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Monday, October 27, 2008

High School Musical 3

The first frame of High School Musical 3 (or HSM3 to those in the know) begins with a close-up of a sweating, gasping for air Zac Efron (Hairspray), who is staring seductively into the camera for what seems like an eternity. The 171 pre- or barely-pubescent girls in the audience with me at the showing on Friday at the Essex Cinemas burst into a spontaneous yet piercing singular scream of adoration and pent up libidinous yearning to be set free. How confusing for their collective sub-conscious to then have the camera pull back to reveal that Zac, as character Troy Bolton , is perspiring and breathing so heavily because he is in the middle of a basketball game and not because he is engaging in some animalistic sex act. The truth be told, these kids would be scared or revolted if they actually glimpsed the real deal, but that doesn’t mean they don’t like to think about the idea of it in some vague “he loves me and wants me” kind of way rather than ever getting down to the actual mechanics of the deed itself.

I am sure you are expecting that I am going to disparage our darling Zac of the preternaturally Bambi-esque eyelashes, and shred this pretty little songfest, but ~ honestly ~ do you think I would do something so crass? The truth be told, I think our little Zac is quite the little cutie. There was a time when I was only interested in older men, then, one day I woke up and realized there were no older men left, at least none that weren’t gray, wrinkled, bald, and with pot bellies. If I wanted that I’d get a pet pig or have a baby. At least having a girlie crush on Zac doesn’t involve cleaning up poop, well, for me anyway. I’m not sure what all the staff at the Essex Cinemas has had to clean up after every packed showing of High School Musical 3. I just know they are required for their own safety to wear hazmat suits to freshen up the theater, and sometimes it looks like it could use it. Is it too much to ask people to discard their crap in the trash cans by the doors on the way out? These aren’t six year olds. If these tweens and teens are so lazy they can’t dispose of their own empty cups and popcorn containers I hate to think what their bedrooms must look like. Probably no place Zac/Troy would want to hang out.

So is the entire concept of the High School Musical franchise, a trilogy of films Disney has built on the premise that girls will go wild (and they have) for the almost androgynous Efron, this year’s teen idol, whose face graces everything from lunchboxes to socks to Frisbees. If 16 Magazine was still around no doubt Zac would be its’ monthly cover boy just as he is on the still popular tween rag Tiger Beat. What this generation of giddy girls don’t seem to know is that this too shall pass. God forbid I should even quietly suggest that Ms. Efron has the masculine intensity of The House Bunny and the vocal range of a dozen former number one poster boy pop idols of the past who they have probably never even heard of. How soon will it be before Zac’s hip-grabbing jeans are tossed on the pile with those of Bobby Sherman, Davy Jones, Shawn Cassidy, and Leif Garrett?

It doesn’t really matter what is to become of Zac. His moment is NOW, and High School Musical 3 is probably the zenith of his career to date. I know that could sound rude, but it isn’t meant to come out that way. Actually, more than its predecessors, High School Musical 3 has a genuinely “meaningful” plot. Yes, there actually is one crammed in among the twelve new songs and eye-popping dance numbers choreographed by Disney veteran Charles Klapow and HSM 1’s Bonnie Story. This time around, Troy and his true love, Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens; Thunderbirds), are seniors and are looking towards their lives after the final championship basketball game (Go Wildcats! I hear Sarah Palin’s voice in my head as I type that), the Spring Musical, the Senior Prom and Graduation.

Fortunately we have all those touchstones to watch them sing-and-dance through in the 112 minutes running time of High School Musical 3 before the tragic heartbreak that awaits the pre-menstrual audience when they realize that their beloved trilogy is coming to an end. Dear God, NO! Imagine a world where Troy and Gabriella go to different colleges, where Junior bitch Sharpay Evans (Ashley Tisdale; tv’s "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody") will no longer be conniving with her trés gay (but don’t tell the kids) twin brother Ryan (Lucas Grabeel; Milk) to be the “stars” of everything that isn’t sports-related in the world of East High School.

There’s also the big question all high school boys face (but not exactly spelled out in Disney movies): Will it really be "bros before hos?" Just ask Troy’s main man, Chad (Corbin Bleu; tv’s "Flight 29 Down"), who is also still hanging around, and he has visions of Troy joining him on a basketball scholarship, spending the next four years at the University of Arizona. You know, I think we are supposed to like Chad, but he really seems like a complete douche-nozzle by the simple fact that he practically seems excited at the idea that his long-time girlfriend Taylor (Monique Coleman; Online) is moving out of state to go to college. He tells Troy that once Gabriella and Taylor are gone he and Troy can “consider the slate wiped clean and start over with the ladies.” I only hope his vaccinations from the STD Clinic prove that is true.

Well, basically everybody from the first two movies makes an appearance for the sake of making the kiddies happy. After all, the audience does have to pay for this one instead of just getting it with their cable tv subscription. Maybe that’s why there’s more dancing! More singing! And more angst!

Overseeing a lot of this singing and dancing is drama teacher Ms. Darbus, played by Broadway veteran Alyson Reed. In High School Musical 2 she was back-burnered to a single line, but here she actually gets to be a part of the storyline, which, to old-timers like me, is a welcome delight considering we remember her warmly as the beloved “Cassie” from A Chorus Line, the film adaptation of the long-running 1970s – ‘80s Broadway hit. It may have been more than two decades ago, but Reed’s version of “What I Did for Love” is still considered by many the standard love song of the boomer generation. And before you ask what I did for love, I’m just going to say that whatever it was I don’t do it anymore, so don’t worry about it. Those days are behind me, the donkey died, those shows are over, and I haven’t been to Tijuana in years.

But enough about moi, let me just wrap this up by saying that if you can stand even more songs by the composer of all the numbers from the first two High School Musicals, David Lawrence (son of Steve Lawrence and Edie Gormé for the grannies who care), then you won’t be disappointed. I began to think they all sounded alike after the third number, but at least they aren’t all that horrible. If this is what today’s teens will be listening to in elevators in twenty years instead of Prodigy’s “Smack That Bitch Up” or 2 Live Crew’s “Face Down Ass Up” it’s not such a bad thing. God willing, though, Zac and Corbin won’t be working on High School Musical: 20th Class Reunion.

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