Watch 52 musicals, one every week, in 2015.
HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3: SENIOR YEAR (2008)
Yup, I’m going from Busby Berkeley straight to this suckshow. But first, two things you need to know: 1) I have not seen High School Musicals 1 or 2, as they were not theatrically released. 2) In a Cinema 52 first, Cinemanaut John also watched this movie for his experiment this week, Worst Live Action Disney 52. After our viewing, we went to our separate corners to write our separate articles. I have no idea what he’s doing and we’ll probably make some of the same stupid jokes, but I bet he’s focusing on its failures as a Disney movie while I’ll be covering why these songs are like an audible case of the ice cream shits.
Anyway, there’s a high school. The seniors are graduating. They sing.
So the younglings of East High are putting on their annual stage musical, but this time, what with the movie being a threequel and all, they’re gonna shake things up and write a show about themselves. Since I missed the first two flicks, I’m instantly disappointed because a) I’m more interested in what their previous productions were (musical versions of Equus and Glengarry Glen Ross, one hopes), and b) who the hell are these kids, anyway?
And why are they doing A Chorus Line?
Further raising the stakes, kind of, I guess, if you care about these characters… is a scholarship to Juilliard. But only for one of them! Fuck! Competition! Except… not really! ‘Cuz they’re friends! So we’re more just waiting until they say who won at the end.
I sure hope Attractive Basketball Man gets it!
But wait! Graduation! That’s a time for going your separate ways! Should you attend college with your best friend or your
sex kiss partner? Or is school more important than both? Confliiiiiiiiict!
Worth considering: your Disney contracts are up after this.
Less acting gigs but the purity rings can come off in a BIG way.
My first instinct was to say that this is a pretty threadbare plot to build a musical around, but that’s not entirely accurate. The simple story should leave plenty of room to flesh out the characters with well-written songs. But you already know the punchline I’m working toward there. See you in the music section!
“I’ve famously never been any good at judging child actors,” I’m always saying around here, so I guess I’ll just skip this whole—wait, everybody in the main cast was over 18, and one of them was in her late 20s?? Fuck it, then, I’ll bring the hammer down on these elderly thespians.
First up, this Zac Efron guy. He’s Troy, the charming athletic dreamy perfect boy, and honestly, I didn’t want to punch him in the face, so technically he failed at playing the popular kid. Ah, really, his character’s painfully generic, but he’s likable, and he even possesses the ability to act while singing, though how much anyone is doing their own singing in this movie is questionable. It ain’t Shakespeare, but he holds his own.
“Alas, poor Spaulding…”
I realize now that I’m about to say the same thing about every other member of the cast: they were handed a turd basket of a screenplay and did an admirable job with it. Like Vanessa Hudgens’s character, Gabriella, whom I can’t recall in a single scene where she isn’t smiling sweetly or staring at/singing at/thinking about Troy. That’s… all she is. But she is okay at being that. She earns her paycheck from The Mouse.
“Wait, they made this out to Selena Gomez!”
Gah, now I’m making a game out of this. What are the traits of Corbin Bleu’s Chad? He’s friendly to Troy, he plays the basketball, he’s fun… good job at all these attributes, Corbs, but what else has he got? Oh, he likes a girl! Yeah! He gets to be shy about a girl! Ha! That’s… fuck, is that the only other character motivation in this thing?
“We smile, we ball, we bone. Such is life.”
The girl Chad likes is Taylor, played by Monique Coleman. She doesn’t even get her own song. She does yearbook.
Ashley Tisdale’s motivation is to give dads something to fantasize about while their kids are watching High School Musical 3: Senior Year.
It’s okay, dads, the butt in this creepy shot was born in 1985!
No, to be honest, Tisdale’s wannabe diva Sharpay and her dancing brother Ryan (played by Lucas Grabeel) are probably the most memorable seniors in class, because the majority of their screentime is focused on what the fuck they want to do with their lives. Yeah, they’re mostly comic relief and they’re fame-hungry, but at least they’re kind of doing shit instead of wanking around crying, “My girlfriend! My friend! Basketball!” They get to be funny, and while “Disney Channel funny” isn’t the best, it’s better than forgettably plain.
Plus they’re the only pairing you know isn’t trying to hook up.
So, yeah, turns out I can’t justifiably hate on any of these actors. Whatever, unleash me on the songs, which are pan-seared dog anus.
THE SONGS AND DANCES:
HERE WE FUCKIN’ GOOOOOO, SPORTS! It’s “Now or Never,” an auto-tuned jam about the last basketball game that Troy and Chad will ever play at East High. The lyrics are goofy “go, team, go” horseshit, but the beat is kinda bumpin’ in a poppy Backstreet Boys way. I’ve gotta admit, I’ve never seen a musical number happen in the middle of an athletic competition. Or a macho team huddle.
“Okay, bros, 5, 6, 7, 8!”
Sadly not produced by Fatboy Slim is “Right Here, Right Now,” a duet for Troy and Gabriella in his poorly blue-screened treehouse. It sounds a bit like modern pop country (AKA not country) and features them vaguely wishing they could wish a wish that would let them be together forever, but all that truly matters is this fucking moment, you guys.
