Directed by: Kenny Ortega
Written by: Peter Barsocchini
Starring: Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Lucas Grabeel, Ashley Tisdale, Corbin Bleu, Monique Coleman
Senior year brings the excitement of finally putting an end to secondary education but also the anxiety of having to make some big decisions youth has guarded us from. Decisions around college, career, and the relationships that will try to remain intact as folks being to separate. We’ve all been there and now the characters of High School Musical 3: Senior Year must as well. While being a significant increase in production value, this film loses its footing in its repetitiveness and lack of ambition.
With senior year of high school reaching its twilight, Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) has some big decisions to make with Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens) set to attend Stanford and his father and best friend excited the basketball star will stay local and play for the University of Albuquerque. With all of this transition occurring, emotions begin to rev up with a sense of finality coming to these characters’ time at East High.
Intense popularity for the first two films made for quite the jump for this chapter of the trilogy with Senior Year receiving a theatrical release and higher budget, which becomes evident right from the beginning. Opening up another state championship game shows the production value has increased significantly. Quite the remarkable story for these films and judging by the box office return, this was quite the experiment gone right for Disney in a financial sense. From the musical sequences to the general filmmaking involved, this film just looked much more cinematic, but unfortunately, it could not save the lackluster narrative this installment brings to the trilogy.
The most egregious fault comes from Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale) and her distinct lack of character development. In the first film, she wanted Troy all to herself and manipulated others into trying to make it happen. Even with all of her villainy, all of the protagonists invited her to sing and dance along with them to which she obliged. In the second film she has the exact same motives, fails once more, and once again still gets met with open arms from the very people she’s trying to tearl apart. The fact that in this third film, Sharpay gets the exact same arc in trying to pry Troy Bolton away from Gabriella is just pure laziness. They have a fun character portrayed well by Ashley Tisdale to do something interesting with and they just retread the exact same thing. At that point just keep her out of the film and bring her back for some cameo musical performances. These films, as you might have seen from my other reviews, are graded on a curve, but this sheer laziness simply cannot be excused at this point. It makes all of her actions incredibly dull.
Solutions for this issue sat right in front of them with the inclusion of these younger usurper students who will take over their spots once the seniors graduate. Her entire focus could have just laid there but they just had to give her one more chance to snag Troy Bolton. Still not the greatest solution seeing as the addition of these characters only dragged the film down further as well. This feature did not need this fabricated nonsense anymore because these characters have the large issue of graduation on the horizon. This could have been the entire focus with everything else occurring in the film. It just becomes unfathomable they would trot out the same arc for a character three times in a row with no shame. Lack of ambition is the way to sum it up seeing as with more production dollars they could have done something even more grandiose with this character but opted to be lazy.
Positives for the film comes from the continuation and finale of what Troy Bolton wants for his future and how Gabriella fits into it. With them going in different directions for school, the status of their relationship comes into question, which puts enough pressure on him before the offer to potentially go to Juilliard for shining becomes an option. Okay, I know Zac Efron does some good lip-syncing but to the level where Julliard scouts are coming out to potentially offer a scholarship to Troy just made me laugh. It makes sense where the story goes with it, but even the insinuation Tory was in the running felt a bit far-fetched.
Even with the mess of a narrative, this finale ends the series with a good song and a touching portrait of each of these characters. It lays out what they want to achieve and the future they seek. Several sweet moments as well add some very nice frosting to an ice cream that spent a bit too much time in the back of the freezer. For the money put into it, this film had the potential to be the best of the entire series of films, but its lack of ambition and laziness in its story makes it the worst by far.