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Film / High School Musical 3: Senior Year

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"High school musical... who says we have to let it go?"

"Once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat!"
Troy Bolton

High School Musical 3: Senior Year is the third installment in the High School Musical franchise, following High School Musical 2. Directed by Kenny Ortega and premiering on October 24, 2008, it's the first (and thus far only) theatrically released sequel to a Disney Channel Original Movie.

The cast are now high school seniors, and college anxiety has begun to set in. Fresh off leading the Wildcats to victory in the championship, basketball captain Troy (Zac Efron) doesn't know what he's doing for college, and fears being separated from his brainy girlfriend Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens), who has been accepted on early admission to Stanford. Meanwhile, Ms. Darbus (Alyson Reed) and Kelsi (Olesya Rulin) have signed everyone up for this year's school play, a musical that focuses on the graduating seniors called Senior Year, and Ms. Darbus announces that four students are being considered for a Juilliard scholarship — Troy, Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale), her brother Ryan (Lucas Grabeel), and Kelsi. Sharpay schemes to come out on top, leading to a senior year that's sure to be unforgettable.

The film, like its predecessors, was hugely successful, its opening weekend even besting Saw V.

Tropes in this film:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Jimmie to Sharpay. Unlike the other underclassmen who find her attractive, Jimmie actually approaches and flirts with her, much to her annoyance and a sudden allergy to his cologne.
  • An Aesop: It's okay to be afraid of change.
  • Age Cut: Towards the end of "The Boys Are Back", at one point Troy and Chad become their younger selves.
  • Almost Kiss: As in the first two films, Troy and Gabriella move in for a kiss but are interrupted by someone or something.
  • Award-Bait Song: While all 11 were recognized as eligible for the Best Original Song category that year, the standouts are often considered "Right Here, Right Now", "I Want It All", "Can I Have This Dance" and the song that played in the credits: "Just Getting Started".
  • Birds of a Feather: Ryan and Kelsi bond over composing and choreographing the musical together. They are two of the sweetest, most easygoing characters, and were previously bullied by Sharpay.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Tiara positions herself as the perky Girl Friday to Sharpay, but eventually betrays her during the musical.
  • Call-Back: Sharpay's leitmotif on her entrance is "Fabulous" from 2, and Gabriella's ringtone is "Everyday", also from 2.
  • Continuity Nod: The only way to explain Sharpay forgetting the date of the big game- it's an in-joke referencing her first line in the first film.
  • Dance of Romance: "Can I Have This Dance", a big love number where Gabriella teaches Troy the waltz.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Ryan of all people is now snarky when dealing with Sharpay.
    Sharpay: I heard Kelsi is writing something amazing for Troy and Gabriella.
    Ryan: A song most likely.
  • Distant Duet: "Right Here, Right Now (Reprise)", only present in the extended version, has Troy in his treehouse and Gabriella on her balcony.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Jimmie gets caught by a hall monitor and starts to complain about Sharpay walking right past him.
    "Hey, what about her— Hey."
  • Elite School Means Elite Brain: Gabriella, the "freaky genius girl", has conflicts with her attendance at Stanford to study law and also trying to finish up her last bit of high school.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Sharpay's dreams of fame and success stop at being on Oprah.
  • Everyone Must Be Paired: Every member of the core cast winds up with a love interest by the end. There is Troy and Gabriella as the Official Couple and Chad and Taylor as their Beta. Then Sharpay, who seems interested in Troy in 1, ends up dating Zeke because she fell in love with his amazing cookies. Ryan, who is seen as Ambiguously Gay for the first two gets paired up with Kelsi, who had a brief Ship Tease with Jason in 1. Jason is not left out in the dust, however, as he hooks up with Martha.
  • Evil Brit: Tiara is explicitly British, and also plots to take over the drama club.
  • Funny Background Event: During Troy and Gabriella's rehearsal of "Just Wanna Be with You", Chad suddenly enters the set in a clown costume, sending Ryan into peals of laughter while the duet continues.
  • Grand Finale: The final number closes the curtains on the East High cast for good, Sharpay's standalone spinoff notwithstanding.
  • Happily Married: Troy's parents. Watching them happy together only makes him more miserable about being separated from Gabriella.
  • High-School Dance: Subverted: there is prom buildup—so much so that an entire song is devoted to it in the Senior Year musical... then Gabriella leaves early. Troy winds up spending prom night in California with her (as opposed to the initial New Mexico setting), and the actual dance is confined to a single Imagine Spot (reprising "Can I Have This Dance"). The film's actual climax is at the musical performance.
