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High School Musical 3: Senior Year Extended Edition DVD Review

High School Musical 3 movie poster High School Musical 3: Senior Year

Theatrical Release: October 24, 2008 / Running Time: 117 Minutes (Theatrical Cut: 112 Minutes) / Rating: G

Director: Kenny Ortega / Writer: Peter Barsocchini

Cast: Zac Efron (Troy Bolton), Vanessa Hudgens (Gabriella Montez), Ashley Tisdale (Sharpay Evans), Lucas Grabeel (Ryan Evans), Corbin Bleu (Chad Danforth), Monique Coleman (Taylor McKessie), Bart Johnson (Coach Jack Bolton), Alyson Reed (Ms. Darbus), Olesya Rulin (Kelsi Nielsen), Chris Warren, Jr. (Zeke Baylor), Ryne Sanborn (Jason Cross), Kaycee Stroh (Martha Cox), Matt Prokop (Jimmie Zara), Justin Martin (Donny Dion), Jemma McKenzie-Brown (Tiara Gold), Jessica Tuck (Mrs. Evans), Robert Curtis Brown (Mr. Evans), David Reivers (Mr. Danforth), Leslie Wing Pomeroy (Mrs. Bolton), Socorro Herrera (Mrs. Montez), Yolanda Wood (Mrs. Danforth)

Songs: "Now or Never", "Right Here, Right Now", "I Want It All", "Can I Have This Dance", "A Night to Remember", "Just Wanna Be With You", "The Boys are Back", "Walk Away", "Scream", "Last Chance", "We're All in This Together (Graduation Mix)", "High School Musical"

Buy High School Musical 3: Senior Year from Amazon.com:
2-Disc Extended Edition DVD • 1-Disc Theatrical Cut DVD • 3-Disc Deluxe Extended Edition Blu-ray/DVD Combo • 3-DVD Pack • DVD Trilogy Set • Blu-ray Trilogy Set


On October 9, 1983, after six months on the air, the Disney Channel premiered Tiger Town, its first original movie. I don't expect you to remember that Roy Scheider/Justin Henry baseball drama nor many of the 121 Disney Channel Original Movies that have followed it. Though the station and its governing studio invested in the format, delivering a new family film up to six times a year, the marketplace changed over time. In the late-1990s, a new kind of Disney Channel TV movie was born. More comedic, fantastic, and geared toward teens/tweens, the later output (sometimes dubbed "DCOMs") often didn't even make it to home video. Still, the inexpensive, easy-to-market productions were just about guaranteed to debut to modest press and viewership before being forgotten by most in a few months' time.

In January 2006, something created essentially as just the next Disney Channel movie would go on to wildly defy the established life and audience expectancy for its class. High School Musical became the closest thing we have to a bona fide television phenomenon in these times of countless competing home mediums.
The cable telemovie shattered nearly every record in the book. Making news with each feat, the much-embraced musical spawned an entire empire of merchandise and made celebrities out of its leading actors, who were largely unknown before. August 2007 brought everyone back for a no-brainer sequel and even with considerable success now expected, the reception was extraordinary. With the second movie briefly registering as the most-watched cable broadcast of all-time, Disney would have been financial fools to stop things there.

Realizing they had an entity of unusual popularity, the company logically looked to dial things up for the third outing. Why limit yourself to non-commercial cable when an audience of 17 million can equal much more than just entertainment section headlines? Instead of, say, making the third movie a primetime event on company network ABC, Disney had even bigger hopes for the franchise. And so, a week before last Halloween, cinemas in North America and parts of Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America became the exclusive home of High School Musical 3: Senior Year.

Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) leads an East High Wildcats comeback while singing his way through his final high school basketball game. Troy and Gabriella (real-life Zanessa couple Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens) pose for what appears to be a paperback cover called "Treehouse Romance."

We begin Senior Year in the final basketball game of the season for the Wildcats of East High School. Though plenty behind at halftime, the team stages a formidable comeback in a match that inevitably goes down to the wire. That's not remotely surprising but the fact that the hardwood court houses song and dance
in addition to dribbling and shooting may be unexpected for the uninitiated. That's just how life is at East High, where flamboyant, veiny-armed Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) rules school. Troy is the center of attention, perhaps somewhat undeservingly, in the ensuing win and celebration. With a second championship out of the way, the seniors of East High can turn their attentions to other pressing matters, such as the prom, their futures, and -- above all -- the final school play.

