Movie Review: High School Musical 3 – The Message

High School Musical 3 has been gaining a lot of attention especially with the youth. The series has been known to be clean, fun and safe to take the family. As a full disclosure, I have never seen a single ones of these movies. However as someone spends a great deal of time mentoring youth, I wanted to take the time to at least read about it. Though it’s rated G, you really don’t know these days. I’ve walked into movies that are pg-13 with very questionable content. Also what I find even more dangerous are the underlying messages of what is right and wrong, what is the norm, a way of thinking… these subtle things have much more of a lasting impact in the way we view our lives and the world.

What you will find in this post has nothing to do with how good the story is or how well the movie was made, just excerpts talking about the messages conveyed in the film. Note these are excerpts from articles or comments I’ve read so it doesn’t mean I necessarily agree with it! I tried not to leave in spoilers, but no promises.

Genre: Musical, Romance, Drama, Dancing, Family
Length: 1 hr. 40 Min
Director: Kenny Ortega
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures
Featuring: Zac Efron, Vanessa Anne Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, Lucas Grabeel, Corbin Bleu, Monique Coleman, Bart Johnson, Olesya Rulin, Chris Warren Jr., Ryne Sanborn, Kaycee Stroh, Alyson Reed, Matt Prokop, Jemma McKenzie-Brown, Justin Martin, Robert Curtis Brown, Raquel Goodsell, Brad Johnson, Noli McCool, David Reivers, Tia Robinson, Leslie Wing

The “Good”:
“those who go into it bracing themselves for yet another coarse film aimed at the “tweener” set will be very pleasantly surprised. The movie is refreshingly clean and free of the angst and weighty themes that Hollywood pushes on younger viewers before they’re ready. Instead, it delivers a very pleasant story set to several catchy pop songs, quickly drawing in viewers and sending them out of the theater happy. In short, High School Musical 3 is a lot of fun—good, clean fun.”

“It’s halftime of the last championship game of the boys’ high school basketball careers, and Troy’s Wildcats are losing. Coach Bolton’s stirring speech about making the most of the last 16 minutes they’ll ever play together establishes the first half of this movie’s premise: Life as this gang knows it is almost over, so they better celebrate what they have.”

“Characters also grapple with weightier issues. Troy’s dad expects Troy to attend the University of Albuquerque and play basketball. Troy’s not so sure, but he doesn’t want to disappoint his pops. “I just want my future to be my future,” he tells Gabriella. It’s the kind of uneasy struggle that lots of real-life families deal with as children become adults, and at first Troy makes the mistake of keeping his indecision secret. But Troy and his father eventually navigate the matter well.”

“HSM3 salutes friendship, family, responsibility and opportunity. It embraces the idea of dreaming big—a time-honored Disney theme that, in other movies, can sometimes feel a tad irresponsible. But here, wishing upon a star is tempered by the onrushing reality of adulthood. “Maybe I don’t see life as a ball game anymore, man,” Troy tells best friend Chad.”

“The main message was to reach for the stars and your dreams. Don’t be anyone else but yourself. As Ms. Darbus the Drama Teacher (Alyson Reed) says, “It is far easier to play a role on stage then to be yourself in life.” Slowly throughout this movie we see each character break out of their shell or stereotype to be the person they were created to be.”

“Also prominent in the movie is taking this time for now. We hear this repeatedly in the movie. ‘This is last time to do this right! Now or never!’ The lyrics sing. ‘Now is the best time to find yourself. Not in ten years.’ “

“Troy must chose between his father’s desires for his life and his own. How should a young adult make those kinds of choices? Does “honoring your parents” mean living their plans for your life?”

“A recurring theme in all the HSM movies is that people can break out of their cliques (jock, brainiac, athlete, etc.) and have other aspects to their personalities. Do you ever feel restricted by people’s perceptions of you? Is there a talent or interest you need to encourage in yourself or in a friend?”

