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It is my belief that the people that consider themselves true film fans should have a certain respect for all manner of films, even those genres and styles they often don’t appreciate on any artistic or entertaining level. It is this belief that has led me to a sort of strange fascination with the recent goings on at Disney studios. Though I couldn’t care much less about seeing the films coming out of young America’s new obsession with corporate created musicals, I’m fully intrigued by the process.

High School Musical 3: Extended Edition
I was born during a time when Disney was in trouble, but early into my childhood the studio found a second wind in blockbuster animated features, starting with The Little Mermaid. The blockbuster animation thing sort of petered out a bit, and once again it appeared that the studio was in trouble, but in the place of expensive animated products, with huge toy tie-ins, someone decided to start making cheap musicals aimed at high school and junior high kids. And what do you know, it worked. Disney used the same tactics they used on my parent’s generation, and created a new brand of Mickey Mouse Club, with stuff like Hannah Montana, The Jonas Brothers, The Cheetah Girls, Camp Rock, and High School Musical. This stuff struck a huge chord with kids, and is now a multi-million (billion?) dollar industry.

High School Musical 3 might be a motion picture first—a second sequel to a made for TV series being released theatrically. Not only was the third film in the series a theatrical release, it was massive hit. It opened at $42 million, and was the first film in four years to beat the Saw franchise out of the Friday before Halloween. From there the $11 million investment turned out an international total of almost $250 million. That means High School Musical 3 made more profit money than The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Incredible Hulk, Prince Caspian, and Tropic Thunder, not counting any of the residuals that came out of all the brand name crap they sold at Target and Wal-Mart.

High School Musical 3: Extended Edition
The script is a joke. The plot concerns every stereotype from every high school movie ever, minus the hero boy and girl hooking up, because that’s what the prequels were for. If you’re looking for a detailed and realistic story of the trials and tribulations of late adolescence, filled with butt-clenching angst, and unrequited sexual tension, you’re just gonna have to look beyond a G-rated Disney musical. In fact, fans of any kind of conflict might be disappointed even further by the scripts sub-sitcom level engagement. The ending is largely predictable, and without more than a few hiccups worth of incident. I would’ve preferred the main characters were forced to grow out of their relationships, like happens in real life, but I can’t expect a feel good serving of fast food to teach any real lessons, now can I?

But I’m sure we all know this isn’t about the plot, it’s about the feeling good and grooving to the music. Well, I don’t like any of this music, but I can appreciate it as pop entertainment (it isn’t as easy to write that stuff as you non-songwriters may think). What’s strange to me is how ‘old’ the music sounds. I worked at a day care in 1999, and we listened to a lot of radio Disney, and judging things on that teen and tween music hasn’t evolved at all for almost ten years. That just seems weird.

High School Musical 3: Extended Edition
The acting is very theatrical. The lines are spoken loudly, and the acting is never subtle. This isn’t a problem, per se (though Zac Efron does look into the camera a lot), as it is in keeping with the style of a stage play. The direction, however, is actually closer to traditional Hollywood musicals. I actually enjoy the mix, and the differentiation between the generally plain looking talking scenes, and the super stylized musical moments. The thing I do very much appreciate concerning all these new musicals is how far they’re willing to push the theatricality of the musical scenes. It’s not as if characters stopping to sing is particularly natural anyway, so why not make it fun?

Video


An $11 million budget may be small by modern standards, but it is more than enough to look good in hi-def. High School Musical 3 is shot super bright. I imagine that most of the cast is half blind after three movies on set with this many lights. Of course, everything is diffused and muted, so that all these pretty actors have the prettiest and glowingest skin possible. The light is perfectly soft, without sacrificing hard edges, or contrast levels, which helps for a deeper pallet. The softness doesn’t lend itself to the most impressive details, even in close-up. The vibrant colour scheme is the star of the hi-def print (I compared briefly to the DVD copy that accompanies the set). The colours are solid when needed, blend without any blocking, and even the face-melting pinks don’t bleed.

High School Musical 3: Extended Edition

Audio


Disney doesn’t make any mistakes with this particular cash cow, pulling out most of the stops for this 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. The music is usually fully realized in surround, and it’s thick as a brick in the LFE channel. Beyond the instruments, the songs tremble with sound effects and back-up singers, like the breathy break down during the ‘I want it all’ song, which is actually quite disturbing in surround, and Troy’s cry-baby, ‘life is hard’ song, which features a cool surround attack of bouncing basketballs. Beyond the theatrical scenes, crowd scenes are a little bare in the back, but fill out fully in the front. The dialogue is often quite obviously post-dubbed, even during speaking scenes, and the centre channel is a little overpowering during some of the songs, but not all of them.

Extras


The extras are set up in a clever, but slightly hard to navigate menu system that looks like a high school year book. Under ‘Student Body’ things start with a collection of deleted scenes, with an introduction from director Kenny Ortega. The scenes total about seven and a half minutes, and are presented in hi-def video, and stereo surround. They consist of a whole bunch of cute little character moments that don’t include singing and dancing, and wouldn’t have filled in any of the plot or characters any better, save a few members of the supporting staff. This takes us to the blooper reel, which runs just under three minutes.

High School Musical 3: Extended Edition
Featurettes begin with a thirteen minute profile of the main casts’ three newest members, including audition tapes, and some behind the scenes footage in ‘video diary’ form. ‘Night of Nights’ concerns the cast and crew’s take on the movie’s version of prom, along with their thoughts on real proms, and runs seven and a half minutes. ‘It’s All in the Dress’ sort of speaks for itself, and is a continuation of ‘Night of Nights’, focusing for two and a half minutes on the scene’s various prom dresses. ‘Senior Awards’ looks at the process of selecting fake ‘senior awards’ for a few minute, and is followed directly by the ‘Cast Goodbyes’, which are all weepy and silly for five minutes.

Throughout all the menus are various behind-the-scenes segments, which can be found simply by clicking on the Wildcat foot found on more or less every screen of the yearbook. These segments don’t have titles, but include looks at the filming of various scenes. None run more than a few minutes. The disc also features a collection of trailers, including a hi-def teaser for Monsters Inc on Blu-ray. The other two discs of this three disc set are a DVD copy and a Digital Copy of the film.

High School Musical 3: Extended Edition

Overall


Though it’s far more interesting as an anthropological study than a movie, High School Musical 3 isn’t a total wash. The script is a ridiculous rehash, the performances are a little broad, and the music isn’t exactly my ‘thing’, but there’s a whole lot of energy in the piece, and I’m actually a pretty big fan of the direction and art design. The extras are a bit of a gyp, considering that disc two is just the DVD, and disc three is just the Digital Copy, but I suppose diversity is an admirable trait in some cases.

*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.


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