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Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure: Blu-ray + DVD Review

Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure Blu-ray + DVD cover art -- click to buy combo pack from Amazon.com Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure
Movie, Blu-ray & DVD Details

Running Time: 90 Minutes / Rating: G

Director: Michael Lembeck / Writers: Robert Horn; Peter Barsocchini (characters)

Cast: Ashley Tisdale (Sharpay Evans), Austin Butler (Peyton Leverett), Cameron Goodman (Amber Lee Adams), Bradley Steven Perry (Roger Elliston III), Alec Mapa (Gill), Jack Plotnick (Neal), Robert Curtis Brown (Mr. Evans), Jessica Tuck (Mrs. Evans), Pat Mastroianni (Jerry Taylor), Mike Nug Nahrgang (Stage Manager), Alessandra Cannito (Lupe), Lauren Collins (Tiffany), Shadia Ali (Dena), Sarah Joy Bennett (Kelly), Tracey Ferencz (Marjorie Grande), Tammy Isbell (Judith/Nell), Kyle Buchanan (Tim)

Songs: "I'm Gonna Shine", "My Boi and Me", "My Girl and Me", "New York's Best Kept Secret", "The Rest of My Life"

1.78:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD (English); DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English); Both: Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Extras Subtitled; DVD and Extras Closed Captioned
Blu-ray + DVD Release Date: April 19, 2011 / Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Blue Keepcase in Embossed, Holographic Cardboard Slipcover
Also available in Standalone DVD ($29.99 SRP) and
in Limited Edition Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + Clutch ($49.99 SRP)

Buy Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure from Amazon.com: DVD Blu-ray + DVD Limited Edition Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + Clutch Purse

Having conquered cable television, the music industry, international concert touring, and cinemas around the world, the High School Musical franchise now takes on a new market: direct-to-video. Though it is billed a Disney Channel Original Movie (and will be broadcasted as such on May 22nd), the spin-off film Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure premiered this week on DVD and Blu-ray, perhaps as an experiment to see if people are more likely to buy a DCOM before it airs.

Set almost a year after the graduation with which 2008's High School Musical 3: Senior Year concluded, Fabulous Adventure follows East High School's diva of a theatre star, Sharpay Evans (Ashley Tisdale), to New York City,
where she hopes to realize her dreams of stage superstardom. The connection to HSM is surprisingly downplayed here, suggesting it doesn't matter whether or not you remember all the way back to 2006, when Tisdale originated the third-billed role in the unexpected tween phenomenon.

Actually, it might be better if you don't already know Sharpay because her selfish attitude and musical theatre ambitions are all that screenwriter Robert Horn (The Suite Life Movie) retains of the character and even those are just springboards for a tale of self-discovery in the big city that any young woman could be taken on. One of Sharpay's defining traits -- her oddly close relationship with her twin brother and fellow performer Ryan -- is unmentioned (a reference to a sibling hardly jogs your memory), with actor Lucas Grabeel not making an appropriate appearance (he does, however, cover Justin Bieber's "Baby" for an obligatory montage).

Sharpay Evans (Ashley Tisdale) and her dog Boi head to New York City in matching pink outfits. Peyton Leverett (Austin Butler) claims he's an NYU film student (and has the stickers to prove it), but his camera position suggests it's a different NYU than the one attended by Joel Coen, Martin Scorsese, Ang Lee, Oliver Stone, and Woody Allen.

Sharpay catches a Broadway casting agent's eye at her benefit concert. Alas, her father (Robert Curtis Brown, returning) won't sign off on the teenager moving to the Big Apple on her own. When she and her friends make the necessary arrangements, Dad agrees to give her a month to make it big. If she can't succeed, it's back to Albuquerque and getting a job at the family's country club. As luck would have it, a friend of Sharpay's mother (Jessica Tuck, also back) has a son attending NYU who can help look out for Sharpay.

And look out for Sharpay, Peyton Leverett (Austin Butler) does, getting her a modest studio apartment in his building when the townhouse penthouse she reserved reveals they won't allow dogs. Boi, Sharpay's Yorkshire Terrier, is not only along for the ride, he is actually the reason for it. You see, that agent back in New Mexico was really interested in Sharpay's furry companion for a meaty role
Sharpay settles into New York to Aly & AJ's "Walking on Sunshine":
in the forthcoming Broadway musical A Girl's Best Friend. Strange how that was never clarified, huh?

Because dogs and direct-to-video Disney movies go hand in hand these days, substantial attention is paid to Boi vying for the stage role. His competition is a Cocker Spaniel named Countess, whose sophisticated 12-year-old owner Roger Elliston (Bradley Steven Perry) is not above underhanded deeds. The two dogs are both rehearsed for the role, with their owners' rivalry getting cutthroat. Meanwhile, the human star of the show, Amber Lee Adams (Cameron Goodman), is a prima donna who makes the pre-big city humbling Sharpay look egoless. Amber hires Sharpay as her personal assistant, getting her to do all her dirty work while implying that she will pick Boi for the part. It's obvious where the film is going. Getting there involves little joy but less pain.

Less friendly than her introduction indicates, the play's star Amber Lee Adams (Cameron Goodman) is an out-of-control diva with ulterior motives. Roger Elliston III (Bradley Steven Perry), the 12-year-old owner of Countess, makes for a formidable rival to Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale).

This movie is a textbook starlet vehicle, one which any actress within 6 years of Tisdale's age would cherish getting. Whether Tisdale got it because Sharpay lends herself to such a project or because Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens have been receiving feature film offers, we might never know. Tisdale's 2008 departure from "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody" now seems premature and her only post-HSM theatrical credit was the 2009 summer bomb Aliens in the Attic. Still, she's got the CW series "Hellcats" with "Phil of the Future" alum Alyson Michalka and, while her fellow Wildcats have moved on, she's kept a foot in Disney's door as the voice of Candace on the popular animated comedy "Phineas and Ferb."