In the unlikely event this review serves as your introduction to or refresher on this franchise, let me quickly bring you up to speed on the principals. Musically inclined Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Anne Hudgens) remains Troy's main squeeze. Troy's best friend Chad Danforth (Corbin Bleu) shares his passion for roundball and has a curly, bouncy afro. Across the divide bridged by Troy's conflicting interests are the theatre kids. Most prominent among them are Sharpay Evans (Ashley Tisdale), a spotlight-craving diva, and her curious fraternal twin Ryan (Lucas Grabeel). Other classmates have backstories but maintain a secondary presence, including Chad's racially compatible love interest Taylor (Monique Coleman), bespectacled composer Kelsi (Olesya Rulin), and hefty cheerleader Martha (Kaycee Stroh).

Busy with the various obligations that come with graduating secondary school, few of the students are willing to make time for the drama department's final production. But to spare the Albuquerque area a one-Sharpay show, they sign up for what moderator/director Ms. Darbus (Alyson Reed) reveals will be an original musical about the students and their lives. That narcissistic concept allows the movie to blur the line between stage and reality while addressing such provocative questions as, "Will Troy and Gabriella part ways now that she's destined for Stanford?", "Will Taylor agree to attend prom with Chad?", and "Will somebody finally come out of the closet already?"

Actually, that third question is neglected, as is anything else which might hold some genuine relevance for those graduating high school in 2009. Instead, the sequel keeps things as light, frothy, and tame as its two predecessors. Sure, Troy and Chad sexually harass a couple of underclassmen, but it's for laughs. Meanwhile, that British exchange student (Jemma McKenzie-Brown) who so benevolently applies to be Sharpay's personal assistant has something up her sleeve. And Troy and Gabriella must learn to neither hold onto nor abandon high school romance, but instead alternately entertain the two ideas in expectation of a truly unpredictable ending.

Theatrical twins Ryan (Lucas Grabeel) and Sharpay Evans (Ashley Tisdale) waste no time getting dramatic, with the film's lavish third number "I Want It All." In front of an excited cafeteria, Chad Danforth (Corbin Bleu) asks Taylor to the prom. Like anyone would say no to someone wearing a Greenster t-shirt.

As you can probably tell, I'm unimpressed by High School Musical 3 and with the entire franchise it represents. That said, I can acknowledge a few mildly redeeming features. For one thing, it's pretty harmless. Sure, these movies miss an opportunity to deal with any real issue faced by today's teens. But there is no shortage of other properties covering that ground from CW dramas to the occasional earnest film to bizarre fare like Canada's "Degrassi" institution. The High School musicals have every right to paint a purely fantasized version of adolescence and the massive audience response confirms the viability of such approach. Clearly, younger children rank among the series' most ardent fans and may largely prefer this depiction to more mature, authentic, and inane treatments, should they be aware of such works.

There is also the exposure this may provide to the movie musical, a rich old art form largely deemed passι until recent years. I'm not naοve enough to think that those liking these movies will unhesitatingly proceed to discover cinema's classic musicals. But there's far less danger of charmed viewers graduating to worse ones. Even if the comparisons lead only a few kids to see Grease, some good has been done.

The songs and stagings of High School Musical 3 are not terrible. I can't say they're memorable, but those who helped the soundtrack follow its predecessors to Platinum certification will surely disagree. At least the performers bring charisma to the work and the pop stylings never opt for a sound other than the most widely-acceptable one. When it comes to HSM, everything is played safe.

With a leap to the big screen, this third installment does bring an increase in production values. Although the reported $11 million production budget puts this among Hollywood's least expensive wide releases, it marks a steady rise from the previous two (which themselves climbed above the Disney Channel's standard seemingly six-figure costs) and it shows. The visuals and design do appear to have been stepped up for cinemas. While it might look better, I'm not sure it plays any better. And why would it, with the same writer (Peter Barsocchini), director (Kenny Ortega), and unpolished cast on board? These are folks who just three short years ago were lucky to be getting basic cable work and, aside from Efron's Hairspray break, haven't added any notable outside experience to their rιsumιs.

That shows too. Some of the most banal writing, generic messages, feeble transitions, and uncertain deliveries can be found here. Those types of things were unremarkable when closely following fare like Kyle Massey's Life is Ruff and the Mowry Sisters' Twitches. On an Oscar-campaigned, globally-premiered, headline-claiming project like this, however, they give the air of an amateur fad that time will soon forget.

