The third and (ideally) the last installment of Walt Disney's High School Musical came to the Philippines late this week in a relatively extreme anticipation from the age group that screamed "we're all in this together!" practicallly three years ago. When the wait for the final cap of the trilogy (I took the liberty of calling this a trilogy as it was comparable to the hit that was LOTR during its time, however, for a much different age bracket) even 'be and I can't wait to see the launch in theaters.
Was it worth the wait? I have to say yes!
I remember buying a pirated version of the first installment in MCS after seeing a bunch of DeVeDe salesladies watching the film's finale which was done on a basketball court. I was actually scouting for a new addition to my Criterion list but, the then-over-rated Kenny Ortega choreography caught my attention. Excited to see this contemporary Musical from Disney, I bought a copy and went home immediately for a Sunday afternoon treat.
But as I munch my Nachos in front of the screen and had my second serving of monay for a then 200 lbs tummy, I gulped my Sprite-full mug wishing to have chosen to be skinned alive than to bear this overly sincere and achingly severe rendition of high school production numbers caught on tape! Talk about an MTV musical!
I'm not againsts this new venture. An MTV-like musical is what this generation needs to give them a new choice in the so-limited genres that we have now. I love theater and I adore the movies; but it's the musicals that I am most passionate about. It's just that when I saw Zach Efron achingly sang his "Start of Something New" with an uneven expression of self-adoration venturing towards a narcistic attack of teenage masochism that's too early, yet too timely for someone with his looks and age. And then we have Vanessa Hudgens, who was relatively cute in the first three parts of the movie, but when it came to her rendition of "When There Was Me And You," I know that that was the end of the long tradition of recitative (sung-through) musical theater, or movie at that!
ALBEIT my initial reaction to the first installment was that it was a trash, lots of those that were in immediate enviroment three years ago found it extremely entertaining. Friends started calling; telling me they have seen the best original musical of the decade! Dozens of pinoy TV shows air their own teenage production numbers of the movie's highlights. Stages, a Philippine -based production outfit, even produced its own stage version of the film that ran in Manila for practically four months!
Oh no! It's not only the Pinoy who got caught in this hullabaloo. Many other countries got the HSM fever early on. Since the movie's initial release Disney Theater Productions initialized HSM on Stage! which is still currently on Tour along with HSM2 on Stage!
So I said, "Fine! Fine!" you like it, but I still don't. Probably it's because of my upbringing and utmost respect to theatrical tradition that is why I decided to scrap the idea of bearing the next big sequel. 'Be watched the second installment. He said it was not as great as the first, which gave me the impression that it was worse than trash. But despite all of this, the same hullabaloo came right on the bucket the second time to prove once again I was wrong.
They decided to make a film for the final BANG!
It was late August when I saw the stand up ad in MOA. I was with 'be and we developed an initial excitement for it. 'Be for being a follower of the series, and me for finding a musical film to look forward to this year. Besides, Efron showcased a bit of an improvement as Link in the 2007 film version of Hairspray.
And so it wasn't a pain-in-the-ass of a film after all. The movie version was a version indeed. Troy Bolton and Gabriella Montez reprised their high school escapades one last time before deciding which way to go to college.
Sharpay Evans (Ashley Tisdale) came back to prove that she's a pure-blooded decendant of All About Eve's Margo Channing when she hired an exchange British-student as her personal assistant (Jemma McKenzie-Brown) who will eventually prove to be like Eve Harrington in the end! But in this day and age when villains are unconventionally packaged as lovable despite their appearances and views, Tisdale effectively manuvered her fans althroughout the film in making them love her til the end.
Ryan Evans (Lucas Gabeel, who have triggered an numerous online discussions about his sexuality due probably to his character portrayal of being a paternal twin to a certified gay icon that is Sharpay Evans) proved once and for all that he's not gay! His continuous links with Kelsi Nielsen (Oleysa Rulin) and their extreme fondness in the arts effectively justifies their connection and forever dismantles any teenage paranoia that the latter is a fag!
The songs (as written by David Lawrence, Robbie Nevil, Shankar Mahadevan and Matthew Gerard) were not as campy as the music of the first two films. They have somehow managed to develop a sense of musicality in respect to recitation and dialogue and connected this development to the maturity of both the characters and their target age bracket. Who would have thought that the initially too painful to bear 'Start of Something New" and "Breaking Free" can be well compensated by an almost Sixeen-Going-on-Seventeen-inspired number in "Can I Have this Dance?" On the other hand, Sharpay and Ryan's "I Want it All" may not be as fantabulous as Gene Kelly's "Broadway Melody" nor Jeromme Robbin's "Mambo Sequence," but can be comparably aligned with the onstage version of Laura Bell Bundey's "What You Want."
The design and cinematography was still as campy as the first two films but it was forgivable. Despite the too-clean shower rooms and the dust-free flower garden on the East High rooftop I found it utterly dispensable since it was a musical.
The only thing that I was not very much comfortable with is that the movie theme came a bit too late. Sharpay, Gabby, Troy and the rest of the gang got too busy dancing and singing, that the morale only managed to get into scene after all were tired from the many projects from both Coach Bolton (Bart Johnson) and Ms. Darbus (Alyson Reed), did the story find its way to its very sense of being. Being teenage film, and a Disney project at that, my expectations grew further as to look forward to what the movie has to say this time. I think that the story failed in this aspect.
Nonetheless, it was a delight seeing the once too young cast of an MTV-like musical that was High School Musical. They have indeed grown up to do this film to my delight and hopefully to the delight of the other too-conservative advocates of musical theater. Disney's timely release of this much awaited project for the young is indeed as timely as the pizza delivery knock on your door just after you finished your chores! It was indeed now or never!