After much tabloid frenzy, the frigid and terrifyingly wholesome tweeny franchise High School Musical reaches part three. It stars Zac Efron, a young fellow of such flawless matinee-idol good looks that he could well have been manufactured in a plastics factory. Set in an immaculately clean Albuquerque high school, the film offers an America of balanced gender quotients, perfect racial mixtures, social conformity, unquestioningly supportive parents, universal teen virginity, gourmet school canteens, universities on tap, prom fixations, detached mini-mansions, plush flowerbeds, alpine vistas and insipid, meaningless pop tunes. Irony is very much on the blacklist. It's the kind of film you imagine we'll all be sat in front of by the future world high commander when we're all brain-drained zombie automatons: Totalitarian Gap Models Sing Pop is what it should be called.
Parents might find solace in the fact that High School Musical contains no product placements, but then the film is the product -- one long, gaudy, squeaky-clean advertisement. And when we leave the cinema, we can expect to be drowned mercilessly by the merchandising tsunami that follows. It's possible that -- for perhaps the first time ever -- you'll actually wish the film had more product placement: just something, anything, to connect it to reality. Indeed, High School Musical 3 is a film that is so disengaged with the real problems faced by young teenagers that it makes Dirty Dancing look like Les Quatre Cents Coups. The bottom line is, if you've not already booked tickets for the entire family, think twice before being caught up in the hype. At best, you'll be disappointed; at worst, you'll want to blow up a high school.