High School Musical 3

For anyone who longs for the good ol' days of Hollywood, "High School Musical 3" is a kickback to another era. When MGM released their series of classic "Andy Hardy" films in the 1940's with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, one of the best remembered lines came from these two teenagers who proclaimed: "Let's do a show!" "HSM3" brings this same enthusiasm and proclamation into the 21st century.

If you don't have a preteen or a teenager around the house, then you may not be aware of the phenomenon that the "High School Musical" series has become. "HSM1" and "HSM2" were released by the Disney Studios only on television. The marketing buildup that accompanied these films, along with the overwhelming wave of teenage crushes that ensued as they followed the love stories of these attractive high school students, has added another historical first for the Disney dream machine. Sales of the DVD shot to the top of the charts for weeks and hundreds of real high schools across the country are replicating the story for their annual school musical theater presentations. "HSM3" now brings this continuing saga to the big screen.

The "HSM3" story revolves around a boyfriend and girlfriend, Troy (Zac Efron) and Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens), who are about to graduate from East High and go their separate ways to college. Before leaving each other and their friends, they come together to stage a musical about the hopes and fears they share about the future. As with the two earlier films, they are joined in the story by two close friends, Chad (Corbin Bleu) and Taylor (Monique Coleman), along with rivals Sharpey Evans (Ashley Tisdale) and her brother Ryan (Lucas Grabeel). Troy and his buddy Chad are stars of the high school basketball team, and are also recognizing that their lives will be going in different directions for the first time in their lives.

The formula for the "HSM" series is captivatingly simple: boy meets girl, they fall in love, their friends have to work out their differences, there is a rivalry for who is the most popular person in the school, and in the end they all sing and dance to a number that captivates high school studens everywhere as they too, break out signing "We Are All In This Together."

There is little that is deep in this story, but it does touch on very familiar themes that all teenagers face. Making the transition from one's childhood family into the world of adults is an emotionally uncertain time. Everyone asks, "What does it mean to be a responsible adult? What does it mean to be a good role model as we explore these questions?" And "How do we respond to our emerging sexuality?" In classic Disney fashion, these subjects are dealt with in a wholesome way.

The medium of television, along with film, has a profound impact on the way teenagers view these questions. The High School Musical series has been a positive catalyst for schools all across the land as they portray the exploration of these answers. However, more than the pop psychology this film includes, you will leave the theater with a smile on your face and a snappy tune running through your head.

Discussion:

1. The magical world of Disney allows us to look at life through hopeful eyes. Did your High School experience launch you into the world with hope? Why or why not?

2. The use of a musical to communicate emotions is very effective. Does music stir your heart or are you more moved by other art forms? Why do you think that is true for you?

3. Saying goodbye is almost always a part of the transition in modern high school life. Do you think this is a good or destructive thing in our current culture? ________________ Cinema In Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of the Free Methodist Church. For more reviews: www.cinemainfocus.com.