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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

High School Musical 3: Senior Year (Deluxe Extended Edition) [Blu-ray]

(aka "HSM3")


(Kenny Ortega, 2008)







Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: Walt Disney Studios

Blu-ray: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment



Region: A

Runtime: 112 min

Chapters: 17

Size: 50 GB

Case: Expanded Blu-ray case w/slipcover

Release date: February 17, 2009



Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: AVC



English 5.1 DTS HD-MA (48kHz/24-bit). Spanish DD 5.1 Surround



English SDH, French & Spanish



• Disc 1: Extended Version of the movie

• Disc 2: Digital Copy

• Disc 3: DVD of HSM3

• Disc 1: New Cast Profiles (13:18)

• Cast Goodbyes (5:40)

• Deleted Scenes (7:16)

• Bloopers (2:46)

• It's All in the Dress (2:31)

• Night of Nights (7:27)

• Senior Awards (2:15)

• Sing-Along



The Film: 6
It's amazing the perks you get in your senior year: a much bigger budget and a shot on the big screen, among them. You'll remember that HSM and HSM2 were strictly Disney Channel affairs, but HSM3 was destined for theatrical distribution. It opened in late October, 2008 and recouped its budget (4 or 5 times that of HSM2) on the opening weekend. According to the IMDB, it seems to have about tripled that since.

Clearly contrary to the intent of the first two movies, the musical numbers in HSM3 are mostly extra-curricular. They are bigger, gaudier, more outrageous, more imaginative and in no conceivable way to be understood as high school musical numbers. I think this may have been my basic problem with the first two movies. I felt Kenny Ortega was trying to convince me that the numbers were simply the creation of talented kids. That would have been fine with me, I thought, if these were "my" kids, and I could look on with boastful pride. But neither the kids nor the numbers were good enough to keep me glued to my chair, nor were they amateurish enough to convince me I was watching the kids at East High doing their thing.


Not so in HSM3: Senior Year. There is no way we are going to confuse what we see here as the product of talented teenagers. And it's not simply that the cast has gotten older, though in a couple cases (Zack and Ashley in particular) this is quite evident, it is mostly a question of money. In the past, the numbers were staged where we found them: in hallways, kitchens, cafeterias, on the basketball court, at the poolside, even on the stage. But HSM3 all that is left behind – in several of the numbers, at least.

HSM plots were never anything worth the name, but plot takes an even more distant back seat to performance than previously. So I won't bore you with the details. Come to think of it, there are no details. Think: senior prom, graduation, Ashley's final attempt to take Gabriella's place on stage and in Troy's heart, and the fact that Troy and Gabriella are applying to colleges in different galaxies, and you pretty much have it.

On the other hand, there is a wee bit of character development, such as it is, this being the last stop for these kids in high school: Troy develops his war face; Gabriella finds her confidence; Ryan jumps ship and finds a new love interest besides his sister; Chad discovers doubt; and Sharpay, a competitor.



Image: 9/9
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

The opening scene at the championship basketball game is intensely saturated, contrasty, with a near overpowering sense of red. Indeed, skin tones throughout the movie are not nearly as natural as in HSM. I worried that this was a new look for Disney and would persist throughout. Thankfully it is not, but that's only because there is less red later on. Saturation and contrast continues to be boosted in all of the big musical set pieces. This is different from HSM and HSM2 where color and contrast were vivid, but never to the point of bringing attention to itself. In the previous movies, especially HSM2, I found the boosting a little much, but here, where there is even more of it, I think it sets exactly the right tone. This is because there is no attempt to make the musical numbers realistic, as if the kids suddenly just burst out into song and dance. In HSM3, the song and dance set pieces are deliberately fantastical, much like the "Greased Lightning" number in the film version of Grease. So why not a color and contrast scheme to go with it?



While there was a subtle but perceptible fuzz that covered the image at all times in HSM2 and slightly less so in HSM, HSM3 Senior Year struck me as just about perfect (except for the near creepy bloody basketball game, which I doubt is the fault of the transfer). Sharpness and focus is spot on and resolution is as tight as can be. Blacks are intense here – far more courageous than either of the previous movies. There's a willingness, especially at the aftergame nighttime party and in some of the big musical numbers, to let parts of the frame go just about completely dark, with just enough shadow detail to keep things alive. This approach would have been verboten in HSM and HSM2.














Audio & Music: 8/6
One thing that really bugged me about HSM and HSM2 was the lack of believable lip-sync. Most of the actors, Vanessa Hudgens (Gabriella) especially, were simply disconnected from the act of singing. I don't mind looping as long as the actors appear to be singing and not just flapping their lips. The DTS HD-MA upgrade from previous HSM movies results in a punchier audio mix but it also makes that disconnect that much more apparent. It's as if veils have been lifted and we can see and hear the wizard behind the curtain. It's rather jolting at first, but then we get used to it and accept its peculiar non-reality. Everything from the drumline at the basketball game to the dialogue to the big and little musical numbers is just that much clearer and crisper.


Operations: 9
The menus here are among the most innovative and creative I've encountered. Like pages from a school yearbook, they are crammed with information about the various features. The only downside is that some of those pages require a little loading time.




Extras: 7
This 3-disc Deluxe Extended Edition includes a DVD of the (extended) feature film and a digital copy disc for viewing flexibility. The extra features are fairly brief and are so cleverly laid out in the menu that finding and exploring them is half the fun. So I'm going to omit the details (except as noted in the listing above). HSM3 offers BDisney Live, which HSM and HSM2 do not.



Bottom line: 7
HMS through HSM2 and HSM3 make for an interesting progression – not only in terms of situational and character development, but also in terms of commercial opportunity. HSM3 – Senior Year simply oozes with the confidence that a big budget brings. And the filmmakers take advantage of bigger sets, more costumes changes and extravagant dance routines. The image quality, while self-consciously more vivid and less naturalistic than its predecessors, is more highly resolved and the sound altogether more dynamic. Blu-ray rules.

Leonard Norwitz
February 15th, 2009








About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.

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