  • High School Rocks: The final song should give you a clue:
    The best of times, so why leave them behind?
    Why can't the rest of my life be like my
    High School Musical
    Who says we have to let it go?
    It's the best part we've ever known
  • High-School Sweethearts: Although there's Troy/Gabriella, Chad/Taylor, Kelsi/Jason (in 1 and 2), and Kelsi/Ryan and Jason/Martha (in 3), most of the couples are implied to be pretty casual. Chad even admits that with him and Taylor going to different colleges, he doesn't plan on taking the girl with him after high school. Troy and Gabriella are the only pair who explicitly intend to stick it out after graduation.
  • Honey Trap: Ryan, on Sharpay's orders, flirts with Kelsi so Sharpay can get a song in the musical.
  • Identity Breakdown: With girlfriend Gabriella choosing to go to Stanford early (essentially breaking up with Troy over the phone) and his family Chad pressuring him to take a basketball scholarship at a university nearby, Troy snaps. His song "Scream" features him running around the empty halls of his school at night, singing about how lost he feels, the voices of others inside his head telling him what to do, repeating different Madness Mantras (or Survival Mantras depending on how far gone you think he is) and, fittingly, closing with a Cathartic Scream. Lucky for him, Psychologist Teacher Darbus witnessed the entire thing and offers him some words of advice.
  • "I Want" Song: Straightforwardly, "I Want It All", where Sharpay sings about wanting fame and fortune.
  • Imagine Spot: A couple but the most notable is Sharpay and Ryan's "I Want It All", where the cafeteria dissolves into a stage and the other cast members work for/are fans of the twins (Troy is a fanboy for Sharpay, Jason and Chad are their bodyguards, Kelsi is a taxi driver, Zeke a bartender, Gabriella a maid, etc.)
  • Initiation Ceremony: Troy and Chad haze underclassmen Jimmie and Donny by stealing their clothes and sending them on a chase throughout the school, ending in the auditorium.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: Of the main characters, Gabriella goes to Stanford, Taylor to Yale, Troy to Berkeley, and Ryan and Kelsi to Juilliard.
  • Junior Counterpart: Senior Year introduces three new underclassmen, Jimmie, Donny, and Tiara, who are basically recreations of Troy, Chad, and Sharpay, and were intended to continue the franchise.
  • Pair the Spares: Kelsi was briefly paired with Jason at the end of the first film, and appears to still be together in the sequel, even though the relationship is never explicitly shown on-screen. When the plot requires Kelsi to be paired with Ryan in Senior Year, Jason is somehow already hooked up with Martha.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Since much of the audience doesn't buy that Ryan is supposed to be straight, this is how his relationship with Kelsi is viewed given the two are clearly very close friends who work very well together and both are about to attend Julliard with the other as well.
  • Product Placement: A Sprite can is briefly seen.
  • Psychologist Teacher: Darbus counsels Troy about choosing between basketball and theatre.
  • Self-Backing Vocalist: In "Walk Away", Gabriella is the only character visible on screen for most of the scene, but there's a full chorus singing backup.
  • Senior Year Struggles: The protagonists are now in their last year of high school and are now worrying about college applications. Homecoming is also a major plot point. Sweethearts Troy and Gabriella are also grappling with the potential of a long-distance relationship.
  • Show Within a Show: The film features a stage production leading up to the perfect prom.
  • Softer and Slower Cover: "We're All in This Together (Graduation Version)", a slower and more poignant version of the first film's upbeat "We're All in This Together". It plays in the background during graduation.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Not so much with a romantic intent but Jimmie's attachment to Troy is more than unsettling. Troy is very aware, even diverting Jimmie's attention to Sharpay.
  • Strolling Through the Chaos: "Now or Never" sees Troy walking straight through the middle of a basketball court, singing, without being intercepted; he even catches a pass and travels with it before passing it on, still singing.
  • Sweet and Sour Grapes: While Kelsi wins the Juilliard scholarship, the representatives were so impressed with Ryan and his choreography that they offered him a scholarship in dance as well.
  • Take a Third Option: Troy is torn between pursuing basketball at the University of Albuquerque and theatre at Juilliard. He picks Berkeley where he can do both, and stay closer to Gabriella.
  • Title Drop:
    • The final number is titled, perfectly, "High School Musical".
    • The movie's subtitle is the title of the play:
    Ms. Darbus: We'll call it: "Senior Year"!
    Sharpay: Genius.
  • Twerp Sweating: Referenced in the lyrics to "A Night to Remember" as the guys go to pick up their prom dates and the girls' father gives them a crushing handshake.
    Don't know why her father's staring me down!
  • Vocal Dissonance: Efron and Bleu's singing comes from the child actors playing their younger selves in "The Boys Are Back".