After the first two High School Musical TV movies became overnight phenomenons for the Disney Channel, it was now time to make even more money with the third installment, High School Musical 3: Senior Year, and bring it to the big screen. While the target audience of this series is mainly the 7-17-year-old female demographic, the original could have been considered a guilty pleasure for some adults. The first sequel that came a year or so later was pretty much like the majority of sequels in that it was mediocre at best and nowhere near as good as the original. The third film in a trilogy usually then goes one of two ways: even worse than the first sequel; or a lot better than the first sequel, but still not as good as the original. HSM 3 certainly had a large audience at the box office, but which way would High School Musical 3 go as far as the second sequel in a trilogy of films goes?
In this musical it’s senior year and the classmates of East High are all facing the prospect of leaving in separate directions after graduation. Troy (Zac Efron) is ready to play basketball at the University of Albuquerque with best friend Chad (Corbin Bleu), but doesn’t want to be a thousand miles away from Stanford-bound Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens). Taylor (Monique Coleman) is headed to Yale, while Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale), brother Ryan (Lucas Grabeel), and the school’s pianist-composer Kelsi (Olesya Rulin) are all in the running for a single scholarship to the prestigious Juilliard School in New York. The showcase for all of them will be Ms. Darbus’ new musical, “Senior Year,” which will recap the academic careers of the students themselves. Troy must ultimately decide what is most important to him: his basketball career, his burgeoning passion for musical theater, or his love for his girlfriend Gabriella as his senior year comes to a close.
This time around, director/choreographer Kenny Ortega had more money to produce bigger song-and-dance numbers. None of the new musical numbers would be considered as the greatest musical number ever, though. But that doesn’t mean that the songs aren’t catchy, because a majority of them are. There is no one number that can be singled out as dreadful, unlike a couple that were in HSM 2, so that’s good. There seems to be more ballads than usual this time, which is a shame, since ballads in this series are weaker than the more energetic, upbeat musical numbers. But at least everything seems more polished, since this film debuted on the big screen.
All of the cast know that they are big stars now and will have healthy film or TV careers for at least a couple of more years, but thankfully they seem less aware of themselves this time around. In HSM 2, there was lots of mugging to the camera and inflated egos getting in way of the film. Fortunately, in part three, the entire cast seems to have a renewed energy that results in everyone giving the best they can in every scene. The film is not devoid of cheese, with some corny and over-the-top characters, but this is a musical after all. Perhaps the biggest disappointment in HSM 3, as far as the cast goes, is the introduction of some new characters. It looks like Sharpay’s personal assistant Tiara Gold (Jemma McKenzie-Brown), and Troy’s lackeys, Jimmy “Rocket Man” Zara (Matt Prokop) and Donny Dion (Justin Martin) were introduced for the sole purpose of carrying on the High School Musical torch for a possible High School Musical 4. That might be okay, if any of these characters, and actors, were as charismatic as the original cast. Instead, what we have are just sub-par clones of characters within the original cast. If this series extends beyond a trilogy with these characters as the main focus, that will truly put a nail in the franchise for good. If Disney really wants to make more money with this franchise, they are better off just making a whole new College Musical series and be done with it.
While HSM 3 seems far too similar to the original as far as the story goes, this film does manage to raise up the energy and production level to heights that a TV interpretation could never reach. Most of the musical numbers hit all of the right notes, and the cast is less concerned with themselves as they are making a great film. It does drag on a little longer than it needs to be towards the end, but this is still a good send-off for the original cast of this series.
This DVD set contains both the Blu-ray and standard DVD version of this film. The video on the Blu-ray disc is presented in 1080p/AVC at the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen color ratio, which is enhanced for 16:9 TVs of course. This transfer is fantastic. Everything looks crystal clear and the colors are vibrant and rich and true to the theatrical version of this film. The video for the standard definition DVD is presented in anamorphic widescreen color at the 1.85:1 ratio. This transfer is good and above-average for other new release DVDs out there. But the colors aren’t as strong as on the Blu-ray disc. Everything sparkles on Blu-ray, but compared to that, the standard DVD is a step down. No major video problems on either disc, though.
