High School Musical 3: The Critic vs. The Kids

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John Bramley / Disney

Olesya Rulin, KayCee Stroh, Britt Stewart, Vanessa Hudgens, and Monique Coleman in High School Musical 3: Senior Year

By Belinda Luscombe

Somebody should develop a ratings system for children's movies that ranks them on a scale of how much they make parents want to put their eyes out. At one end would be Beverly Hills Chihuahua — and I salute every parent who gave selflessly of their time and money so that their children could see dogs in dresses. At the other end would be Wall*E, Spirited Away, or for me, the latter Harry Potter movies — films that you might never have considered seeing sans kids, but if halfway through, your children said they wanted to leave, you'd ignore them.

On that scale, High School Musical 3 is eye watering but requires no retinal sabotage. Except perhaps in the performance of budding comedian Ashley Tisdale, there's not one second of acting worth watching. There's not one line in the script that's not ridiculously predictable. You know that you've reached a new level of obviousness when your 7-year-old daughter says the next line before the actor does.

Still, you cannot help but admire the lavish spectacle of all those young folk singin' and dancin'. The production numbers are huge and tight and innovative. And as a mom, you've got to respect the attempt Disney makes to be decent. Granted, there's nobody ugly in the movie, and I'm not sure why there's only one Latina in a New Mexico high school, but there's (gasp) a fuller-figured girl and everyone's differences are celebrated. The biggest problem anyone seems to have is which basketball scholarship to accept, or whether or not to go to Juilliard, but, well, this is Disney, not Harmony Korine.

Let's face it, though, High School Musical 3 was not made for you. The good folks at Disney could give two figs for what you think of it. (Collecting his two figs after the jump is TIME's film critic Richard Corliss, with his review.) But what about the target audience? How did it play to them? We asked two kids, Zoe Descoteaux, 8, and Ginger Edmiston, 7, of New York City to talk about the movie afterward. Here, with some prompting from mom, are their thoughts.

Z: Were you excited to see High School Musical 3?

G: I was more excited about it than Christmas. Maybe 10% more excited.

G: Who was the best actor in the movie?

Z: Vanessa Hudgens

G: Why?

Z: Because she's nice and sings well.

Z: Was there anything you would have changed?

G: When Gabriella (Hudgens) leaves [East High to go early to Stanford], she didn't leave for long enough. She should have stayed away longer

Z: Did you like the bit when she came back and they were French kissing? [Ed. note: there is no French kissing in this movie.]

G: I liked it but it was also icky. And I was sad because it meant the movie was going to end.

Mom: Did you think anyone was going to die in that movie?

Z: No. It's a musical. And it's for children. If they showed someone dying in a kids' movie, they'd be arrested.

G: What was your favorite scene?

Z: At the end when they graduated. It was so romantic.

Z: What was your favorite scene?

G: When Zac Efron is jumping on Vanessa Hudgens' bed at the end.

Mom: That's the blooper reel. It's not part of the movie.

G: I know. They were just practicing. But it's still the funniest scene.

Z: Would you like to see the movie again?

G: I would say I'd like to see it five more times. Or more. But my mom would only let me see it five more times.

Mom: Who would enjoy this movie?

G: Anyone who saw High School Musical 1 and 2.

Mom: What if they didn't? Would they still like it?

G: Maybe, but they'll never be able to follow it.

Mom: What did you learn from the movie?

G: If you leave school and everyone is counting on you, well, don't.

Mom: Even to go to Stanford University?

G: Yep.

Mom: Hmmm. Anything else?

G: Acting isn't everything and neither is romance.

(Click here for film critic Richard Corliss' review of the original High School Musical movie.)

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