Cast: Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Cordin Blue
Director: Kenny Ortega
To anyone who isn't familiar with the formula and hasn't seen the earlier films, High School Musical 3 will no doubt be difficult to fully appreciate.
This squeaky-clean Disney franchise about a bunch of singing-dancing students at Albuquerque's East High School is already a worldwide rage among the under-13 generation who lapped up the first and second films on television and on home video.
High School Musical 3 is the first film in the series to be released theatrically.
The film's wafer-thin plot revolves around the school's star athlete Troy (played by teen heartthrob Zac Efron) who's torn between going to college on a basketball scholarship and trying out for the Juilliard school of performing arts.
Now this dilemma is further complicated by the prospect of separation from his true love, the bright-and-brainy Gabriella (played by Vanessa Hudgens), who's just been accepted into Stanford.
Even as Troy and Gabriella and the rest of their mates prepare to graduate and plan on what college to attend when the summer's over, their drama teacher insists they end their schooldays with a bang, encouraging them to channel their nervous energies into - you guessed it - a high school musical.
Set in a universe free of sex, crime and drugs, the High School Musical films may be disengaged with the real problems faced by young teens, but they've always been playful and high-spirited and with an emphasis on friendship and the importance of group effort over the individual.
Packed with as many as a dozen extravagantly choreographed musical numbers, High School Musical 3 is much like Grease, but without all the locker-room talk and the pregnancy. Think of it this way, it's Dirty Dancing, but without the dirty.
The highlight of the film, in my opinion, is the rousing number The Boys Are Back filmed on Troy and his buddy Chad (played by Cordin Blue), on a typically West Side Story-influenced junkyard set.
Critically speaking, it's harmless entertainment for the pre-pubescent crowd - after all, it's the kind of film in which cuddling in a backyard hammock, and a closed-mouth kiss is as heavy as it gets between a boy and a girl - but it's also true that the film and the music does have an infectious enthusiasm. Just don't expect anything more.
I'm going with 2 out of 5 for High School Musical 3, this one's strictly for the adolescents.
Rating: 2 / 5 (Average)
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