By: The REEL Addict and his niece
In the world of movies, it is extremely rare for a sequel to be better or as good as the original, let alone for the third film in a series to be the best of the lot.
My niece, Ainsleigh, and I were both lucky enough to discover that HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3: SENIOR YEAR is one of those rare treasures. We both came out of the theatre thinking that HSM 3 is without a doubt the best of the series. What’s more, we both agreed on the exact two reasons why.
The first and most prominent reason is that the movie has the best musical numbers (i.e. music, lyrics, and dance choreography) to date. The filmmakers obviously took the bump to theatrical seriously as the music is better produced, the lyrics are a little less corny, and the dance numbers are much more sophisticated. HSM 3 even expanded its inspirational pallet there, including numbers that are obviously influenced by everything from Bob Fosse, the Rockette’s and Gene Kelly’s “Gotta Dance” number from SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (in “I Want It All”), to ballet (“Can I Have This Dance”), to Stomp and GREASE (“The Boys Are Back”). It’s increased scope and ambition goes along way to make the film special. Most importantly though, the musical numbers do exactly what they should: sweep you up in their emotions and choreography. You became enamored, and just like for the characters, the world stops for a moment and makes way for musical celebration and expression.
The second reason that HSM 3 is the best of the series is that the musical numbers are much more seamlessly and legitimately integrated into the story. Ainsleigh noted that the songs were more closely linked to the characters’ personalities, thoughts and feelings. Her point is a great one, as a shortcoming of the first two films was that there would be numerous occasions where the reason for a song to emerge was forced, and had little to do with the overall story. In HSM 3 every musical number comes back to what Ainsleigh pointed out is the central theme of the story: what happens when teenagers grow up (in this case, when seniors face the decisions that will shape their futures). She felt it added a greater tinge of reality to the film. Or, as she put it, it made HSM 3 seem more like a “true story” in the sense that it is something all teenagers do or will face.
Though some of you adult readers will certainly give my niece a pass, you might question the objectivity (and maybe sanity) of a twenty-six year old film reviewer and masters degree holder in film who can seriously, truly, enjoy something like HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3. To you I say, of course the film isn’t perfect. Sure, there are things I could nitpick about, such as the fact that at times it’s too “stagey,” (even going meta with a high school musical within the high school musical), that there are a few lyrical clunkers here and there and some really cheesy moments, or that maybe there are too many Troy/Gabriella numbers (and that they sound a bit too similar to ones from the other films). However, there is so much heart, enthusiasm and musical craftsmanship in HSM 3,that to indulge my inner adult cynic would mean missing out on its unapologetically fun ride, and be someone this movie wasn’t really meant for.
Besides, if I had been that cynical film student person, I then would not have had the pleasure of taking my niece to see the film, let alone been able to completely enjoy it together with her. If that’s what the cost of not being willing to put my inner adult aside and enjoy a film for its sheer fun and escapism is, then I’m not sure that’s the kind of person I want to be anyway.
Ainsleigh’s Overall Rating: A-
theREELaddict’s Overall Rating: A-
P.S.: In case your curious as to what our favorite parts were, it’s probably no coincidence that Ainsleigh’s favorite song (“Now or Never”), favorite dance (“Scream”), and favorite moment (the opening, sweaty close-up), all mostly involved a certain young movie star whose last name rhymes with Teflon.
And me? Well, as a gooey sap, I’ve always been a sucker for romantic duets/ballads (think “Cheek to Cheek” in TOP HAT) – especially when rain and summer dresses are thrown in for good measure – so “Can I Have This Dance” proved to be a musical highlight for me, all the more so given its incorporation of surprisingly effective ballet influences. In terms of dancing though, even though the lyrics/concept of the song was a notable weak point in the film, “The Boys Are Back” had genuinely impressive choreography, as did Efron’s Gene Kelly-like solo number “Scream” (a much needed improvement on the similar themed “Bet On It” from HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 2).