The boys (Corbin Bleu, Zac Efron) are back indeed and tougher than ever with their rolled up sleeves and bandanna. The students of East High don bright, interesting fashions in their first faux prom number, "A Night to Remember."

High School Musical 3 grossed over $90 million domestically and another $156 M overseas. Those numbers are amazing when you consider the modest budget and the bizarre fact that it follows two basic cable movies. At the same time, one can't help but wonder if Disney and Hollywood expected a little more out of such a believed cultural behemoth.
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After all, if only the 17 million Americans who caught HSM2 in its TV debut paid the average national ticket price of $7.20 just once and no one else did at all, this would have earned over $120 M in the US. Still, the film's profits were some of the industry's easiest and least usual. The $42 M opening weekend sum will also long stand as one of October's highest.

The movie has been foreseen as a potent enough seller to warrant three popular home video editions on which to debut. A standard-single disc DVD ($29.99 SRP) includes just one short bonus feature, but it is the only way to get the original theatrical cut. Likely more attractive to fans is the subject of this review, the Extended Edition DVD ($34.99 SRP) which is a 2-disc set counting a digital copy DVD-ROM. Those with a Blu-ray player who are no doubt willing to spend a little more on their movies may instead opt for the Deluxe Extended Edition ($39.99 SRP), which serves up a Blu-ray disc alongside the Extended Edition DVD and digital copy ROM.

I can proudly confess I didn't see High School Musical 3 in theaters, so I can't personally judge how this extended cut compares to the one shown in theaters. But from what I read, there are two tiny additions: 1) a 40-second dinner scene with the Danforth and Bolton families and 2) a subsequent reprise of "Right Here, Right Now" (not to be confused with the Jesus Jones or Fatboy Slim songs of the same name) that Troy and Gabriella sing separately yet together from their respective tree house and porch. I'm all for preserving original theatrical cuts, but I can't pretend to care on something like this and I doubt many will be upset.

Buy High School Musical 3: Senior Year Extended Edition DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish),
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: February 17, 2009
Two single-sided discs (1 DVD-9, 1 DVD-5 DVD-ROM)
Suggested Retail Price: $34.99
Black Keepcase with Side Snaps in
Embossed, Holographic Cardboard Slipcover
Also available in 1-Disc Theatrical Cut DVD,
3-Disc Deluxe Extended Edition Blu-ray/DVD Combo,
3-DVD Pack, DVD Trilogy Set, and Blu-ray Trilogy Set

VIDEO and AUDIO

At last, the United States gets a High School Musical movie on DVD in widescreen. While the Disney Channel predecessors were framed for both common television aspect ratios, Senior Year was composed first and foremost for widescreen theatrical exhibition. That's all that both the extended and theatrical DVD editions care to preserve, chalking up a victory for 21st century common sense and a small loss for consistency. There are no issues with the clean, sharp, vibrant picture quality. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack seems a bit simple for something with the word "music" in its title, but the compositions and other elements are nonetheless crisp and full.

Sharpay's personal assistant Tiara Gold (Jemma McKenzie-Brown) seems plenty proud of her British nationality in this deleted scene where she claims a double-wide locker. Surprised by Troy's replacement Jimmie "Rocketman" Zara (Matt Prokop), Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale) ever so slightly changes the lyrics in "Just Wanna Be With You", as the sing-along subtitles reflect. The girls of HSM3 rehearse their dance moves in the Prom featurette "Night of Nights."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Despite being made available in a premium version from the get-go, High School Musical 3 doesn't match the supplemental weight of the two-disc editions given the first two movies. That's pretty much a given, though, since this set needs the disposable digital copy platter to count to two discs.

Perhaps most exciting for fans is the first inclusion,
a section of eight deleted scenes. Giving us more of the supporting characters, the short moments aren't necessarily inferior but have a throwaway feel. The group runs just 6 minutes and 30 seconds and that includes a standard collective introduction by director Kenny Ortega.

"Out of Sync: HSM 3 Bloopers" (2:45) gives us a none too entertaining reel of actor hijinks, painless falls, and ad libs. That it needs music throughout underscores the slight value.