“You’re beautiful, the stars are out, everything has a soft chroma key glow…”
Anyway, enough of that boring love shit, let’s have a fantasy sequence (“I Want It All”) with Ryan and Sharpay imagining themselves as the biggest, most vapid stars on the face of God’s green Earth. It’s large and flashy with lights and top hats and oddly familiar dancing skyscrapers and slutty cat costumes, and the tune is fairly catchy, but I’m noticing a pattern with the lyrics: pick a theme and just start listing shit. Publicists, paparazzi, Oscars, okay, yes, these are fame things, song complete.
Good luck having this dream on a made-for-TV budget.
Hey, you know what’s super romantic? Rain! G & T go up to the roof to sing “Can I Have This Dance?” and it starts pouring and they spin around and look at them, ain’t love wet or whatever? It’s a T. Swift-esque tune about dancing, but also, oh, wait a minute, is dancing also a metaphor for life and love and the future? Clever shit, you soggy kids.
Ugh, name one good movie that features vocalizin’ in the precipitation.
Speaking of important life events, PROM, GODDAMMIT, THIS IS THE BEST NIGHT OF YOUR CRAPASS EXISTENCE. The sinking of the Titanic never comes up once in “A Night to Remember,” a song speculating what prom will be like that sounds mildly similar to “Push It.” Our whole cast partakes in another staged dream sequence featuring—wait, no, this is the rehearsal of the school musical they’re putting on? Then what was Ryan and Sharpay’s song? Those two ended up back in the cafeteria at the end, so did they wake up or was that a time jump? Hey, you know what? Who Gives a Shit 3: Fuck It.
Three of these five households don’t get any side windows.
Dammit, I’m still overthinking this movie.
Then Ryan shares a sweet practice duet called “Just Wanna Be With You” with a nice girl that isn’t on the poster—
—but then power (hungry) couple Trabriella has to crash in and steal it from them, because of course they need a third song about how they’re just so goddamn in love right now and will be for a million years.
“Let’s be bland forever!”
Full disclosure, I needed my notes to jog my memory on each of these poopy tunes, except one… “The Boys Are Back.” It must be witnessed. Troy and Chad are hanging out at a junkyard, fondly reminiscing about playing pretend there as precocious wee ones, then they just bro the fuck out about it. Telling a pal, “ha, remember when we ran around in capes,” I get. But chest bumping and aggressively dance-fighting a bunch of rusty cars to a STOMP-meets-Michael-Jackson beat is just… off-putting. The choreography is impressive and the hook is one hell of an earworm, but these guys are so fucking enthusiastic to play Superhero Ninja Spies that you’d think this scene was code for “they toked up at the junkyard.”
Oh, yeah, and they literally turn back into children.
Then poor Gabby doesn’t think she can take the pain of having to break up with Troyboy, so she sings “Walk Away,” a montage in which she considers letting things fade. It sounds like a Miley Cyrus song with the vocal fry turned up. Eh.
Life is so hard.
All these difficult teenage problems come to a boil in “Scream,” where Troy puts on a mask and kills Drew Barrymore. Kidding! Oh, man, holy shit, if I hadn’t said I was kidding, you would’ve thought that really happened! Wow. Hoo boy. Heh. Yeah. Anyway, lightning conjures up a Meat Loafy piano rock ballad and Troy dances out his angst Kevin Bacon-style in an Inception locker room.
Sadly, nobody told the director it looks cooler when you lock down the camera.
Oh, do you like reprises? Well, strap yourself the fuck in, because here come new versions of songs you didn’t like the first time! “Can I Have This Dance?” returns for a second “What will prom be like?” imagining, and then “Senior Year Spring Musical” smashes together everything we’ve already seen rehearsed before, plus Ryan and Sharpay’s “I Want It All” daydream which has the exact same slutty cats so was it all in their heads or is the costume department just freaky good or should I stop trying to make sense of movies and focus on obtaining a satisfying career and a family I can be proud of?
Forget that question, answer this instead:
Are everyone’s parents cool with what is essentially teenage burlesque?
And then everybody sings a big happy graduation gospel called, get this, “High School Musical” and then it’s over and yeah.
I THINK THIS LINE’S MOSTLY FILLER:
You cannot possibly imagine how dumb the lyrics of every song in High School Musical 3: Senior Year are. I could camp out in this section for days, listing off the repetitive choruses, forced rhymes, and baffling non sequiturs, but the award for Lyric That Made Me Actually Shout “Oh, Fuck You!” belongs to “The Boys Are Back” for containing these junk words…
“It’s time to show how to be a superhero,
Just like a showdown, Will Smith and Bobby DeNiro…”
I could play the I’m Not Their Audience card and go home, but really, I can’t see a high school senior enjoying this. Or a fan of musicals, either. Many did, I guess, or at the very least, liked the first one and rode it out, but the story, acting, and songs leave too much to be desired. The movie clearly relies on you getting choked up that this fake graduation story coincides with the actors graduating from the franchise and its viewers experiencing their own high school graduations. If you’ve connected with these characters from the very beginning, the long close-ups of their bittersweet emotions in the finale might stir something in you. If not, you’re just leering at some awkward weirdos.
Shock Treatment (1981)
Wanna read Cinemanaut John’s take on High School Musical 3: Senior Year‘s failure to achieve classic Disney status? Then check out his Worst Live Action Disney 52 article!