It’s hard to pull off a movie sequel that rivals the original. It’s even harder to pull off a trilogy that keeps the viewer coming back for more.
Try doing that for a made-for-TV movie, and it’s like turning water into wine.
It’s no surprise Disney was able to pull this near-miracle off with its most recent release, “High School Musical 3.”
Coming from the roots of a DCOM, or Disney Channel Original Movie for those out of the loop, “High School Musical” has gone from a televised romp through the halls of East High to a multi-billion dollar box office blockbuster.
In the third installment of the series, the East High gang, Troy Bolton (Zac Efron), Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Hudgens), and Sharpay and Ryan Evans (Ashley Tisdale and Lucas Grabeel), along with the rest of their musically athletic friends, have finally reached their senior year.
The movie picks up at half-time of the championship basketball game between the East High Wildcats and the West High Knights. After having their butts kicked in the first half, Bolton, with the help of a rockin’ techno musical number and new Wildcat Jimmie “Rocket Man” Zara (Matt Prokop), leads the Wildcats to a last minute victory.
With the basketball season over, college is looming. It’s only a matter of time before all the friends are spilt up, and Troy and Gabriella begin to cope with being apart (obviously through song).
In a last ditch effort to save the spring musical from being a one-woman Sharpay show, the cast decides to do an original musical based on their last year called “Senior Year.” With Ryan as choreographer and Kelsi Nielsen (Olesya Rulin) as composer, “Senior Year” comes together smoothly, mirroring the actual course of their senior year.
In addition, Julliard School of Performing Arts is sending two representatives to hand out a scholarship to one of four students – Troy, Kelsi, Sharpay and Ryan.
However, the musical goes a bit flat when Gabriella, who plans on attending Stanford University, is admitted into the early honors program. This strains Troy and Gabriella’s relationship and also makes her drop out of the musical, making Sharpay take her role.
Enter stage right Tiara Gold (Jemma McKenzie-Brown), a transfer student from London. A little Sharpay-in-sheep’s-clothing, Tiara works to make East High’s drama department her own.
With the gang split up over college, the musical and life after high school, the future of the Wildcats isn’t looking too harmonious.
Nothing beats the original, but “HSM 3” gives it a run for its money.
As a whole, the movie works as one of the most high-energy cinematic releases this year. It tops the other two movies’ songs and dances, but possibly only because it was a big-budget Hollywood movie, as opposed to a TV movie.
Kenny Ortega, who directed all three movies and worked as a choreographer, brought his best foot forward in this film. The dance numbers were by far the best part of this movie, both complex and visually stunning. Ortega somehow turned basketball into a dancing event that flowed seamlessly from one shot to the next.
A rooftop scene between Troy and Gabriella is the movie’s most touching scene, in which Gabriella teaches Troy, who “doesn’t know how to waltz,” how to waltz.
“Can I Have This Dance?” brings out the best between the two and really plays up the vocal and physical strengths of both.
The movie’s best number, “I Want It All,” performed by Ryan and Sharpay, is full of glitzy, Broadway musical-style sets, dance steps and costumes. With nods to classic musicals like “Chicago,” “Fosse” and “A Chorus Line,” the Evans’ musical dream number is sure to jump start even the casual musical theatre lover.
The cast brought their A-game to the set. The vocals and the dancing are all exponentially better than in the first two movies. While at times the acting is a little forced and over the top, we can’t really expect Academy Award-winning performances from a Disney Channel movie. Grabeel is the best part of the film, both musically and performance-wise.
Also, with the introduction of three new characters, Disney has left enough wiggle room for a possible fourth film. Based on their performances in this film, I think it would be in Disney’s best interest to end on this high note.
“High School Musical 3” is sure to be this fall’s best feel-good film, full of catchy tunes, toe-tapping dance numbers and decent (comparatively) script writing. While it may only win a Kid’s Choice Award, if you are looking for a few hours of childish fun, “HSM 3” is sure to be a “Night To Remember.”