High School Musical 3: Senior Year (Extended Edition)

Whenever a High School Musical DVD is released, I’m the sucker who gets to review it. I’ve done if for the first and second installments of this Disney franchise, as well as a concert film. Now, High School Musical 3: Senior Year, the first movie about the boys and girls from East High released on the big screen, is on DVD. How does it stack up against the first two made-for-television films? The phrase that most often comes to mind while watching High School Musical 3: Senior Year is “harmless.” Like with its two predecessors, Disney and director/choreographer Kenny Ortega have assembled a musical full of likeable performers and peppy song and dance numbers held together by a ridiculous and contrived plot.

All of the main characters have returned for the big screen action. Troy (Zac Efron) and Gabriella (Vanesa Hudgens) and friends Chad (Corbin Bleu), Taylor (Monique Coleman), and Kelsi (Olesya Rulin) are in their final year at East High in Albuquerque. While planning for the prom and the big year-end musical, they also have an eye on their college choices. Rich and conceited Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale) is still trying to put the spotlight on herself, with the reluctant help of her brother Ryan (Lucas Grabeel).

While even the sanitized high school that serves as the home base for these kids should have its share of drama, jealousy, and backstabbing, the plot by returning writer Peter Barsocchini relies on silly manufactured problems. One spot at Julliard is up for grabs between Sharpay, Ryan, Kelsi, and even Troy. The person who performs the best at the year-end show will likely get the spot. Is this really how Julliard picks its students? Then Gabriella is picked for a special program at Stanford that will force her to miss both the musical and prom. Why does Stanford have good students miss the last few weeks of their high school? So conflict can be manufactured, of course!

While the plot points have changed, a lot of the movie covers the same ground as the first High School Musical. Troy is torn between a future in basketball or theater, Sharpay is scheming to get the lead, Gabriella is bland and uninteresting, it’s the same old story. The movie introduces a few new characters, including one with the porn sounding name of Tiara Gold, who will reportedly take over for the graduating seniors in future High School Musical movies, but mostly it’s a pretty uninteresting story.

The singing and dancing, on the other hand, is impressive. The songs aren’t great, but the production numbers show off a higher budget and the continued experience of the performers. Ortega and his choreographers, Charles Klapow and Bonnie Story, give the dance numbers a unique feel that, unlike the story, doesn’t feel copied from previous movies. Efron, Bleu, Gabeel, and Tisdale are excellent performers and the numbers are typically infused with high energy. The musical numbers are the highlight and as another boring scene unfolds, you find yourself praying that someone starts dancing soon.

If you loved the first two films, you’ll love this one also. The target audience for the G-rated entertainment is still pre-teen girls, but it won’t cause their parents to poke their eyes out. If you can remember that another decent musical number is on the way soon, you’ll make it through this “harmless” effort. It’s not exactly clear to someone like me, who didn’t see the movie in the theater, what was added to qualify this as an “extended edition.” The press materials aren’t specific, but with the help of my Wildcat crazy daughters, I think it’s a couple of additional scenes rather than any musical additions. That’s not great news, since it’s the music that makes this show go, but you do get a little bit more talking for your money.

In addition to the “extended” version of the film, the 2-disc set comes with a digital copy that can be transferred to your computer or portable media player. That also takes up one whole disc, so don’t think the “2-discs” mean there are lots of extras, there aren’t.

The extras include a two minute “blooper reel” with the usual laughing attacks, funny faces, and missteps. With the amount of dancing, you’d think there would be more people missing their marks, but maybe they decided to keep it short and sweet. There are also six minutes of deleted scenes introduced by Kenny Ortega. He gives a generic “these were cut for pacing and time” reason and then each clip is shown. None are earth shattering, but one does show more of Ryan and Kelsi’s relationship and how romance may be on the horizon.

As expected with this music heavy movie, there is a sing-along feature. You can play the movie with the lyrics on the bottom of the screen. You can also jump to the specific songs and just watch those, with or without the lyrics.

There are three short extras that cover the “backstage” aspects of the movie. “Night of Nights” is seven minutes and deals with the prom related musical numbers. Including the spectacular dance for “A Night to Remember” and the waltzing done at the actual prom. There is a little bit about the meaning of prom but most of it is about shooting the dances and how hard they were to do. It also shows some of the actors waltzing for the first time, which is funny.

There is a brief featurette called “It’s All in the Dress” which interviews the costume designer and the actresses about the dresses they wear in the prom scenes. It should be of interest to younger girls who love dresses…which is pretty much the target audience of this movie.

The final extra is “Cast Goodbyes.” That is pretty much what it sounds like. The cast talks about their experiences on the three films and how hard it is to say goodbye. It also shows some of the last shots and the actors crying as they say goodbye to everyone. Zac Efron comes on with a little tag after the extra finishes and sounds like his character of Troy Bolton isn’t saying goodbye. It’s not clear if he means he’ll make appearances in future High School Musical movies or if he means that he’ll live on in this movie. My guess is that he’ll make cameos in future movies or TV movies.

The extras fit in with the basic target audience of the movie, pre-teen girls. I would have liked to see more about some of the dance numbers. In fact, the song “Scream” includes some interesting visuals with Efron dancing in a revolving hallway that would have been fun to see behind-the-scenes. Still, this set gives the people who want it, what they want. It’s not great, but it goes along with a “harmless” movie in being a “harmless” DVD.