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highschoolmusical3.jpgThe Wildcat gang is back for one last hurrah and they’re not going quietly. “High School Musical: Senior Year” is effervescent, glamorous, kinetic, bubbly, and unapologetically nostalgic.
This third film is focused on everyone’s plans for college as senior year winds down. Troy and Chad play their last Wildcats game of the season, and now the gang is planning one last spring musical about the journey of senior year (titled “Senior Year”–get it?) and waiting for acceptance letters. Ryan, Sharpay, and Kelsi have been selected as scholarship finalists for a prestigious acting program at Julliard. Mysteriously, even Troy has been chosen though he never applied. This mysterious acceptance leads him to being torn about pursuing acting or pursuing basketball at the Univ. of Arizona. Gabriella is headed to a special honors program at Stanford which may mean leaving Troy, the play, and the prom before the school year ends. Chad wants to hold on to the Troy-Chad basketball glory, Taylor’s busy chairing the yearbook committee, and Kelsi’s still writing heartfelt ditties. As usual, Sharpay is slyly trying to steal the lead in the musical to impress Julliard, with Ryan as a reluctant sidekick. New characters are also introduced: Tiara Gold (a British transfer student who becomes Sharpay’s personal assistant), Jimmie Z (aka. the “Rocket Man,” a goofy slacker and benchwarmer who wants to follow in Troy’s footsteps), and Donny Dion (Jimmie’s friend and fellow benchwarmer). Still, with all the storylines, the main spotlight is on the golden couple, Troy and Gabriella, as they figure out how to merge both their futures together.

If you’ve followed the first two movies, there’s no doubt you’ll enjoy the final act. There’s a lot to see and a lot to hear, and all you can do is spin around in wide-eyed wonder at the explosion of colors and endless head-turning movements. As usual, the choreography is excellent and the young actors make it all seem easy and effortless.
There are a lot of Gene Kelly “Singin’ in the Rain” moments (director Kenny Ortega has mentioned Kelly as one of his inspirations), particularly during one Broadway-style number with Ryan and Sharpay and one junkyard number with Chad and Troy. Fred Astaire’s legacy also finds its moment with Troy and Gabriella waltzing on a rooftop in the rain. Sharpay and Ryan could have had more face time, which means that the latest soundtrack will have more Troy-Gabriella ballads and less group songs (though “Now or Never” is certainly catchy and the acappella version of “We’re All in This Together” is sweet and slow). Be warned that seeing this movie also means you will need a good night’s sleep beforehand. Otherwise, the constant singing and dancing (and these seemed to blend into each other really quickly) will grate on your nerves.
Bolder, brighter, and sleeker, HSM3 is saturated with everything that has made the franchise successful: heartfelt singing, boundless energy, big production numbers, chaste romance, and lessons of loyalty, friendship, and sacrifice. There are no worries about finals, no overbearing parents, and no sleazy conversations about post-prom activities. You know that everyone’s worries will be resolved in the end, and they are, leading to a very (what else?) touching graduation scene and one final song and one final shot that brings the trilogy full circle to the original movie. If you want to be happy and don’t mind feeling just a little drained of energy, buy a ticket and remember to check your disdain for high-production cheesiness, your eye-rolling reflex, and your fear of giggly tweens and teens at the door. This movie is meant to be enjoyed fully–with a constant stash of gummy bears, twizzlers, and whoppers.
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