High School Musical cereal Kellogg's Rating: Two spoons out of four
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Cereal description: Round-cornered corn-and-oat stars evenly split between a robust yellowish-brown and a ripe red -- and all of them are speckled with white sugar pustules seemingly ready to erupt with sweetness. It's a look that raises expectations soon to be crushed.
Box description: The words "High School Musical" shine like a movie marquee -- appropriate since High School Musical 3: Senior Year, the latest entry in the series (can't quite bring myself to use the term "trilogy" in this context) is set to hit theaters on Friday, October 24. Several stars shoot away from the words, like shrapnel from an exploding planet, while four Musical stars beam behind a bowl of the stuff, with the size of their images corresponding to their positioning in the credits: Vanessa Hudgens and an especially cherubic Zac Efron appear about twice as large as bright-blond Ashley Tisdale and adroable Corbin Bleu, his coiled mop of hair making him look like a new cleaning tool designed to get stubborn dirt out of hard-to-reach corners. The Kellogg's and Disney logos appear near the top of the cover, while a small slogan describes the stuff inside as "Sweetened, Vanilla-Flavored Cereal Packed with Star Power!" That's followed by a small addendum: "Artificially Flavored." (There's a shocking surprise.) Opposite the nutrition panel is a recipe for "Mix 'N Munch," a snack that also employs another Kellogg's cereal, Crispix (clever!) and gives diners options to add the "favorite munchies" of assorted Musical students at fictional East High to the blend; for instance, "CHAD goes for the fun, tasty twist of Mini Pretzels!" There's also a "Breakfast 101" quiz in which every question about eating a good breakfast is true. That East High curriculum is mighty tough. The "Brain Teasers" on the back of the box are more difficult for the average person, but not for the generation of teens addicted to the High School Musical brand. Everyone knows that Troy got a detention in home room over a cell-phone call, and that Ryan, not Troy, said, "For 40 bucks, I'd caddy for Godzilla." Jeez!
Taste: Here's where it all comes apart. Visually, High School Musical cereal resembles a star-shaped version of Cap'n Crunch with Crunch Berries, except with extra sugar. Omigod! Sounds like a tastegasm! Unfortunately, it turns out to be anything but, as I should have known by the up-front mention of vanilla. The recent prevalence of that flavor has resulted in cereals that are milder than in the glory days, as if the current generation can't handle the super-sweetness enjoyed by their breakfasting forebears -- a premise I don't accept. I have faith in the sweet tooths of current American youth, and those who measure up will find these bits to be bland, almost flavorless. Every once in a while, a little wave of sugariness will surface, but it's like a phantom limb -- not really there.
Conclusion: Indiana Jones Chocolate Cereal with Marshmallows turned out to be better than the movie it was created to promote, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Maybe that means High School Musical 3 will be a work of genius as well as an enormous popular success, seeing as how this crunchy tie-in is so mediocre. Wouldn't bet the box office on it, though. -- Michael Roberts