Already an integral part of the Disney Channel repertoire, this cheery pop culture phenomenon began as a television franchise. Indeed, that‘s where its two predecessors can be found. Making the leap to the big screen was an act of faith and tweens have been eagerly lining up at the multiplex.
The action at East High in Albuquerque, New Mexico, revolves around Wildcats basketball captain Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) and his squeeze, Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Hudgens). There’s Troy’s best friend, Chad (Corbin Bleu), and scheming, spoiled Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale) with her twin brother, Ryan (Lucas Grabeel), plus an ambitious transfer student, Tiara (Jemma McKenzie-Brown). They’re all weighing their options for the future, coping with parental expectations, while planning for the prom, the spring musical and graduation.
Since Zac Efron’s now 21, it stretches credulity to believe he’s still cavorting around the high school campus. But that doesn’t bother screenwriter Peter Barsocchini and director/choreographer Kenny Ortega, who not only introduce younger talent to carry on into the future but rely on the pre-release of the songs, which makes them already familiar to the tweens with their MP3s. After all, it’s not about the flimsy story – remember those Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland “Let’s put on a show” musicals – it’s about the colorful numbers, blending rock, rap and Broadway-type ballads. While Troy and Chad’s most inventive, energetic routine is “The Boys Are Back” in an auto junkyard, Sharpay’s “I Want It All” is the most memorable.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “High School Musical 3: Senior Year” passes with a bouncy, wholesome 6 –unless you’re a 10 or 11 year-old. In that case, it’s the coolest movie of the year. And, inevitably, plans for the “College Musical” are underway.