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What parents need to know
Parents need to know High School Musical 3: Senior Year is the first big-screen High School Musical movie has been feverishly anticipated by the series' tween and teen fans. And they won't be disappointed. It's sweet, age-appropriate fun with very little edge (save for a few scenes featuring a nearly too-vampy Sharpay). There's no swearing, violence, drinking, or smoking, and the teen sweethearts don't do more than hold hands and kiss. Although it presents a "Disneyfied" view of teen life, the movie's overall message is positive and affirming (and the music is really catchy!).
What's the story?
The kids are back in a big way in HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3: SENIOR YEAR, and the Wildcats have played their last game. Up next: Prom, the big musical, and, yes, graduation. Troy (Zac Efron) seems headed for the University of Albuquerque -- until Juilliard suddenly becomes an option. Will it be basketball or theater? And will his choice alienate his best friend, Chad (Corbin Bleu)? Meanwhile, Troy's beloved Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens) is bound for Stanford, but will that mean saying goodbye to Troy for good? Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale) has her eye on Juilliard, too, but there's only one scholarship up for grabs, and her twin brother, Ryan (Lucas Grabeel), and their friend Kelsey, share the same dream. And then there's the gang's final stage production, a musical that's meant to be about them -- but it's hard to express who you are and what you want out of life when you don't quite know yet yourself.
Is it any good?
Earnest, schmaltzy, and wildly entertaining, the first film in Disney's enormously popular HSM franchise to debut on the big screen proudly wears its heart on its sleeve. Yet it doesn't suffer from doing so, largely due to the obvious rapport of its talented cast, particularly Hudgens and Efron, who share an unmistakable chemistry (they're a couple in real life, too). And the music? It's as catchy as ever (standout tunes include the anthem-like "Now or Never," the sweet "Can I Have This Dance?" and a slowed-down, nostalgic "We're All in This Together"). The musical numbers are ambitious productions marked by exemplary choreography--the hallmark of a hit Disney feature. (We dare you not to tap your feet.)
Make no mistake: High School Musical 3 is cheesy. And the plot does have holes -- for starters, director Kenny Ortega's decision not to show prom at all, even though the ritual of asking dates is pumped up in the movie's first half. But it's a good kind of cheesy, the kind that gamely tugs at your heart and grows more adorable by the minute. HSM 3 proves that the franchise has the heft to make the leap from television to the big screen, and it does so with honors.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what makes high school graduation such an important rite of passage and how it's portrayed in High School Musical 3: Senior Year. How are each of the characters approaching the end of an era?
What do you think of Troy's decision in the end? How have he and the other characters changed over the course of the three movies?
Families can also discuss how realistic the movie is when it comes to presenting teen life. Kids: Does the movie at all reflect your own experiences? How is it similar? Different? Do you think people generally get an accurate or inaccurate view of teen life from the media?
- In theaters: October 23, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: February 17, 2009
- Cast: Ashley Tisdale, Vanessa Hudgens, Zac Efron
- Director: Kenny Ortega
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Musical
- Topics: Friendship, High school, Music and sing-along
- Character strengths: Empathy, Integrity
- Run time: 109 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
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