It doesn't feel like Sharpay has remained on Tisdale's mind any more than the character has been in the thoughts of Tisdale's Fabulous Adventure collaborators. That's nothing to be concerned about. Softening and fleshing out the one-note egotist is neither hard nor unwelcome here. All the financial and popular success in the world doesn't make anything High School Musical any better than the amateurish fluff as which it was conceived. In most ways, this Sharpay spin-off is easier to take than any part of the trilogy that preceded it.

The movie has a less juvenile sense of humor than Disney Channel's typical current fare. (The many social media jokes will date this.) The production values are less pitiful. You suspect there is no way Disney would shoot this in New York, but there are enough authentic location shots not to reveal that the bulk of filming was done in Toronto. You can't even get too worked up about this being predictable and familiar, because it still feels like a slight improvement over where it's coming from. There is none of the sacrilege that soured viewers of Disney's comparably mediocre DTV sequels to adored animated classics. And, in case it needs stating, this is a cut above the talking dog movies which have been the bulk of the company's video premiere business in recent years.

The play's writer Neal (Jack Plotnick) and director Gill (Alec Mapa) are not short on enthusiasm. You can't have a 2000s direct-to-video Disney movie without some dogs. At least these pooches don't talk.

The G-rated Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure is now available on DVD, a 2-disc Blu-ray + DVD combo pack, and a Limited Edition Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + Clutch Purse set. Sorry, accessories fans, we look at the middle edition here, the only one Disney made available for review.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Not surprisingly for a brand new production, Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure looks plenty fabulous on Blu-ray. It doesn't quite have the sheen and polish of cinematic fare, but it looks so much better than Disney's direct-to-video and television movies from just a few years ago. Naturally, the movie is loaded with vibrant colors, which the 1.78:1 widescreen transfer nicely shows off. The disc's DTS-HD master audio doesn't have much more impact than a typical Dolby Digital 5.1 DVD mix. It is more than sufficient, though, giving the scattered incidental songs breathing room and delivering some low-key atmosphere. Some of the dialogue feels a little hollow, but I'd bet that is how it was recorded and not how the disc was mastered.

Identical to the DVD sold on its own, this combo pack's second disc is also no slouch in the quality department. It boasts similarly excellent picture and sound.

Only on Blu-ray Disc, a brunette Ashley Tisdale discusses "The Evolution of Sharpay" between clips from the character's four movies. Boi the dog's unpredictability causes Ashley Tisdale to crack up in the Bloopers reel.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Extras begin with the Blu-ray's one exclusive. "The Evolution of Sharpay" (8:57, HD) alternates between clips from all four of the character's movies and an interview with a brunette Ashley Tisdale.
Tisdale disputes my earlier assumption by revealing she gives a lot of thought to Sharpay, from her mindset to her wardrobe. It's a really good piece and a very stupid thing to exclude from the DVD.

Consisting of uncooperative canines and human error, a short bloopers reel (1:22, HD) reveals the working title High Stakes.

Finally, the 7-minute "Austin Cam" (HD) gives us behind-the-scenes looks via Austin Butler, whose film student character carries a camera throughout the movie, documenting Sharpay's efforts to make it in New York. There is some good candid footage here and one hint to why Peyton holds the camera around his hip (he's got to make sure he doesn't catch a boom mic, though I think his low-angle technique is more about keeping him unobscured).

The extras conclude with Disney's standard promotional shorts: Timon and Pumbaa's "Discover Blu-ray 3D" (4:25) and an updated primer on Disneyfile digital copies (1:00).

Austin Butler steps in front of his camera to stand next to his bewigged stand-in. The DVD's main menu is like the Blu-ray's, but with less empty stationery for listings to fill in.

On each disc, the main menu looks like Sharpay's stationery (with rhinestones and a lot of pink). The Blu-ray screen's changes pictures displayed on the right and makes camera shutter sounds as you move around, while the DVD does that on its own. The DVD's additional menus are scored but static.

Both the Blu-ray and the FastPlay-enhanced DVD open with trailers for The Lion King: Diamond Edition, Prom, and Cars 2. The menus' "Sneak Peeks" listing repeats those and follows them with promos for Disney Movie Rewards, Disney Channel's "Shake It Up", Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension, The Fox and the Hound & The Fox and the Hound II 2-Movie Collection Blu-ray, and Bambi II: Special Edition Blu-ray.

The combo pack's packaging offers Sharpay's kind of attention-grabbing touches. The requisite slipcover is spruced up by embossing and holographic spectrums. Inside, a booklet supplies your Disney Movie Rewards code which also entitles you, it explains, to watch the movie online from any computer and to get the limited edition's clutch purse for $6 shipped. Another booklet promotes Disney and non-Disney products alike.

Not a spoiler: a movie about Sharpay Evans (Ashley Tisdale) can only end with her getting theatrical.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure is no surprise. This adequate spin-off vehicle is easier to like than the High School Musical movies, but less distinctive and a little late to capitalize on the franchise's predictably short-lived fervor. If you've enjoyed Ashley Tisdale's work as East High's self-centered diva, then you should give this one a try, but you needn't be an HSM fan to see and follow this standard musical comedy.

Disney's Blu-ray combo pack delivers a high-quality feature presentation with three decent extras. Though ludicrously dropping the best of those three items, the DVD otherwise suffices.

Buy Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure from Amazon.com:
DVD / Blu-ray + DVD / Limited Edition Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + Clutch Purse

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Reviewed April 22, 2011.