Rating: 2.5 stars
Teen idols have always had to suffer the indignation of having to act wholesome, even if it couldn’t be further from the truth. (David Cassidy was notoriously hooking up with groupies and getting baked on the set of The Partridge Family). Cassidy, of course, hated his squeaky clean image. The kids from High School Musical 3 seem to love theirs. (Or, at least, they fake it extremely well).
The film—the first big screen version of Disney’s runaway hit TV franchise—starts with our hero Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) on the basketball court with his East High Wildcats and—quelle horror!—they’re losing. Suddenly, from the stands emerges the white-clad figure of Troy’s girlfriend Gabrielle (Vanessa Hudgens). The two begin singing at each other—Troy’s face positively racked with intensity and teen angst; Vanessa as ethereal and dreamy as an angel. You’ll never guess who wins the game. Cheesy doesn’t begin to describe it.
And yet, who can resist? All the kids are pretty and the songs—cheerleaderish, Disneyfied versions of the kind of pop and hip-hop you hear on the radio—are fast-paced and energetic. Also, despite Troy’s perma-angst-face, the stakes are blissfully low. Will Vanessa get early acceptance at Stanford? (Like, duh.) Will jock Troy disobey his father’s wishes and go to Julliard? (I’ll never tell.) Will the kids at East High put on the best darn high school musical evah? (You have to ask?)
Thank goodness for the presence of the rich, spoiled, spotlight-hogging Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale), the only nod to the Gossip Girl and The Hills world the rest of us live in. She—and the cast’s nonchalant multiculturalism and hipster fashion—are the only thing separating this film from Beach Blanket Bingo.
But you know what? High School Musical 3 may be corny and conservative, but it’s fun. Frankly, it’s kind of nice to take a cynicism holiday every once in a while.