The audio included on the Blu-ray disc is available in either English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Surround sound, or Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound. There are subtitles available in English and Spanish as well. The audio included on the standard DVD is available in either English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound, or French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound. There are subtitles available in English, Spanish, and French as well. Both discs feature dialogue and music that come out loud and clear. As expected, the Blu-ray disc sounds a little better than the standard definition DVD, but it’s not as of a step up as the video quality is. Still no major problems on either disc here.
The same set of extras are on both the Blu-ray and standard definition DVD version of this film. So the only real Blu-ray exclusive is that this Blu-ray DVD set of High School Musical not only contains the Blu-ray DVD of HSM 3, but also the standard definition DVD and digital copy of this film as well.
Found on the Standard Edition As Well…
“New Cast Profiles” Featurette –
This runs 13 minutes and it’s all about the three new kids who might spin off into a fourth Musical at some point, possibly in 2009. There are audition tapes, video diaries, some behind-the-scenes footage from the shoot, and a look at their lives before they got these roles. So if you want to know more about these likely sub-par successors to the HSM franchise, here you go.
There is 6 minutes worth of scenes that didn’t make the final cut of the film. These mainly add more depth to certain characters in the film. Nothing really special to seek out, but they are there if you want to watch them. There is an option to have these scenes introduced by director, Kenny Ortega.
“Out of Sync: High School Musical 3” Bloopers –
This is 3 minutes worth of gags, bloopers, and mistakes from the cast. Not really funny at all, though.
“Night of Nights” Featurette –
This runs 7 1/2 minutes and it’s all about prom traditions and how they influenced the musical-within-the-musical climax of the film. Dance rehearsal and other “behind-the-scenes” stuff, along with interviews with cast and crew are included here. Somewhat interesting.
“It’s All in the Dress” Featurette – This runs 2 1/2 minutes and it highlights the prom dresses and how they were tailored specifically for the characters in the film. Just be fascinating for the target audience of mainly youn girls.
“Cast Goodbyes” Featurette –
This runs 5 1/2 minutes and it has the cast talking about their experiences with all three films and their bittersweet feelings leaving it all behind. Lots of crying and hugs for the camera ensue. Of course, since some of them may return in at least a cameo fashion for future High School Musical films, this may be all for not.
“Sing Along with the Movie” Feature –
This is an feature to sing all the songs in the film with karaoke-style lyrics onscreen. You to cut right to your favorite song in the film, which include “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,” “Right Here, Right Now” (reprise), “Walk Away,” “Scream,” “Can I Have This Dance” (reprise), “Last Chance,” “Now or Never” (spring musical), “I Want It All” (spring musical), “Just Wanna Be with You” (spring musical), “A Night to Remember” (spring musical), “We’re All in This Together,” and “High School Musical.” Should be fun for the kids.
If you fit the demo of High School Musical 3, then this is an automatic purchase. If you are an adult and want to know if this is truly Grease for a whole new audience, check it out as a rental. Make it a family night.
This Blu-ray DVD set does cost about $5-10 more, but you do get the Blu-ray version, a standard DVD version, and digital copy version of the film. That is a first, and it appears to be a good idea if you have a Blu-ray player in one room and a DVD player in the kid’s bedroom. Other than slightly improved audio and video, though, there’s no big difference between the Blu-ray and standard DVD versions of HSM 3.
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents High School Musical 3. Directed by Kenny Ortega. Starring Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, Corbin Bleu, Monique Coleman, Lucas Grabeel, and Olesya Rulin. Written by Peter Barsocchini. Running time: 111 minutes. Rated G. Released on DVD: February 17, 2009. Available at Amazon.com