Directed by: Kenny Ortega
Written by:Peter Barsocchini
Starring: Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, Lucas Grabeel, Corbin Bleu, Monique Coleman
Released: December 4, 2008
Grade: B+

You may not think it but I’ve seen two movies in the past week which I want to compare - Quantum Of Solace and High School Musical 3.  As James Bond, Daniel Craig is a very masculine leading character.  He’s as cool as ice and as tough as nails.  Bond can beat any enemy in a fight and always gets the girl.  In its opening weekend in the United States, roughly 54% of the audience was male and 58% of the total audience was over the age of 25.

Zac Efron is the star of High School Musical 3 and you’re reminded of this in the film’s opening scene – it’s an extreme close-up of his sweaty face while on a basketball court.  As Troy Bolton, Efron has an effeminate look (no offence) and wins the heart of the ladies with his signing voice and dancing moves.  When this film opened in the U.S., approximately 74% of the audience were female and the majority were under the age of 18.

James Bond and Troy Bolton are complete opposites.  If they ever met in real life, I’m not sure what they’d have to say to each other.  Troy would probably start signing and James would then beat him to death.  The point I’m trying to make is that these films have both been a huge financial success despite the fact they have very different leading men.  It highlights the varying appetites of regular moviegoers.

There’s no other way of describing the High School Musical franchise without using the word “phenomenal.”  The original film premiered on the Disney Channel in January 2006 and became an instant cult hit.  The soundtrack was the highest selling album of that year in the United States.  The sequel was first shown on the Disney Channel in August 2007 and became the most watched direct-to-television movie in history.

The next step was to take the High School Musical world to the big screen and this brings us to where we are today.  I can’t think of another instance where the third film a series is the first to be shown in cinemas.  It’s been a profitable exercise for Disney – the movie cost just $33m and is on track to gross more than $90m at the box-office.  I expect more money will fill the Disney coffers when it is released on DVD early next year.

So what’s the hype all about?  Basically, the film is a large scale teen musical set against the backdrop of East High.  The six leading characters are in their senior year at school and are stressing about their futures.  Which college should they go?  What should they study?  There’s also a tinge of sadness as they realise this is their final year at school together.  They decide to go out in style by volunteering for the annual East High musical.  It’s a neat twist to be watching a musical within a musical.

If I was being my usual critical self, I probably wouldn’t like this film.  The plot is paper thin and there isn’t enough tension.  It feels like the last episode of a long running sitcom.  Somehow, I don’t think people will be seeing this film for its intricate storyline.  They want a colourful spectacle and on that count, it delivers.

The costumers, set decorators and make-up artists do a fantastic job but the most impressive element is the dance choreography.  Director Kenny Ortega (who also directed the other two films) worked as a choreographer on such 1980s classics as St. Elmo’s Fire, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Dirty Dancing.  With the help of his crew, Ortega brings the dance numbers to life with a mix of well chosen camera angles and a talented team of dancers.  I don’t even want to guess how long some of the scenes took to rehearse.  It comes as no surprise that Ortega is currently working on a remake of Footlose with Zac Efron in the leading role.

I know plenty of people who wouldn’t be caught dead at a film like High School Musical 3.  I was a little reluctant myself walking to the theatre but hey, I’ll be honest and admit that I found it entertaining.  Since the preview screening, I have watched both High School Musical and High School Musical 2 for the first time.  I’m hooked.