High School Musical 3: Senior Year (G) ★★★½

Review Date: October 23rd, 2008

HSM3 is 'tween dream on the big screen, topping them all with one dazzling sequence after another. The boys -- and the girls -- are back in style.


What story? Does it really matter? Basically, the Wildcats have graduated to the big screen for their senior year with the daunting task of -- guess what? -- putting on a big show. In addition to performance anxiety, the singing and dancing kids must also figure out what to wear and who to bring to the prom. Troy (Zac Efron) and Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens), in particular, have to figure out what is to become of their romance when Gaby goes to Stanford, while Troy stays in Arizona. Adding to the drama is the fact representatives from Julliard will be in attendance at the show and their approval could be just the showbiz break these young talents are looking for. All of this interstitial storytelling is just an excuse to launch into one of the 10 big musical numbers written for this theatrical continuation of the enormously successful Emmy-winning Disney Channel TV films, and although the songs seem to have come out of the same cookie cutter mold, the production values make this HSM an eye-popping celebration of song and dance that's pure entertainment from start to finish.


This attractive and energetic young cast have used the two previous films to grow into their roles and win instant audience recognition. It's in the expanded and more demanding musical numbers that everyone really gets their turn in the sun, and no one disappoints. Zac Efron channels Justin Timberlake with his athletic and singular "Scream," a breakdance against the walls of the school's hallway that's pretty damn thrilling to watch. It's the hip-hop equivalent of Fred Astaire's classic dance on the ceiling in 1950's Royal Wedding. Equally effective is his intense auto junkyard number with Corbin Bleu (returning as Chad), "The Boys Are Back," is a lively paean to Michael Jackson's '80s videos like Beat It. Hudgens does nicely with the largely forgettable ballads "Walk Away" and "Right Here Right Now" (with Efron). Lucas Grabeel, back as Ryan, goes all top hat and tails on us in the Broadway inspired "I Want It All" -- opposite diva-like Sharpay, played with conniving authority once again by Ashley Tisdale. Monique Coleman as Taylor is right at home here as well along with the other veteran of the earlier films Olesya Rulin as Kelsi. Assuming the series goes on after graduation, a new generation of HSM performers will be required and that is the apparent reason for the generous screen time given to younger, newer cast members: Matt Prokop, Justin Martin and young British import Jemma McKenzie–Brown.


With director/choreographer Kenny Ortega at the helm, the HSM concept has been opened up to fill the expanse of the big screen. At its core, the musical numbers are much, MUCH larger and grandiose than they ever were in the TV films. Ortega and his team have used bright vivid Technicolor images reminiscent of the heyday of '50s Hollywood musicals and married it to a contemporary approach. Still, he seems to be channeling in some ways the elaborate Busby Berkeley movie musicals of the '30s, particularly in Grabeel's set pieces. Clearly, Ortega 'gets it' and knows what style and verve a musical like this needs -- no matter how young the intended audience. Having the luxury of directing most of his primary cast in the two previous HSM TV outings, he takes that small-screen energy and lets it explode in all its widescreen glory.

Bottom Line

Hollywood.com rated this film 3 1/2 stars.