Under Music & More, we get two ways to turn the film into a karaoke experience. "Sing Along with the Movie" lets you activate playback with an animated subtitle track that provides just song lyrics. "Song Selection" does the same but showing you only the 18 musical performances with lyrics, or whichever one of them you choose.

Ashley Tisdale and Chris Warren, Jr. discuss their characters' matching pink prom outfits in "It's All in the Dress." Vanessa and Zac are among those discussing the overstated end of an era in "Cast Goodbyes." Bunny ears, a BFF, and a nearby Sharpie (not Sharpay) help sell the main menu's animated yearbook design.

Last but not least, three Backstage Disney featurettes are divided into "Prom" and "Graduation" sections.

"Night of Nights" (7:25) lets the cast sound off about Prom Night in real life and the film's two prom musical numbers ("A Night to Remember" on stage and the waltz "Can I Have This Dance?"). It includes rehearsal and behind-the-scenes footage. "It's All in the Dress" (2:30) discusses all of the leads' prom attire and how it reflects the characters.

"Cast Goodbyes" (5:40) adds to the overlong celebrations of the film's final act.
The emotional chatter about the end of an era is fairly ridiculous when you consider the actors have probably spent more time assembled for group promotion than for the brief shooting stretches. I guess the unspoken truth is that the curtains may be closing not only on characters but on young careers. This is the only bonus feature that also appears on the standard theatrical cut DVD.

The disc loads with Disney and Disney Blu-ray promos; trailers for Pinocchio: Platinum Edition, Race to Witch Mountain, Schoolhouse Rock! Earth, and Bedtime Stories; and a Disney Movie Rewards spot. The gymnasium-set Sneak Peeks menu adds previews for Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Bolt, Air Bud: Special Edition, and Disney XD.

Par for DisneyFile, the second disc here holds a digital copy of the film's extended cut and that's it. The disc will do nothing on a set-top player, but in a DVD-ROM-equipped computer drive, it triggers a menu for activation. The digital copy is contained in both PC (Windows Media Player) and portable (iTunes) formats, but you'll only get to transfer one. (The iTunes compatibility was deemed important enough to apparently commission a small, unprecedented sticker to correct the rear cover's initial omission.) The digital copy expires one year from street date, at which point the disc becomes worthless for all.

The main menu earns creativity points for its page-turning animated yearbook design. The rest of the selection screens give us static variations on the same idea, while looped instrumental excerpts abound.

Making sure the DVD stands out in stores, Disney's obligatory cardboard slipcover adds liberal amounts of embossing and holography to the mostly duplicated artwork beneath it. Inside the standard-width keepcase, one finds two booklets. Smaller but thicker is an expectedly diverse gathering of ads. The other 4-pager combines information on Disney Movie Rewards and DisneyFile, providing a single unique code for both venues.

Troy asks Gabriella to the prom on the high school rooftop garden, where meteorologists are predicting a sudden artsy sunshower. "High School Musical 3" ends with the six designated leads posing before the HSM title logo for iconic, nostalgic purposes.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

High School Musical 3 is a noteworthy entity, as probably the apex of Disney's behemoth franchise and one of the only cases in which a line of TV movies made it to theaters. But despite increases in effort, budget, and filming schedule,
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this sequel doesn't become something different, special, or worthy of all the attention it's gotten. There are worse things out there that kids could find fun. Like its predecessors, though, this flimsy, overstretched production doesn't deserve to be remembered as anything better than a pop culture curiosity that somehow managed to capture lightning in a bottle for a previously-underserved audience.

While Disney has immediately put out multiple versions for the taking, I don't think there's any way that this Extended Edition DVD will be the ultimate, definitive High School Musical 3 release. Of course, if you're crazy enough to want every HSM3 bonus feature available, I doubt you'd want to wait to acquire the movie. But chances are such completists will be tempted to repurchase the film at some point when it gets the inevitable individual or box set upgrade. Still, most will find this release adequate.

Buy High School Musical 3: Senior Year from Amazon.com:
2-Disc Extended DVD / 1-Disc Theatrical DVD / Blu-ray/DVD Combo / DVD Trilogy / Blu-ray Trilogy

Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
High School Musical: Encore Edition, 2-Disc Remix / High School Musical 2: Extended Edition, 2-Disc Deluxe Dance Edition
17 Again • High School Musical DVD Game • High School Musical: The Concert - Extreme Access Pass DVD, CD
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Related Red Carpet Photo Reports:
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Reviewed February 16, 2009.