After grabbing huge television ratings for the Disney Channel and becoming a powerful brand that also includes books, theater, and music, High School Musical makes the jump to the big screen with High School Musical 3: Senior Year. The final film in the series with all the original cast members, HSM3 is just as much fun as the previous two films if not more so.
After finishing up their final basketball season at East High (in the state championship game that begins the film), Troy (Zac Efron), Chad (Corbin Bleu), and the rest of the Wildcats turn their focus to college prospects and enjoying the rest of their senior year. Their homeroom teacher and Drama Club advisor Ms. Darbus (Alison Reed) announces the Spring Musical and its theme of “Senior Year” where the participants would play themselves. Everyone, including Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens), Taylor (Monique Coleman), and twins Ryan Evans (Lucas Grabeel) and Sharpay Evans (Ashley Tisdale) joins in as a way to do one last thing together before they go their separate ways.
The first thing that you'll notice about High School Musical 3 is that it feels like a real movie. This is not a case of a TV product being slapped up on the big screen haphazardly. The colors pop, the musical numbers are more elaborate, and there are more location shots than the other films. With a high school musical actually taking place in the films for the first time, director Kenny Ortega and the choreographers up the ante.
Many of the musical numbers have a very theatrical feel right down to the staging. “I Want It All,” is a big tribute to Broadway from the Fosse-esque dancers to the brightly lit signs in the background. “The Boys Are Back,” a number featuring great dancing by Zac Efron and Corbin Bleu in a junkyard, is also a highlight. Even the smaller numbers get an upgrade. Zac Efron's solo song, “Scream,” is a visual delight filled with bouncing basketballs, lightning flashes, and a rotating hallway set.
If there's really anything to fault with HSM3, it is at the script level. While there's interesting dialogue throughout, the plot for this film is the thinnest of the three movies. The film is really a showcase for Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens. This means that many of the characters who got such great development in High School Musical 2 (especially Ryan and Sharpay) are downgraded here.
Sharpay would barely be in the movie at all if not for her subplots involving the new characters destined to appear in the next film. A subplot involving Ryan and Kelsi is brought up a couple of times and then never addressed for the rest of the movie. Given that HSM2 got an extended edition when it came to DVD, I would not be surprised if the same thing happened for this movie too.
High School Musical 3: Senior Year is a fitting end for the original set of characters. Although a fourth movie is already in the works, this is the last time we'll see the full cast of characters together. The power of theater and performance has always been an overarching theme of these films. This movie celebrates and acknowledges this right down to the ending where the principal cast of the films are given their final curtain call. High School Musical 3 is an enjoyable experience and worth it for fans and open-minded non-fans alike.