Quick Take: A swoon-worthy lead, addictive tunes, and plenty of East High spirit makes for a can't-miss-unless-you-want-sad-kids flick.
I may have missed the first few words of the newly released High School Musical 3. It was hard to hear, what with all the exclamations of, "There he is!" "Eeeeek!" and "I love you, Troy!" bouncing around the theater.
Extra dreamy in his new 20-foot multiplex incarnation, Troy is back, bigger than ever, whipping teens into a gleeful frenzy with his mop of hair, baby blues, and throwback-to-the-50s heartthrob-ness -- playing Danny to Gabriella's Sandy, Frankie to a brand-new Annette, Moondoggie to Disney's new Gidget. Who says old fashioned has gone out of style?
To say kids have been waiting for this moment is akin to pointing out that their generation is somewhat fond of text messaging. High School Musical is big. Designer-bag big. OMG big. Ever since Troy, Gabriella, and their classmates stepped into the living rooms of tweens two years ago, the franchise has been a constant companion, kids watching the movie, singing the songs, doing the dances, going to the concerts, and watching the movie again…. The theater prior to the flick had the air of a boy-band concert, and when the lights finally went down, it was all they could do to contain themselves before letting out an explosive cheer for the HSM3 logo. All that was missing at the end was the flash of Bic lighters for an encore.
Happily, the movie didn't disappoint. Director Kenny Ortega hit his mark of a musical story sporting uncomplicated characters and plot. Said plot may be too light for some (more or less a year in the life of high school seniors), but it's colorfully woven, with all of the HSM trademarks: catchy tunes, "let's put on a show" enthusiasm, lighthearted visuals, and the kind of sweet, boy-meets-girl, ultra-innocent romance not seen since, well, High School Musical 2. Dances, particularly the crowd-pleasing "A Night to Remember" and the creatively choreographed "The Boys Are Back," are hard to resist. As for those lively songs? Let's just say you'd have to have a lead foot to make it through all 100 minutes without at least one toe a tappin'.
To those who call the whole thing hokey and old-fashioned, I say, Gosh, why such a grouch? It's a tribute to kids' multi-faceted natures that the movie coexists peacefully in the multiplex with Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. Apparently, debauchery isn't the only fantasy in town. And, it's nice to know that a generation of world-weary kids (and parents) can be swept up in something so unabashedly sweet. Even those young 'uns who seem outwardly averse are not immune to the HSM charm. As one 15-year-old put it, "I know I'll love it, even if I don't admit it."
Still, there were plenty in the audience happy to show their Wildcat spirit. Ten-year-old Tiara probably spoke for a lot of her peers when she said, "I can't wait to see it again."
Kids Will Like:
It's a tribute to HSM's appeal that actual high schoolers want to see it. The most vocal fans were school-age kids and tweens, but there was a nice spread of ages, from tot to teen and, not surprisingly, more girls than boys. Girls of boy-crazy age will positively swoon over Troy who, with his sensitive demeanor and generally good-guy appeal (winningly played by Zac Efron), is about the best boyfriend ever. Younger girls, like 7-year-old Enya, were more interested in Sharpay, a cartoonish gal (acted with glee by the wonderful Ashley Tisdale) who amuses with her Barbie clothes and comically over-the-top mean-girl schtick. Singable songs appeal to all ages. Kids who don't already own the soundtrack (it was released four days before the movie) will no doubt be heading to iTunes. Count on them to catch every detail. The teen sitting next to me was able to even identify the ringtones of both Gabriella ("Start of Something New," from HSM) and Sharpay ("Fabulous," HSM2). Tweens Lane, 11, Mercedes, 9, and Tiara, 10, gleefully declared it the best HSM of the lot. Gushed Tiara, "It was even way better than the first one!"
Parents Will Like:
High School Musical 3 is about as wholesome a movie as you're likely to find, a clean-cut family film that truly appeals to all ages. There's nothing you'll be embarrassed to experience with your kids -- no drinking, no swearing, no inappropriately skimpy clothing, and "sex" is limited to a chaste kiss between Troy and Gabriella. There's a general sweetness to the film that is often missing in today's entertainment. You'll be hard pressed to leave without a smile.