[Cross-posted on the Bad Movie Night Facebook page.]
So if "High School Musical" is your standard clumsy, clueless, and formulaic Disney Channel Original Movie and "High School Musical 2" is the first movie with the crazy turned all the way up, "High School Musical 3" is what happens when the crazy meter has exploded from Zac Efron's golf course dance and all you have left are references to other musicals and overdoses of meta and earnestness. This movie tried really, really hard to be a real movie. The movie was shown in theaters instead of just on the Disney channel. The budget progressed from 7 million to 11 million but all of that extra money seemed to go into sets and costumes because the overall quality really did not increase. The plot was thin, perhaps even thinner than the previous movies, and while the music seemed to have more instruments, it didn't get any better. As for the choreography, it seemed to get more elaborate and lengthy but I wouldn't call this an improvement so much as a feature.
The gang is now in their senior year and are going to put on a musical extravaganza to celebrate. Sharpay has become the antagonist again because she . . . wants to star in the show? Probably. Either way she has an assistant now with the fakest British accent ever who wants to usurp her as the main singer and antagonist. Meanwhile in subplots A and B, Gabriella got into Stanford with early orientation (what?) and Troy is expected to go to the University of Albuquerque like his dad. However, Troy has also had someone apply to Julliard for him and some reps are coming to the show because this movie has no idea how college applications, auditions, or talent works. The movie meanders through existential dread and many music numbers that make pretty blatant references to "A Chorus Line," "Grease," and anything Fosse. There's a scene where Troy drives to the empty school during a thunder storm, which Kay immediately foresaw as the inevitable "Footloose" reference, and he sings and dances his way through his river of emotions. In spite of all high school film conventions, this movie SKIPS prom because it's too busy with music numbers and weird costumes (Adam on one of Ryan's outfits: "What is he wearing? Is he going to go catch butterflies in Germany?"). So little is happening that we formulated a theory that Gabriella is wearing so many empire waist dresses that she's hiding a secret pregnancy and got really into this backstory. They even introduced a throwaway clueless side character who does nothing. After plenty of non-action, there's the final show where we find out that Troy is going to Berkley to be closer to Gabriella and the graduation where Troy gives a speech (why?) where we mentions that they're all in this together. The show ends with an eerie gospal-y cover of "All In This Together" and the background turning into a stage behind the main characters. It was in that moment that we realized something: it was all an act. "High School Musical" is not just an unrealistic portrayl of high school but it is a performance of high school. Nothing was ever meant to resemble reality because it was all part of a show within a show. Even the freeze frame we got near the end ended after a few seconds as if we were in some kind of film-based version of Brechtian epic theater and we were supposed to see the separation and reflect only on the lessons and not all the artiface like the huge sets and the bland pop songs and the thin plot.
Someone tried to add depth to "High School Musical"
I need to lie down.
Sharpay: "How can you think about food at a time like this?"
Ryan: "It's lunchtime."
Sharpay: "I heard Kelsi is writing something amazing for Troy and Gabriella."
Ryan: "A song, most likely."
Spoon Rating: 5