Tuesday, November 11, 2008

High School Musical 3--Not Just Another Sports Movie

I’ve seen a number of movies with my five children. Often I’ve used movies as “dates” with my three daughters. Such was the case last Friday evening as I surprised my seven-year-old with tickets to the opening of the much anticipated High School Musical 3.

As we walked into the theatre I realized that something was very different about this edition of the HSM Trilogy. The difference was that the theatre was NOT my basement family room. I had watched the previous two versions with my daughters in the relative safety, obscurity, and anonymity of my own domicile, beyond the reach of the peering, judgmental eyes of local women who seemed to be wondering “where is that poor child’s mother?”

Indeed, I believe I was the only male in the theatre beyond the age of eight. This realization was unsettling, and forced me to return the icy stare of one of the ushers by shaking my pompom at him and blurting out “I’m here for the popcorn.”

Fortunately, the lights dimmed and my presence ceased to be a distraction to the rest of the audience. After a couple of coming attractions I noticed the movie’s entire title was actually High School Musical 3: Senior Year. The “Senior Year” subtitle comforted me, and I finally appreciated the brilliance of Public Law 107-110—the No Child Left Behind Act.

The movie’s opening scene reminded me that the HSM Series is, at its core, about sports. The East High Wildcats, after a halftime pep talk of Rockne-esque proportions, overcome a huge deficit and win their second consecutive “championship” (we’re not sure of what, as the game is played East High’s own gym). This amazing comeback is fueled not by trash talk but instead by a sweat-laden frenzy of singing, dancing, and traveling violations during which the Wildcats scored at will. In my observation, East High’s opponents put up slightly less second half resistance than the Washington Generals most competitive moment with the Harlem Globetrotters.

This opening scene basketball game blatantly reveals the most troubling thing about the HSM Franchise—the East High Wildcats wear red uniforms. The “Wildcat” is perhaps the most ubiquitous mascot in athletics, and anyone who knows anything about sports knows that Wildcat uniforms are never red. I introduce the following as evidence: Kentucky Wildcats—Blue, Kansas State Wildcats—Purple; Villanova Wildcats—Blue; Northwestern Wildcats—Purple; Harrisonville Wildcats—Blue. I have seen the Arizona Wildcats wear red uniforms on occasion, but this evidence will be stricken from the record as it does not support my thesis.

In the world that is HSM, no clear line exists between sports and drama, which is sort of like saying there are no real ideological distinctions between Sarah Palin and Alec Baldwin. With the season over, we see the basketball team’s real objective is to build a squad of which the drama department can be proud. Indeed, with basketball behind them the seniors can now commit full attention to East High’s Mus-i-CAL, as the over-the-top drama teacher calls it.

Troy “Get Your Head In the Game” Bolton, reprises his role as East High’s star basketball player turned triple-threat entertainer. He’s being recruited by the mythical commuter school “U of A,” presumably the University of Albuquerque, and a Division III school named Julliard. Julliard, it seems, is some sort of dramatic arts magnet school which is evidently starting a basketball program. Julliard’s representatives promise to be in the audience during the Mus-i-CAL, after which they will award one full ride scholarship. This factor elevates the event’s importance to a level slightly above that of the Indianapolis Scouting Combine.

Troy, as usual, delivers an off-the-charts performance which impresses the Julliard judges to the level that they award not one, but two scholarships to fellow cast members Ryan and Kelsey. Troy, undaunted, announces during the curtain call that he has chosen Cal-Berkley as a two sport athlete in basketball and drama. He also hints that a motivating factor is to be 47.9 miles away from his beautiful, brainiac girlfriend Gabriella who will be joining the Stanford Honors Program. I’m not fooled, however, as I know her true motivation for attending Stanford is to join its world-renown marching band.

As the final installment of the HSM movie machine is wrapped, we’re anxiously awaiting massive merchandise sales and timely spinoffs such as High School Musical Live, High School Musical on Ice, and the High School Musical Faculty vs. Washington Generals benefit game. So as we’re waiting for these opportunities, we’ll hope the kids do well at Julliard, Stanford, Cal, and even (snicker) “U of A,” because we simply can’t deal with any more singing picks-and-rolls. Unless, of course, the four schools meet in the Final Four.

Now that’s a sequel I could get behind.

Greg Finley
October 29, 2008


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