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By Pete Vonder Haar | October 26, 2008

Where has the time gone?

It’s already senior year for our favorite students at East High School. Some of you may already be familiar with EHS by now, but for those who aren’t parents/pedophiles, it’s the fictional Albuquerque educational facility where no one smokes meth, pukes in their friend’s car after a few wine coolers, or fellates the captain of the basketball team in his pickup truck. We’ve been following the exploits of Troy, Gabriella, Chad, Sharpay, Taylor, and Ryan for the last two years as they’ve sang and danced their ways into our wallets, and while the previous “High School Musicals” premiered on TV, they still made millions of dollars in the retail DVD market. Disney, never a company to look obscene profits in the mouth, realized it had nothing to lose by putting “HSM3” into theaters.

As we catch up with our friends, EHS has won their second straight state basketball championship on Troy (Zac Efron) and Chad’s (Corbin Bleu) sinewy shoulders. More importantly, the gang is facing some serious questions about their future. Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens) has been accepted to Stanford, Chad’s set to play b-ball for U of Albuquerque, and Julliard is sniffing after Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale), her gay brother Ryan (Lucas Grabeel), Kelsi (Oleysa Rulin), and – shocker of shockers – Renaissance man Troy. Betcha didn’t see that one coming.

Right out of the gate, we realize that bringing the series to the big screen makes the flaws that much more obvious. The voices are too thin, the music and lyrics too simplistic, and the production values are – frankly – too “televisual.” The lo-fi nature of the first installments was always part of their charm, I realize, but a moviegoing public that made “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” #1 at the box office two weeks in a row demands more, dammit.

The “High School Musical” series differs significantly from other flicks featuring actors better suited for upper level college classes thanks to their total lack of sexuality. 1978’s “Grease” is a common point of comparison, but that movie had the threat of pregnancy (I can’t call it “teen” because Stockard Channing was 34 at the time), gang violence, and worst of all, smoking. “HSM3,” on the other hand, is a tribute to abstinence education. It’s a Disney product, for starters, and while the Mouse has no problem offending people with movies from its distribution companies (like Miramax), anything opening with the Cinderella Castle better keep it in its pants. This is why you get singing and dancing instead of awkward groping in the back seat. The prim and proper Taylor even gets an innuendo in, telling Chad he’ll be “dancing by himself” if he doesn’t man up and ask her to prom. And none of this is counting the smoldering sexual tension between twins Sharpay and Ryan, which is kinky even for Uncle Walt.

…I don’t know why I’m even bothering to review this, honestly. If you’re reading Film Threat in the first place, the odds of you going to see this in the theater are about as great as my chances of getting wooed away by the New York Times. And if you’re like the hundreds of squealing youngsters I saw “HSM3” with, nothing some bitter “internet critic” says is going to make a difference.

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