“In terms of modesty, I thought the swimsuits were great. No itty bittys. “Gabriella” and some of the other s all have regular figures. I thought that was very good to see. It seems so many of today’s young actresses are stick thin and let all their parts hang out of everything. I thought the whole message was wholesome and meaningful. Troy chose to pass up the big money and hopes of scholarships to remain true to himself. It seems that Ryan and Sharpay got their comeuppance in this movie. Just because one has lots of money and things doesn’t mean that they get everything. Sometimes hard work does pay off.”

No Sex/Nudity/Profanity/Drugs

The “Bad”:
“The costumes are perhaps a tad more revealing than they are in the first two High School Musicals, with girls occasionally showing a significant amount of leg, a bit of cleavage and a sliver of midriff. A couple of guys race through the school wearing only towels, and Troy takes off his shirt. Dances are generally restrained, but can sometimes be a tad sultry—largely on par with previous outings. The camera zooms in on Sharpay’s rear as she walks down the halls of East High, with the brief scene bracketed by shots of swooning underclassmen.”

“Other than having your girls go gaga over lead star Zac Efron, the only potential concern parents might have is one of the outfits worn by Gabriella.”

“Gabriella shares a pizza with Troy in her bedroom, apparently without Gabriella’s mother’s knowledge. (In an outtake, actor Zac Efron hams it up on the bed by pretending that he’s going to pounce on a giggling Vanessa Hudgens.) They share a brief kiss along with a platter of chocolate-covered strawberries.”

“This film includes a picnic scene between Troy and Gabriella in her bedroom. At one point, he feeds her strawberries, which could be considered sensual. Also, you and your kids will see some skin. Zac Efron takes off his shirt at one point and Vanessa Hudgens and Monique Coleman show quite a bit of leg in a few dance numbers.”

“There’s an entire song called “Fabulous” devoted to celebrating materialism and money….not a very healthy self-image messages being sent to the middle-school demographic who, unlike these characters, probably don’t frolic at a country club all summer!

“We see Sharpay walking down the hall from the back and a bunch of boys fainting. One of the lines of a song is ‘Dancing to impress a boy.‘ We see Troy change shirts.”

(Gabriella and Troy) are hard working and honest, but they’re still “top-of-the-school” at something: sports, brains, and good looks. It’s still sending that message that only the prettiest, smartest, and most talented kids deserve each other. Everyone else is just a “supporting role”!”

End of Quotes

Parting Thoughts

So what do I think? No clue, haven’t seen it. I am glad there seems to be an overwhelming consensus that this is a clean movie especially as it is very popular with the younger crowd. However our standards of what is “clean” has changed dramatically in the last 5-10 years. It is easy to see the “Bad” list here and think that people are overreacting or that their comments are too critical. However I see that as the first sign of how our general view of what is proper and not proper has changed so much over time and how little we consider the serious impact these scenes have on what we view to be the norm.

The perfect example is the scene where the guy and girl are together in her bedroom. Even the mere glimpse of that scene paints it as something not taboo, but as something very ordinary. When people, especially 8-15 years olds see this, they won’t even begin to notice how much it effects the way they will view such a situation in the future. Younger kids will soak it in blindly. Older kids may see such a scene as something perhaps slightly improper, but if you see it happening over and over again, before you know it isn’t that big of a deal. Do you think it’s harmless? Go ahead put your young daughter in the bedroom with a guy and let’s see how how long you’ll hold onto that claim.

Even more subtle is the ever present theme of love. That high school boyfriend girlfriend story. Everyone has to have one. Love is the big thing that gives life meaning. Teenagers envy those who have one and all desire one. What made this to be true? What does this movie add to that picture?

Alright I hope this helps you get an idea of the various themes and messages of this movie and know what to watch out for. I would normally discuss a specific message or a write about some “norm” the movie portrays, but since I haven’t seen the movie itself i’ll leave it at that.

If you’ve seen the movie or have thoughts about some of the quotes above please comment below!

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  1. I agree with you and am surprised. I watched this film with my children and was very alarmed at the subtle messages that were being suggested. I came online to see if there were other people walking away with the same impressions of materialism, consumerism “I want it all,” unrealistic ideals for teens, and so on. I am even more alarmed that after some searching your honest account here is the only real challenge I’ve seen to the message this film is portraying. Very disappointing.

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