Box-Office Revenge: Taking a Saw to "High School Musical"

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Help! I'm having fantasies of Jigsaw, the villain in the Saw franchise, hacking up the cast of High School Musical 3: Senior Year, preferably before each caffeinated teenager begins a new musical number. I have nothing against G-rated movies — WALL-e was terrific. But HSM3 appears to be populated by pod people denuded of all the flaws that make us human. Sure, I'd advocate kids to be like the teens in HSM3, but only until they're eight years old. Originality is as absent here as sex. It's all white teeth and pink gums attacking us with broad smiles, flashing limbs and bland music. It's perkiness as a weapon of mass destruction. Night of the Living Dead isn't this terrifying. And here's the real scary part:

HSM3 had a whopping opening weekend, grossing $42 million, the fattest debut ever for a musical, beating even the $29 million debut record set this summer by the almost as awful Mamma Mia! What's that all about? We're being invaded people, by sugar shock set to music. And don't tell me that it's not all sweetness and light at the multiplex. Yes, the R-rated Saw 5 pulled in an impressive $30 million against the twinkle-toed teens. But Saw 5 is also crap, sucking it's wornout franchise to the dregs.

Look, it's no surprise that crap sells. Beverly Hills Chihuahua keeps raking in the coin. So does Eagle Eye and Max Payne while the risky likes of Body of Lies, W. and Flash of Genius die of loneliness at the multiplex. I've heard it said that in times of economic recession, we all want escapism. My question is: Why can't the escapism be good?

HSM3, preceded by two TV movies, isn't cinema, it's a business enterprise whose evil spawn includes bestselling soundtrack albums, DVDs, videogames, costumes, bedding, backpacks, party kits, dinner plates, pajamas, sold-out concert tours and even High School Musical on ice. Here everything drowns in the marshmallow of songs that sound like boy band rejects, frantic choreography that looks not ready for summer stock and dialoque that states the obvious with a real sense of discovery as when Troy (Zac Efron) brings girlfriend Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens) on stage for a big number: "You might be ready to leave East High, but East High isn't ready to say goodbye to you." I couldn't say goodbye fast enough. Ay, Chihuahua!

Am I wrong? Someone told me to think hard about the good things in HSM3. All I could come up with is Zac Efron, who seems to have talent as a singer, dancer and actor. But those gifts are easier to see in Hairspray and the upcoming Me and Orson Welles.

So it's up to you. Tell me what you like about HSM3, and why you don't want to see Jigsaw carve it to pieces?

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