The East High Wildcats are back in the third installment of “High School Musical” — the feel-good Disney franchise that has taken the world by storm. Disney realized that by graduating to the big screen, every detail of “High School Musical 3: Senior Year” needed to be kicked up a notch. Bigger, more colorful sets, more elaborate choreography and over-the-top costumes — you name it and director Kenny Ortega, choreographer of the classic “Dirty Dancing,” has it covered. The songs are as catchy and the lyrics as uplifting and cheesy as expected for a music-fueled, G-rated movie aimed at young Disney fans (“It’s like catching lightning / the chances of finding / someone like you”).
In ‘HSM3,’ Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) and the gang are faced with creating the greatest senior musical while handling the stress of graduation and leaving their picture-perfect high school. Troy is torn between playing basketball at the fictional University of Albuquerque or following girlfriend Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens) to Stanford, hundreds of heartbreaking miles away. Twins Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale) and Ryan Evans (Lucas Grabeel) are vying for a prestigious scholarship to Juliard, while Chad (Corbin Bleu) is working up the nerve to ask Taylor (Monique Coleman) to prom. The stage is set for a slew of musical numbers, where the stars fight for their dreams, ultimately arriving at the happy ending we all wish could really happen.
Disney, for the most part, sticks to the formula from previous ‘High School Musical’ films that created the international phenomenon: Troy and Gabriella have multiple duets, Sharpay and Ryan belt out a self-absorbed tune declaring that they “want it all,” Troy sings about the pressures of living up to others’ expectations and the graduating class comes together to sing “High school musical / Who said we have to let it go?”
The songs are woven through the movie as the stars determine how they will fill their own musical, “Senior Year,” with experiences from their culminating year at East Height. The high schoolers burst into songs about winning the championship game (the electrifying opening song “Now or Never”), returning to childhood (the Grease-reminiscent “The Boys are Back,” performed in a junkyard), and young love (the unavoidably sappy duet “I Just Want to Be With You”).
One of the greatest and most elaborate musical numbers is “A Night To Remember,” an upbeat song about prom where the girls gush, “It’s the night of our dreams” and the boys reveal, “It’s the night of our nightmares.” The cinematography and camerawork in ‘HSM3’ showcase the show-stopping performances brilliantly.
Whether you are a fan of “High School Musical,” indifferent, or have hated every aspect of previous films, you should go see this one. The creative musical numbers have such elaborate settings, fine-tuned choreography and catchy tunes that you won’t be able to deny Disney the credit it deserves for setting the bar for feel-good musicals. “High School Musical” has become a cultural beacon of hope for children that cliques don’t define who you are, that friends will always support you and — of course — that there is always a happy ending.