HomeMoviesCelebrating the 10-Year Anniversary of High School Musical 3: Senior Year

Celebrating the 10-Year Anniversary of High School Musical 3: Senior Year

Written by Daryn Kirscht

When thinking back on some of the most successful and popular musicals of all-time, most people will likely immediately turn towards the likes of Grease, Footloose, Hairspray, or Rent – not High School Musical 3: Senior Year. Although the film series has a cult following and is cemented in pop culture forever, the films are most likely relegated to being “teeny-bop, girly musicals” that are only enjoyable for kids. Besides, why would a guy like me, whose favorite filmmakers consist of Zack Snyder, Christopher Nolan, Ben Affleck, Sylvester Stallone, and Stanley Kubrick, have any interest in a film about high school students singing about their everyday lives?

Well, for starters, I grew up wanting to be Zac Efron. The guy was a heartthrob with similar hair, body type, athletic ability, and, oh yeah, he could sing. Being 15 years old, I was at a time in my life when I was finding some new interests and trying to discover who I wanted to become. I had always been addicted to sports, but much like Troy Bolton in the very first film, I began to discover music and acting and felt a connection to it.

Ten years after its release, I watched HSM3 again for the first time in years. In fact, my fiancée had not seen it since it first came out in theaters (the first two aired exclusively on Disney Channel), so it was a neat experience for us to watch the film with a completely fresh perspective. Some hardcore fans of the series expressed disappointment with the last film at the time, but after careful re-evaluation, I respectfully disagree with those fans for a plethora of reasons.

The final chapter in the musical saga produces the best basketball sequence, a crazy prom dance number, a musical number in which Troy Bolton (Efron) walks on walls that are literally spinning, and a junkyard scene that is a lot of fun. The best parts of the movie, though, are not the songs, but the quieter character-driven moments.


The first scene that comes to mind appears late in the film, when Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale) discovers that not only has she been duped by her understudy in the school play and replaced in her own role, but also lost the lead role after Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens) returns to take back the role Sharpay took over while Gabriella left the production. This is a pivotal moment in the series because nearly Sharpay’s entire time on-screen has been seen as a selfish, annoying antagonist to Gabriella and Troy. This moment, however, makes us care for her character. We see a side of her not typically shown. Sharpay has been one-upped by someone that is even more of a villain than she could ever be. The cherry on top is when she decides not to back down and deliberately shares the stage with her understudy in a dramatic attempt to win over the audience. The end result is an unforgettable moment.

Troy also experiences similar moments, the first is a two-parter which starts when Troy is shooting hoops outside at night with his father (Bart Johnson). The two share a moment that many can relate to. Troy’s father finds out that Troy has been looking at other college offers when his father thought that he had settled on the one school he had always wanted to go to since childhood: Albuquerque University. Troy fires back at his father before leaving the scene and giving Kevin Bacon in Footloose a run for his money with the iconic song “Scream.”

The moment the song ends is perhaps my favorite scene in the entire film. Troy is on stage wearing his red Wildcats #14 jersey with blue jeans and looks out into the seating to find Ms. Darbus (Alyson Reed) looking back at him. Their touching conversation tugs at the heartstrings and not only reveals Troy discovering his true self, but also makes Ms. Darbus a more sympathetic and well-rounded character.

What makes those dramatic moments work even better is how they are filmed. For the most part, the film has a more mature tone than the first two films and the lighting and cinematography reflect that. There are more night scenes and even indoor scenes that are shot with more shadows and appear more realistic than in the bright and joyous entries before it. The scenes with Troy and Ms. Darbus (Alyson Reed) would likely never exist if the film was made for Disney Channel due to the network being known for family-friendly content, especially geared at a young audience. The same can be said for Sharpay and even Gabriella since their story-arcs take on a more mature approach and delve more into the gray area while still maintaining the magic of their characters from the lighter films beforehand.

That aspect carries over into the musical side of things as well. The larger scale and experimentation with the music itself makes it stand out. There are more musical instruments and styles at play, including more electric guitar and even a jazzy groove during the prom dance number “A Night to Remember.” Plus, the creative choice to have the clothing style reflect and reference the 1980s (as pointed out by my mother when she first saw it) while not sacrificing their modern look is a cool touch of flare as well.


This does not mean the first two entries in the franchise are not solid and memorable, though. Some of my favorite moments in the franchise come from the first two entries, including song numbers such as “I Don’t Dance,” “You Are the Music in Me” (not the Sharpay version, although it is an amusing scene), “Bet on It,” and “Get’cha Head in the Game.” The tone and music played more to a younger audience, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it makes sense for the final theatrical installment to feel more mature since the fans from the first one were older and the characters had grown with their target audience.

It is also interesting to look at how the cast has moved on with their careers. I think everyone knows how Zac Efron has been since his days winning games for the East High Wildcats. He has been in a plethora of comedies – my favorite being 17 Again – and even a few underrated dramas, but I am extremely intrigued to see how he will portray serial killer Ted Bundy in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile.

Vanessa Hudgens has enjoyed a successful career so far as well, doing an incredible job in Grease Live as well as Beastly (a modern spin on the popular Beauty and the Beast story) and Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch. Hudgens headlined the acclaimed Broadway production, Gigi, in 2015 and was also a joy to watch hosting the Grammys last year. She even reunited with longtime friend and co-star Ashley Tisdale on a cover song duet last year.

Corbin Bleu, on the other hand, has taken a different approach to his career. Of course, he is known for his other Disney Channel movie, Jump In, but he has made a name for himself in the world of Broadway with In the Heights, Godspell, and the 2016 Broadway musical, Holiday Inn, The New Irving Berlin Musical. Bleu has also released some original music. His album, Another Side, featured his debut song, “Push It to the Limit,” which hit number 36 on the Billboard Top 200 in 2007. Bleu also competed on Dancing with the Stars last year.

As for the rest of the cast, Tisdale has been a main cast member in both Phineas and Ferb and Hellcats. Lucas Grabeel, who played Sharpay’s brother, was a main cast member on the ABC Family show, Switched at Birth. Monique Coleman, who played Taylor, also competed on Dancing with the Stars, but made her biggest impact as the first UN Youth Champion as well as hosting her online show, Gimme Mo’.

It is also impossible to not mention the tremendous efforts and achievements garnered by Kenny Ortega. Most probably remember him from his days directing films like Newsies, Hocus Pocus, and Michael Jackson’s This Is It, or potentially for leading the choreography in ‘80s films such as St. Elmo’s Fire, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Buehler’s Day Off, and Dirty Dancing. However, he helmed both duties for the entire High School Musical trilogy and brought the final chapter to a visually and emotionally satisfying and fulfilling end – although I do have an interesting take on a future installment with the main cast members.

High School Musical 3: Senior Year might not be the greatest musical ever, but it ends the trilogy on a high note. The franchise launched young careers into stardom, has generations of fans (even the kids from Stranger Things), and will always have a place in pop culture history. It has certainly changed my life and will likely continue to do so for many others for years to come.

High School Musical 3: Senior Year is currently streaming on Netflix.


Pop-Break Staff
Pop-Break Staffhttps://thepopbreak.com
Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.

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