DVD Review: High School Musical 3: Senior Year (Extended Edition)
Release Date: February 17, 2009
Distributor: Walt Disney Video
· Kenny Ortega
· Zac Efron
· Vanessa Hudgens
· Ashley Tisdale
· Lucas Grabeel
· Corbin Bleu
· Official Site
· IMDb information
by Rachel Jaffe
Published: February 17, 2009
Did you ever watch a movie and not want it to end? Probably millions of tweens felt that way about the mega-smash ""High School Musical"," and for them, "High School Musical 3: Senior Year" must be a dream come true. It's basically one big "ever after" for the franchise.
In "High School Musical," we were introduced to the kids of East High. There was uber-athlete Troy (Zac Efron) and the new girl, brainy Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens). There was Troy's best friend Chad (Corbin Bleu), Gabriella's new friend, the overachieving Taylor (Monique Coleman), and the shy but musically talented Kelsi (Olesya Rulin). And then there were Ryan and Sharpay Evans (Lucas Grabeel and Ashley Tisdale), a brother-sister team that ruled the drama department -- and provided plenty of drama off-stage as well, as Sharpay tried to get together with Troy. The questions of the movie were basic -- would Troy and Gabriella end up together? Would Troy admit to his jock friends that he liked to sing? Would Gabriella overcome her stage fright?
By "High School Musical 3," we've gone from standard plot to barely any plot. Sharpay's ruthless ambition has been tempered to a dull roar, and she has apparently given up on getting Troy as her boyfriend. Troy and Gabriella are firmly attached as a couple. The various interests and foibles of the individual students have been routinely accepted, such that the brainiac who caused waves in the first movie by wanting to dance is now apparently head cheerleader. The kids are ready to graduate, and they wonder, in an off-hand manner, about their school choices and what will happen to them and their relationships after they graduate. Those are significant questions that strike a universal chord with high school students, and there's a lot of scope here to utilize our familiarity with the externals of these characters as a means to learn about their internal life. But we never really see them grapple with these issues.
What we see them do is sing and dance. If "High School Musical 3" deserves any award, it's a "truth in titling" award. The senior class gets together for one last show under the drama department, and so the musical numbers become like a hall of mirrors -- there's the musical we're watching and the musical they're performing, which itself in turn is often based on the musical numbers of their "real lives."
For those who have seen "High School Musical" and "High School Musical 2," many of the songs and dance numbers will probably seem familiar. The movie opens with a basketball/dance number that is reminiscent of the impressive "Get'cha Head in the Game" from the first movie. The rotating tables in the cafeteria in "I Want It All" call to mind the staging of "Stick to the Status Quo" in the first movie, as well as Sharpay's "Fabulous" anthem in the second one. There are romantic songs, and wistful songs, and angry songs. There are duets and monologues and group numbers.
The most inspiring number is a duet between Troy and Chad called "The Boys Are Back," where they recall and relive their days of playing superheroes as children. The choreography is clever and innovative, and Efron and Bleu bring a lot of energy and chemistry to their performance. But what really makes it work is that it genuinely shows us something new about the characters.
In many ways, "High School Musical 3" is the biggest movie of the franchise. It is the only one that premiered in the theaters, as opposed to television. The production values are huge. The camera work is more sophisticated. The dance numbers are more complicated and there are more glitzy group numbers with multiple sets and costumes.
But the best parts of the movie are the small ones. Troy and Chad reminiscing about being kids. Gabriella wondering how many times she can say good-bye. Ryan and Kelsi sharing a song. At this point, we've come to know these characters and what they do; now would have been a good time to have reflected on why. But what with the multiple musical numbers, plus the addition of new and younger students to possibly continue the franchise, there is little time for quiet reflection.
However, for those who love the Troy-Gabriella union, there are plenty of romantic songs and dances to sigh over. And even though the film doesn't live up to its potential, there is still some satisfaction of seeing the main characters through their graduation. Perhaps even more satisfying is seeing this cast through their final movie together (as interviews have indicated) and to celebrate their launch into separate careers. Whether they are looking to continue in the same vein (such as Vanessa Hudgens in the upcoming "Bandslam" or Zac Efron in a remake of "Footlose") or to strike out in different directions (such as Lucas Grabeel in "Milk"), the cast members have huge potential as they pursue their dreams. Accessing that energy even second-hand via their fictional surrogates is still exciting.
The bonus features for the DVD are acceptable, but unremarkable. The extended edition includes an extended version of the movie, with an additional five minutes of material. There is an option for "Music and More," where you can directly access musical numbers and where you can select a "karaoke" view. There are over six minutes of deleted scenes, introduced by director Kenny Ortega. There are also a series of featurettes, listed under the category "Backstage Disney": Night of Nights, about the prom numbers (7:26 minutes), It's All in the Dress (2:31 minutes), and Cast Good-byes (5:40 minutes). A disc with a digital version of the movie is also included.