High School Musical 3: Senior Year

The final shots of this movie can essentially be summarised thusly:

Yep, well, looks like we have to get real jobs now.

… but we’re flying! Soaring! The tale of the first group of Wildcats draws to a close in their interminable third outing, High School Musical 3: Senior Year. If you wanted to see a musical with no memorable songs, a surprisingly almost practical approach to end-of-high-school-in-America romance, and absolutely no sexuality whatsoever, this is it.
I’m just proud that I managed to trick three people into coming along with me to observe the phenomenon.

High School Musical, as a franchise, has historically told the story of closeted homosexual Troy (Zac Efron), and the efforts of new girl Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens) to help him come to terms with himself: he’s a jock, sure, but one who loves performing arts – and who desperately wants to have it off with Chad (Corbin Bleu) – all the while settling for chaste kisses with Gabriella as practice.
High School Musical 3: Senior Year brings Troy to his logical conclusion: exactly the same one as that offered by High School Musical the first. The gist of the story is that our heroes are close to finishing high school forever. Troy is still unsure about which university to attend, Gabriella is hell bent for Stanford, and Ms. Darbus wants to put on a meta-musical about the students’ senior year because, while it’s hard to play a character, it’s harder to play yourself … or something – especially if you’re Troy, and you don’t know who you are or what you want out of your life.

It’s nice that Troy is here furnished with a moral dilemma, that lets him become Kevin Bacon in the “Never” portion of Footloose, but it doesn’t really make that much sense. Troy has his inevitable fight with his basketball coach father, which culminates in him claiming that he was raised to make his own choices, which reads as “you raised me to do something that you’ve never allowed me to do!”. But hey, it leads to him dancing on the ceiling – and we all know what a feeling that is (“slightly nauseous and disoriented”, or so Bill Bailey would have us believe). The movie really is essentially the Troy Bolton Show with every character’s dilemma, except for those delightful twins, springing forth from his indecision. The movie claims that Gabriella is the one who made everyone come together, but seriously, everyone here worships at the idol of Zac Efron. Where Chad and Taylor get largely ignored, at least Ryan and Sharpay get a little action – and Ryan is set up with an adorable BFF and unnecessary beard in Kelsi.

I was more surprised than anyone that short shorts wearing, matching scarf and hat merchant Ryan (Lucas Grabeel, easily the franchise’s greatest asset up to this point) loses out on the film’s gayest number to Troy and Chad’s “The Boys Are Back”, the musical genre’s greatest ode to the fine art of homosexuality since My Fair Lady‘s “A Hymn to Him”. After that scene ended, I was forced to note that it served absolutely no narrative purpose. Needless to say, the unresolved sexual tension between these two is far greater than that which Troy shares with the woman whose room he sneaks into to eat pizza and go home (unless you take feeding chocolate strawberries to a woman as metaphorical … it isn’t).

Senior Year is also kind enough to introduce us to three new characters who will replace these ones: stoner Troy, dwarven Chad and British Sharpay. All three of them are pretty bad, and none of them is really strong enough to carry the franchise on its shoulders. That said, it’s almost certain that further High School Musical entries will continue to entrance children for years to come (and, to a lesser extent, pathetically “ironic” dudes like myself), in a format far more renewable than either the Jonas Brothers or Hannah Montana are by design (seriously, what’s going to happen to Miley Cyrus in a few years from now?). Disney controls the children of America, but at least they’re doing it in a wholesome way that completely ignores base instincts and barely prepares children for the realities that they’re going to face as they grow older and realise that they’re not all destined for fame, fortune and stardom.

I realise, in hindsight, that parts of this seem as if they’re written by a deeply disappointed fan of the High School Musical franchise. Well, I’ve never much cared for it, but I will be sad to see Ryan go – but on to bigger and better things, like Gus van Sant’s Milk! If children continue to follow the career of the most intriguing member of the ensemble (and, frankly, only one of two who seem to be getting any work outside of Disney any time soon), then they just might learn something.

You heard it here first, ladies and gentlemen: High School Musical was, all along, a three year guerrilla campaign to get everyone to watch the true tale of an assassinated politician-cum-camera-store-owner-cum-politician, in American cinemas now, and Australian cinemas on the 29th of January! If that’s the purpose this child-devouring intellectual property has served, then I completely endorse this endeavour and welcome the cause that High School Musical 6: Wrath of the Stoner will indirectly promote in 2011.
Happy birthday, Tony.

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