He's the DJ, I'm the Flapper
High School Musical 3: Senior Year / Agent Bedhead
Film Reviews | October 27, 2008 | Comments ()
I recall that, when I was 12-years old and in the midst of watching Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, my grandpa, a high-school history teacher, wrinkled his nose in disgust and remarked, “Those damn kids wouldn’t go to the Sears Tower and eat lunch at a fancy restaurant. They’d be raping each other all day!” Perhaps he was exaggerating just a bit, for, certainly, the ass of Cameron Frye was so tight that nothing could ever happen in that department, if you know what I mean. However, I’m finally beginning to understand what my grandpa meant by his outburst, and, in that regard, things haven’t changed all that much when it comes to films that, for whatever reason, appeal to the younger generation. In the glossy, sugar-encrusted world of Disney’s lucrative High School Musical franchise, Albuquerque’s East High School contains no enclosed stairwells, so teens are never tempted to sneak away for necking sessions. Nobody gets laid on prom night because they’re too busy getting ready for their final musical production. Furthermore, sexually ambiguous characters aren’t gay but merely have perpetual jazz hands, and, despite the ethnically diverse student body, no cultural differences exist. Instead, the HSM cast members remain blissfully unaware of anything but their own dance steps and quasi-emotional song lyrics that inform their tween audience that nothing matters except for chasing that ideal love into the sunset. Never mind that, in reality, Troy Bolton (Zak Efron) would get slapped with a restraining order from Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Hudgens) after she dumped his crying ass for the third fucking time.
Let’s be honest here: I could reveal everything about High School Musical 3: Senior Year, and absolutely none of it would surprise anyone who has watched the first or second films. This third chapter, although it will certainly please the kiddies, lacks its own independent story and sticks to the same exact formula previously and repeatedly exploited by director Kenny Ortega. That is, HSM3 paints by its own florescent numbers of shiny aplomb. To Disney’s credit, they’ve found what works, and they’re sticking with it. Still, with a transition to the celluloid screen and a larger budget, they could have done more than just depend on prettier costumes and more spectacular dance routines. Regardless, this film will do incredibly well at the box office, which is a shame because, even compared to its predecessors, HSM3 seems to be missing most of its plot. Of course, the built-in audience probably won’t even notice this omission, and, if they do notice, they won’t care. As usual, everyone just wants a piece of Troy Bolton, and you will too, for, in the opening moments of HSM3, one observes the sweaty, breathless, and groaning Troy he stares up at the basketball hoop. This is, undeniably, a handful of highly erotic seconds that, laughably, betray the G-rated goodness of this sequel. However, the MPAA doesn’t exactly subtract points for erotic sweat, so Troy is permitted to lead the Wildcats to a 2nd basketball championship before the show really begins.
As with its predecessors, HSM3’s focus for most song and dance numbers is the inexplicable romance between Troy and Gabriella. Yet, the two lead actors are pretty uneven as far as talent is concerned, and Hudgens appears more lethargic on the big screen than on a television set. As a result, Efron ends up carrying most of the lovers’ scenes and drastically overcompensates during this process. The better numbers are the ones where Gabriella gets the fuck off the screen, and, in HSM3, the best example of this occurs during the junkyard dance number, “The Boys are Back,” which features Troy and his BFF, Chad Danforth (Corbin Bleu). Of course, once the background dancers enter the scene, things develop into a mating session between Herbie: Fully Loaded and Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” video, but the result is far more interesting than watching Troy stare at Gabriella’s lips for what seems like every other moment of the film. This emotionally constipated romance comes at the expense of the much more captivating supporting players, especially the twin sister and brother duo, Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale) and Ryan Evans (Lucas Grabeel). As the villainess, Tisdale has established herself as an incredibly versatile and talented actress (for years, she’s been the good girl of “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody”), which is rare when it comes to Disney-grown dreck. Still, Tisdale’s recent nose job translates into in an incredibly bland visage and reduces her impact onscreen, which is unfortunate because she’s second only to Grabeel in terms of performance ability.
As the HSM formula rolls forth, the central lame-ass “dilemma” occurs when Troy must juggle competing interests (basketball and theater) and also cope with more drama in his relationship with Gabriella, who is set to depart for Stanford University and leave her boyfriend and his blue balls behind. Meanwhile, Troy’s father (Bart Johnson) and Chad both expect Troy to attend state university and play basketball, but what they don’t know is that their little charge is considering attending the Juilliard School (Fame! I’m gonna live forever…). As a result of all of this, for lack of a better word, stress, Troy freaks out and gets all existential and shit, which is a mere precursor to his angst-filled solo dance. During this obligatory “crisis of conscience” number, Troy doesn’t do anything really bizarre like, say, sprint into the desert, dressed fully in black, for a Steve Perry-inspired, “You should’ve been gooooooooone” sort of moment. Nope, this time around, Troy confronts his G-rated demons via a nighttime boogie through the halls of East High because, you know, that’s not fucked up at all. At one point during this dance, Troy ends up in the gymnasium, and basketballs rain down upon him. As I found myself trapped within a seemingly endless belly laugh, I couldn’t help but realize that most of these basketballs were actually CGI, and, well, in a musical, that sort of pisses me off.
From a parental viewpoint, what is disturbing about HSM 3 is that, as the senior students approach the threshold of young adulthood, their focuses do not change at all. Instead, Troy makes his decisions almost solely based upon what Gabriella is doing, and, although he stands up to his father and claims to think independently, he is only substituting one authority for another. Instead of engaging in some actual critical thinking, Troy Bolton split leaps through life in one blissfully orchestrated song and dance. Still, I’m sort of being an asshole here because, when it comes to film, adults certainly enjoy their escapism, so I grudgingly admit that this should extend to tweens as well. Fortunately for them, Disney isn’t about to give this HSM gravy train up and has even introduced some obvious new underlings to inherit the franchise. In other words, parents, get ready, for these songs are gonna be all over your kid’s talent shows, like, forever.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and when she tried out for her junior high school’s production of Grease, her music teacher visibly cringed. That partially explains all of the self-depreciation going on at agentbedhead.com.