Blu-ray Review HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: High School Musical 3: Senior Year - Deluxe Extended Edition

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  1. Matt Hough

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    High School Musical 3: Senior Year - Deluxe Extended Edition (Blu-ray)
    Directed by Kenny Ortega

    Studio: Disney
    Year: 2008
    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:11080pAVC codec
    Running Time: 117 minutes
    Rating: G
    Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish
    Subtitles: English, Spanish
    Region: A
    MSRP: $ 39.99

    Release Date: February 17, 2009
    Review Date: February 9, 2009


    The Film

    3.5/5

    High School Musical 3: Senior Year actually begins about two-thirds of the way into the group’s senior year. Basically the film covers the last couple of months of high school. Still, the film manages to squeeze in a championship basketball game, a prom, the senior class play, and graduation before the caps get tossed into the air. Those who have enjoyed the first two installments of the story in their highly rated made-for-cable incarnations will undoubtedly delight with the expanded budget feel of this latest theatrical installment (and expanded length; this video release is eight minutes longer than the theatrical cut). Truth be told, however, while the film is entertaining and gives fans a satisfactory wrap-up of the various stories, the movie doesn’t quite make it in terms of a big movie experience. It feels more like a TV-movie on steroids.

    Senior standout Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) is faced with some difficult decisions as his senior year winds down. The love of his life Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgins) will be going over a thousand miles away to Stanford after graduation. Though he has a basketball scholarship to the University of Albuquerque, he’s also in the running for a Juilliard scholarship due to his exceptional theatrical talents, and though his father (Bart Johnson) and best friend Chad Danforth (Corbin Bleu) are expecting him to play basketball for the local university, Troy feels torn and spends the entire film wrestling with the dilemma of choosing which college to attend. But Troy is only one candidate for that Julliard scholarship. Also in the running are twins Sharpay and Ryan Evans (Ashley Tisdale, Lucas Grabeel) and composer Kelsi Nielsen (Olesya Rulin). So there’s competition everywhere: on the basketball court and on the stage.

    The high spirits and effervescent moves from the previous two films are everywhere in evidence in this third go-round, and why shouldn’t they be with director Kenny Ortega once again taking the reins as both director and choreographer (though he shares dance credits with Charles Klapow and Bonnie Story). The big dance numbers are filled to bursting with athleticism and joyous vivacity. Though Ortega too often shoots the numbers statically as if he were still composing the shots for a television audience, he does let loose on two entrancing numbers. The finest is a tender waltz “Can I Have This Dance?” in which Efron and Hudgins dance on a rooftop garden with the camera swirling around them and then lifting up and over them in a spectacular panorama of the couple, their set, and the night sky, the essence of movie musical romance. Efron’s dynamic, steamy solo “Scream” may borrow a bit of staging from Stanley Donen’s “You’re All the World to Me” number in Royal Wedding, but it effectively reflects his inner torments and is his finest moment in the film. Other well staged numbers include the opening basketball game/production number “Now or Never,” “A Night to Remember” which has some unusual visual effects for the prom, and Efron and Bleu’s galvanizing “The Boys Are Back” which is doubly high on energy with some savvy razzmatazz set in an auto junkyard.

    Unquestionably Zac Efron is the star of the picture. Having scored in the previous two films and in other non-Disney pictures, he is served by the director and writers with a number of spotlight moments, many more than his fellow players who have not scaled to the heights he’s reached in the past few years. In the previous two films, Ashley Tisdale and Corbin Bleu received prime solo spots and were prominent in the cast. They are less necessary in this outing (particularly Bleu who’s rather inconspicuous other than the one big number with Efron). I did laugh out loud at Tisdale’s double-wide school locker, but she’s otherwise more of an after thought in the film than she was in the other two. Lucas Grabeel has more to do in this film than his on-screen sibling and makes his quirky Ryan always worth watching. And the Disney folks are wisely grooming its next set of High School Musical featured performers. Jemma McKenzie-Brown, Matt Prokop (whom I didn’t much care for), and Justin Martin all seem primed for serious attention when the next made-for-cable outing happens.


    Video Quality

    4/5

    The film’s 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully delivered in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Color is the most striking aspect of the Blu-ray disc with rich, deeply saturated hues at every juncture though skin tones tend to drift a little brown. Though sharpness is often exemplary, there are some thin edge halos that sometimes go along with the image, though they only turn up sporadically. Blacks are deep and shadow detail more than acceptable. The film has been divided into 17 chapters.

    Audio Quality

    4.5/5

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track is certainly expansive with a full, rich sound in all channels and dialog always clear and discernible in the center channel. Though there is some bass in the music, one expects there to be a bit more there and in some of the more thunderous sounds of the championship basketball game, a couple of thunderstorms that occur during the film, and in the booming ovation the senior class play elicits.

    Special Features

    3.5/5

    All of the bonus features are presented in 1080p.

    There are two methods of navigating the bonus features on the Blu-ray disc. The Yearbook feature collects the various featurettes under headings which the viewer may choose in order or randomly. Amid the pages of the Yearbook are hidden Easter eggs which provide rehearsal footage, backstage banter among the actors, and outtakes. The entire Yearbook collection of featurettes and Easter eggs runs 90 ¼ minutes.

    The disc also offers a simpler-to-navigate Video Index of the featurettes:

    “Cast Goodbyes” is a 5 ¾-minute vignette in which each of the principal cast is interviewed about his or her bittersweet feelings about wrapping up the trilogy of films.

    There is a 2 ¾-minute blooper reel which contains different gaffes than those shown during the end credits of the main feature.

    There are eight deleted scenes which can be watched individually or in one 7 ½-minute group. There is an optional introduction to this section by director Kenny Ortega.

    “It’s All in the Dress” is a brief 2 ½-minute focus on the designs for the prom dresses for the principal female characters.

    “Night of Nights” focuses on the two different prom sequences in the picture: the staged version for the senior play and the real version for the characters. This runs 7 ½ minutes and contains interesting rehearsal footage for the number.

    “New Cast Profiles” traces the journeys of the three new members of the High School Musical family: Jemma McKenzie-Brown, Matt Prokop, and Justin Martin from their audition tapes, through their arrival on the Salt Lake City set, some brief rehearsal footage, the actual filming and wrapping of their work, and the premiere in Hollywood. It runs 13 ¼ minutes.

    The cast members individually voted on superlatives for their “Senior Awards,” and this 2 ½-minute featurette identifies the winners of the awards.

    The film may be watched in Sing Along Mode with subtitled lyrics provided during the musical numbers.

    For those connected to the internet, the Blu-ray is BD-Live which will allow users to post pictures in the yearbook once the site becomes active along with other on-line activities.

    There are 1080p previews for Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Bolt, Monsters Inc., Pinocchio, Race to Witch Mountain, and Bedtime Stories.

    The set contains a standard DVD copy of the film as disc two in the set.

    The set contains a third disc: DisneyFile, the digital copy of the movie with an activation code and instructions for installing on both PC and Mac devices.


    In Conclusion

    3.5/5 (not an average)

    Think this is the end of High School Musical? Then, you don’t know Disney! The film sets up a probable sequel in which this film suggests Sharpay will play a role. Meanwhile, High School Musical 3: Senior Year brings the curtain down on most of the original company in an expectedly professional if not top-quality energetic and entertaining outing.


    Matt Hough
    Charlotte, NC
     

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