Media Review: High School Musical 3: Senior Year


Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

While it was naive to hope high school would be like “High School Musical,” I realized if there was one thing the franchise got right, it was their interpretation of senior year. “High School Musical 3: Senior Year” portrays the complicated journey seniors face, when trying to figure out what they want in life before entering the real world. 

Jammed into two hours, viewers are brought through the final months of the East High students, focusing on the journey of Troy Bolton (Zac Efron). Saying goodbye isn’t easy, and with time running out, all of the characters grapple with conflicting emotions that encapsulate how all seniors feel. 

Nonetheless, as real as the emotions may be, it wouldn’t be a “High School Musical” movie without the overdramatized sequences. During the song “Now or Never,” Troy is in his final high school basketball game, with 16 minutes left to win the championship. This intense moment is accompanied by lyrics like, “the way we play tonight is what we leave behind,” and “this is the last chance to get it right, history will know who we are.” Cheesy and dramatic as it may seem, this isn’t a rare feeling. Troy and his teammates are simply expressing emotions in their fight with the clock. When the buzzer rings, it marks the end of their high school career, and for Troy, whose future of college basketball is uncertain, this may be Troy’s final time playing basketball. This song encapsulates the heightened emotions felt during final events in your senior year. You can’t help but to think that this is your last time doing something, and you never want to leave. 

In the song “Right Here Right Now,” sweethearts Troy Bolton and Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Hudgens), sing about how they both just want time to stop. From winning the championship game to Gabriella’s early acceptance to Stanford, resulting in an early departure from school, Troy and Gabriella feel like time is slipping through their fingers. With graduation mere months away, it isn’t wrong for them to wish for endless time with one another. Knowing they won’t attend the same college, the two are grasping to any time they can spend together. Choosing to ignore the clock ticking, they imagine a world where they can stay in that moment forever, together. Whether or not one has a significant other, the feeling of wanting to never leave high school is a shared sentiment as you reach graduation.

The climax of the movie arguably contains the most relatable and over-the-top song in the entire “High School Musical” catalog. “Scream” is a song all about Troy’s internal conflict throughout the whole series: singing or basketball? After receiving a possible offer from Julliard, his father pressuring him to play basketball for the University of Albuquerque, and his girlfriend deciding to permanently stay at Stanford until graduation, Troy is clueless about what to do with his life. Angrily running around an empty school while the halls rotate on a stormy night, Troy reaches a turning point in his adolescence: He finally has the power to choose his path, but at what cost? Troy knows he loves basketball, but can not deny his love for theater. He doesn’t want to disappoint his father, but knows he must be true to himself. At this point in the movie, it becomes clear that these characters aren’t ready to graduate. But the show must go on. In the final moments of the film, Troy gives his valedictorian speech, where he announces his decision to attend the University of California at Berkeley, to pursue basketball and theater. Not only this, but it is 32.7 miles away from Gabriella, his girlfriend, who inspires him the most. 

Ultimately, “High School Musical 3” accomplished its goal. While, yes, it is truly amazing to think that Troy and Gabriella are lucky enough to attend colleges so close to one another, it’s unrealistic. And yet, that’s what makes the movie so comforting. As seniors, you can’t help but think about the clock that’s counting down the days until graduation. You reflect on the final memories that you make, the future ahead of you, and contemplate which path you should take. It is, without a doubt, fun to live through these characters vicariously, but there the movie maintains a high level of relatability. “High School Musical 3: Senior Year” is comforting in the sense that even if these moments in your final months of high school aren’t accompanied by a song, you aren’t alone in feeling the way you do. As a senior, this movie is painfully relatable. And just like the seniors in East High, I want the rest of my life to feel just like a high school musical.

It is, without a doubt, fun to live through these characters vicariously, but there the movie maintains a high level of relatability.