least impressive vocalist of the key characters but saying that is like selecting the least healthy fruit from an all natural salad. Corbin Bleau and Lucas Grabeel also take up their mantles pretty effortlessly; both have sufficient energy and singing ability to make their supporting characters work.

The story takes a back seat for the opening half of the movie in favor of innocent comedy and rousing vocal numbers, both instantly preferable to the generic and predictable conclusion. I have no problem with a feel good finish in a pleasant article like this but the route with director Ortega takes us is never particularly interesting. The destination was always a given but one had hoped the creative team might have made the journey more memorable and less borderline boring. All the required love arcs and relationship issues are also present, useful and fascinating to only those with the most primary experience in such issues.

The film looks quite good and certainly is bubblegum bright, further fulfilling its requirements to the 8 year olds who covet this stuff like the holy grail. It’s upbeat, features a few nice number and features hunky old Efron, in truth the only three things that the target demographic are likely to care about. Adults should approach with caution but I have no doubt that kids will find HSM3 a total blast.

A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009


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