High School Musical 3: Senior Year
Hey, we all gotta grow up sometime.
That's what those Wildcats at Albuquerque's East High are realizing as they embark on their fantabulous senior year. No longer will life just be about basketball games and summer jobs and high school musicals: Graduation is just around the corner and semi-adulthood lurks on the horizon—and so, it seems, do some bittersweet good-byes.
Troy and Gabriella, East High's dancing and singing royal couple, are planning to attend different colleges. Gabriella's nailed down a prestigious spot at Stanford University, while Troy's torn between playing basketball for the University of Albuquerque—his dad's first choice, not his—and hoofing it over to The Juilliard School in New York.
Much musical angst ensues.
Meanwhile, dimpled-but-dastardly Sharpay plots another takeover of East High's last musical—and a chance to finally sing that elusive duet with Troy.
And, well, that's about it, storyline-wise. But, really, who loves the High School Musical films for their plots? HSM3 is cinematic comfort food, bursting with everything fans have come to love about the series: Ear-catching tunes, foot-stomping dances, Troy and Gabbie making googly eyes at each other and Sharpay being ... Sharpay.
Senior Year is stuffed with more lessons than second-year algebra.
Trailing by 21 points, the Wildcats turn halftime into opportunity time as Coach Bolton (Troy's father) says, "You've only got 16 minutes left in a Wildcat uniform. Make it count. Be a team." As if to underscore that point, star player Troy dishes off the potential winning shot to a bench-warming underclassman.
Next up in this fancy-free high school diary? It's far easier to play someone else than to be yourself, the drama teacher instructs. Troy and Chad offer a salute to the best parts of childhood in a junkyard musical number that tells moviegoers that imagination need never fade away. Even a prank launches a lesson in modesty: When two underclassmen barge into drama rehearsal dressed only in towels, the teacher says that while self-discovery is always good, "At East High we will discover ourselves fully clothed."
Characters also grapple with weightier issues. Troy's dad expects Troy to attend the University of Albuquerque and play basketball. Troy's not so sure, but he doesn't want to disappoint his pops. "I just want my future to be my future," he tells Gabriella. It's the kind of uneasy struggle that lots of real-life families deal with as children become adults, and at first Troy makes the mistake of keeping his indecision secret. But Troy and his father eventually navigate the matter well.
HSM3 salutes friendship, family, responsibility and opportunity. It embraces the idea of dreaming big—a time-honored Disney theme that, in other movies, can sometimes feel a tad irresponsible. But here, wishing upon a star is tempered by the onrushing reality of adulthood. "Maybe I don't see life as a ball game anymore, man," Troy tells best friend Chad.
After a bit of hesitation, Gabriella decides to attend Stanford—a bittersweet but responsible action that forces her out of East High early. Troy gamely encourages Gabriella to take the opportunity, even though it means they'll separate that much earlier.
Granted, this is a Disney fantasy. Troy, Gabriella and nearly everyone else at East High graduates with big smiles on their faces. There's nothing bittersweet about the finale. But within that framework, we see characters make difficult decisions and then make the best of those decisions—a message that's encouraging, inspiring and even a bit realistic.
Yoga and a Hindu-inspired bindi (on Sharpay's mom's forehead) get brief verbal and visual nods, respectively.
The costumes are perhaps a tad more revealing than they are in the first two High School Musicals, with girls occasionally showing a significant amount of leg, a bit of cleavage and a sliver of midriff. A couple of guys race through the school wearing only towels, and Troy takes off his shirt. Dances are generally restrained, but can sometimes be a tad sultry—largely on par with previous outings. The camera zooms in on Sharpay's rear as she walks down the halls of East High, with the brief scene bracketed by shots of swooning underclassmen.
Gabriella shares a pizza with Troy in her bedroom, apparently without Gabriella's mother's knowledge. (In an outtake, actor Zac Efron hams it up on the bed by pretending that he's going to pounce on a giggling Vanessa Hudgens.) They share a brief kiss along with a platter of chocolate-covered strawberries.
Troy takes a hard foul during a basketball game.
Crude or Profane Language
At worst, a use or two each of "golly," "gee," "gosh" and "moron."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Suffering from senoritis, Troy and Chad grab other students' clothes and run away, leading their towel-clad victims through the school. (Strangely, it's the clothes-deprived kids who get detention.) Troy invites Gabriella up to the East High rooftop for a quick meeting. "This has two weeks of detention written all over it," says Gabriella's friend Taylor.
Sharpay, as designated foil, is selfish, materialistic and, as usual, tries to wriggle between Troy and Gabriella using underhanded means. She meets her match in Tiara, a recent transfer who, for ulterior motives, volunteers to be Sharpay's personal assistant. But HSM3 does not condone either Sharpay's or Tiara's behavior, and they get their comeuppance before the credits roll.
In strict demographic terms, I should in no way enjoy High School Musical 3: Senior Year. I am male. I am over 30. I am married. I am sometimes grouchy and over-analytical. And I am not prone to be swayed by tales of young love—particularly when they involve singing and dancing.
But there are things about this series and this movie that win me over as surely as the Wildcats win their last big game. 1) Outside of a few slightly revealing costumes (most far tamer than you'll see at a typical American mall), HSM3 is refreshingly clean. 2) It boasts reasonably upright moral messages. 3) The kids in it are flat-out talented. 4) It's got heart. 5) It's a fantasy story about what high school could (should) be without an ounce of overt cynicism to be found anywhere. 6) While wholeheartedly embracing formula, it somehow transcends it and becomes ... entertaining.
It isn't going to win many awards. But it may make old movie buffs (old movies, not old buffs) fondly recall 1940s-era black-and-white musicals—where the guy gets the girl, where people burst into song with little-to-no provocation, and where most every problem can be worked out by dancing up a storm.
A postscript: You probably know that High School Musical star Vanessa Hudgens had some ill-advised photos taken of herself. You may have heard that Ashley Tisdale pitches Degree Girl deodorant that uses, as part of its slogan, the profanity-inspired letters "OMG." And many parents may fear that this is just the beginning. We've all seen sweet-and-innocent Disney stars become less-so.
But that is not the stuff of High School Musical. This series—including its latest installment—is about nothing more (or less) than unflinching, unblushing, unspoiled fun.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Zac Efron as Troy Bolton; Vanessa Hudgens as Gabriella Montez; Ashley Tisdale as Sharpay Evans; Lucas Grabeel as Ryan Evans; Corbin Bleu as Chad Danforth; Monique Coleman as Taylor McKessie
Kenny Ortega ( )