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High School Musical 3: Senior Year (2008)

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 2/17/2009

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/12/2009

While they may seem similar on the surface, a trend and phenomenon are two different things. A trend occurs when one thing (be it a movie, a song, a piece of fashion, etc) becomes popular and then suddenly you see it everywhere and everyone is trying to emulate it or get a piece of it. A phenomenon happens when an event suddenly comes out of nowhere and becomes popular. It is usually something which flies in under the radar and takes the populous by storm. It's the kind of thing which is beyond criticism and takes on a life of its own. When High School Musical premiered in 2006, it seemed like any other lame Disney Channel movie. But, for some reason, it was different and tweens everywhere suddenly couldn't get enough. High School Musical 2 had a big Disney Channel premiere and scored huge ratings. The merchandise was flying off of the shelves. The next logical step was to keep getting bigger, and in 2008, High School Musical 3: Senior Year left the small-screen behind and opened in theaters. But, the question must be asked, Is bigger better?

As the title implies, High School Musical 3: Senior Year finds the familiar character in their final year of school. As the movie opens, Troy (Zac Efron) and Chad (Corbin Bleu) lead the East High Wildcats to a victory in the state basketball championship. Troy's Dad (Bart Johnson) is ecstatic about this, as he wants Troy to attend the University of Albuquerque and play basketball. Of course, Troy’s girlfriend, Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens), is enthused as well. But, she’s thinking about her future as well, as she’s been accepted at Stanford. Being East High, a musical is in the works, and those musical siblings, Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale) and Ryan (Lucas Grabeel) are planning to lord over things as usual, with Kelsi (Olesya Rulin) providing the music. The show will encompass the major events of the senior year. As Troy rehearses for the show, he realizes that he’s more comfortable then ever being on stage, and he reveals to Gabriella that he’s considering going to Julliard. But, he knows that his Dad wouldn’t approve and that would put him very far away from Gabriella. Which will he choose, singing or basketball?

Watching High School Musical 3: Senior Year is the cinematic equivalent to eating cotton candy. It’s big, it’s colorful, it seems like a good idea at the time, but once you’re done, you’re unfulfilled and don’t feel full. (Although, High School Musical 3 doesn’t leave your hands sticky...or at least it shouldn’t.) I’ve seen all three High School Musical movies now (I have two daughters -- give me a break) and I can’t truly say that I’ve enjoyed any of them, but 3 is definitely the weakest of the bunch.

For starters, the movie can’t escape the fact that it’s the third in the series and nothing feels fresh anymore. The first film dealt with Troy and Gabriella getting to know one another and Troy’s realization that he could like basketball and singing. The second focused on class wars, as Troy and Gabriella got jobs at the country club which Sharpay frequents. This also dealt with Sharpay attempting to steal Troy from Gabriella. High School Musical 3 should have been called Sigh School Musical 3, as it shrugs its shoulders and plods along, never doing much to seem original. We’ve already been through two movies where we watched Troy’s soul-searching and now he’s at it again. Which decision will he make about his future? The movie drags this question out for nearly two hours. If anyone truly cared at the beginning, I doubt that they do at the end. The movie also lets the supporting characters fall by the wayside. Sharpay is still spoiled, but she’s nowhere near as catty. Chad struggles with asking Taylor (Monique Coleman) to the prom. The movie also introduces three under-classmen characters, Matt Prokop ("Jimmy"), Justin Martin ("Donny"), and Jemma McKenzie-Brown ("Tiara"), all of whom are annoying. Are they supposed to be High School Musical: The Next Generation.

But enough of my old-man bellyaching -- what about the music? Well, it’s about as lackluster as the story. I’d be lying if I said that the music from these movies is my cup of tea, but there’s no denying that songs like “Stick to the Status Quo”, “We’re All in This Together” (from the first film) and “Bet On It” (from 2) are catchy numbers. But, the songs in High School Musical 3: Senior Year simply fall flat, with “I Want it All” being the only one which I can recall when glancing at the soundtrack list. And I’m trying to forget “The Boys Are Back” junkyard dance scene, which looks like something which would have been cut from Grease 2.

But, we all know that my opinion counts for very little in the world of High School Musical, and that’s fine, as these movies aren’t made for me. And while my daughters liked this one, they didn’t love it. Despite what Hollywood thinks, kids do strive for substance at times, and there’s very little here.

High School Musical 3: Senior Year dances onto DVD courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing only a slight amount of grain and no defects from the source material. The colors are good, but the image is a tad dark. The picture is somewhat soft at times, and lacks in great detail. The DVD offers a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Of course, the music sounds fine, and it fills the speakers. The stereo effects are good, and show nice detail. Songs with multiple singers or large crowds show off good surround sound effects, and some numbers produce satisfying bass.

The High School Musical 3: Senior Year DVD contains a few extras. The DVD contains eight DELETED SCENES which run about 6 minutes and contain an introduction from Director Kenny Ortega. These are all quite brief and incidental, giving no new information, save for shots which were clearly meant for the ending. We get a 3 minute gag reel with "Out of Sync: HSM 3 Bloopers". "Prom: Night of Nights" (7 minutes) has the cast giving their feelings about the prom, while the piece also explores the theatrical prom show from the movie, complete with rehearsal footage and on-set footage. "Prom: It's All in the Dress" (2 minutes) has comments from Costume Designer Caroline Marx who explains how each costume was chosen for the actors. The cast discuss their feelings over their cycle on High School Musical ending in "Graduation: Cast Goodbyes" (6 minutes). The viewer can choose to "Sing Along With the Movie" (which produces karaoke-like lyrics on-screen, or simply choose each song individually from a menu.

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has also brought High School Musical 3: Senior Year to Blu-ray Disc. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at 25 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look fantastic, especially reds and pastels, and the image is never overly dark or bright. However, the picture does look somewhat flat. I wasn’t expecting to be blown away by this Blu-ray, but other than having a sharper and more detailed picture, it doesn’t look that much better than DVD. The Disc contains a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.5 Mbps. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Again, the music sounds good. The stereo effects show nice detail and the stereo separation is quite noticeable. The crowd noise, such as with the finale, produces good surround sound and some songs bring the subwoofer to life. Yet, for a DTS-HD track, the audio here didn’t pack much “oomph”.

The Blu-ray Disc contains the same extras as the DVD, plus two additional ones. "New Cast Profiles" (13 minutes) gives us more information about Matt Prokop ("Jimmy"), Justin Martin ("Donny"), and Jemma McKenzie-Brown ("Tiara"). We see their audition footage and they explain how they got involved with the film. "Senior Awards" (2 minutes) shows how the cast and crew voted on superlatives, such as "Most School Spirit" or "Best Couple", as one would do in a real high school.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long