I saw High School Musical 3 right after I’d watched 1 and 2 on DVD. Three in one week means I spent the next couple of days trying to remember which moments came from which films. This revealed to me both the weakness and the appeal of these films. They’re interchangeable, so mildly innocuous in their story-telling technique as to never step on any toes. The stories are so simple, the morals so clear-cut, the values so family-friendly. And then there are the songs: highly polished, over-produced, ready-made for instant recognition, and sure to get lodged in the brains of parents all over the world.
But hold on a second. I’m a guy in my late 20s, and one must remember the target audience. Kids don’t need cinematic virtuousity or avant-garde audio experiments. They’re here to have fun, and I have to admit that they’ll get that with the bright, colourful and catchy High School Musical 3.
We return to East High, Albuquerque, to catch up with Troy, Gabriella, Sharpay, Chad, Monique and Ryan as they navigate their senior year. They struggle with the academic, the sporting, the musical, and the romantic, in between flashing their perfect sets of gleaming teeth. Zac Efron (as Troy) is easily the most talented performer, and he’s the one I can see making the easiest transition into a post-HSM world. A couple of new characters are introduced, like the emo-ish Jimmie ‘the rocket’ Zara and the prissy British student Tiara Gold, who proves stiff competition for Sharpay.
But aside from some senior year specific teen angst (“This is the last time to get it right”), the weak story doesn’t quite justify a new entry, and it would probably be wise to call it quits now before the franchise fizzles. Number three has no real difficulties for the characters to overcome, unless you call missing your girlfriend a huge challenge.
It’s perhaps unfair to be too critical on a film that markets itself as a harmless, fun fantasy. The younger members of the audience I was in loved it.