A series that has become one of Disney's premiere franchises over the last few years, "High School Musical" has now reached the trilogy point with the third film in the series. While I am clearly not in the target audience, I thought the second film was an improvement due to the decision to move the film away from the basic high school setting to a country club.
This time around, the characters - Troy (Zac Efron), Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens), Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale), Chad (Corbin Bleu), Ryan (Lucas Grabeel) and the others find themselves in their Senior year of high school, and while the usual dramas play out, there's also some new ones to contend with, such as the fact that Gabrielle and Troy are headed off to separate colleges (her off to Stanford, he trying to decide whether or not to go to Juilliard to study acting) after the year is over. Once Sharpay catches onto the fact that Troy and Gabriella may be headed for a breakup, she realizes she has another chance to steal Troy for herself.
The flick also follows a few other plot threads, such as the primary focus of the big school musical (titled "Senior Year", no less), which the characters spend try to rehearse and prepare for. Speaking of characters, we get a series of new ones here, most notably Tiara (Jemma McKenzie-Brown), who starts off as Sharpay's assistant and starts to become a lot like her mentor. While these characters seem meant to replace the leads from the first three films, the film doesn't really give any of them enough time to make all that much of an impression (what I'm curious about is why wasn't the first one freshman year, then the fourth one would be senior year - at least that way they'd have gotten another film out of this cast.) Another issue with the film is length - while this is the "extended edition", 2 hours is too much, and pacing would have been improved had the film been brought down to a more reasonable 95-100 minutes.
While the performance isn't going to win any awards, Tisdale's alpha female steals the show once again, as the actress gives her villain role more personality than some of her co-stars do their parts. As for plot, this film has even a bit less than the first two films, but I doubt the target audience is concerned with that. Instead, director Kenny Ortega has amped up the musical numbers, which are far larger than the ones in the previous two films, such as a Broadway-inspired number for the Ryan and Sharpay characters early in the film. The songs are still bubblegum fluff, but the choreography and production design are operating at a higher level this time around.
"High School Musical 3" does feel like it's going over the same ground again at times, but overall, it's a fun farewell for the characters that have gained so much popularity over the last several years.
This is the "extended edition" of the film, and runs nearly 2 hours (117 minutes.)
High School Musical (Film)
The Boys Are Back (Film)
Can I Have This Dance (Film)
Behind the Scenes: Dancing (Bonus)
Behind the Scenes: Prom, itís all in the dress (Bonus)
VIDEO: "High School Musical 3" is presented by Disney in the film's original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio. The presentation quality is acceptable, as while most of the film looked fine, a few concerns were seen. Sharpness and detail are just satisfactory, as I thought the picture looked a touch soft throughout much of the show.
While detail and definition were a tad lackluster, the picture didn't suffer from many other concerns, aside from a couple of trace instances of edge enhancement and artifacting. Colors appeared bright and well-saturated, with no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack isn't hugely aggressive, but does come to life during the musical numbers, where the rear speakers provide some reinforcement of the music. Audio quality was fine, with crisp dialogue and bassy tunes. On some occasions, the songs did still sound a little too "music video" (as if the songs were recorded in studio and just laid over the movie audio.)
EXTRAS: "Cast Goodbyes" is a brief featurette with the cast chatting about how they'll miss acting in the series. "Night of Nights" and "It's All in the Dress" are "making of" featurettes for the film's prom. Additionally, we get a "sing-along" optional feature, bloopers and 8 deleted scenes (with an intro from director Kenny Ortega.) Also offered are sneak peek trailers for other titles from the studio, as well as (on a separate disc) a digital copy of the film for download to a PC. Given that this is the first film in the series to go to theaters and likely the last starring this cast, it's disappointing that the cast didn't do a commentary.
Final Thoughts: "High School Musical 3" does feel like it's going over the same ground again at times, but overall, it's a fun farewell for the characters that have gained so much popularity over the last several years.
The Film B-