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Hannah Montana
Pop Star Profile

review by Zach B.

 

 

Running Time: 91 Minutes

Starring: Miley Cyrus, Emily Osment, Mitchel Musso, Jason Earles, Billy Ray Cyrus, Cody Linley

 

Studio: Disney

Retail Price: $29.99

Features: Live Concert Performance, The Real Miley Cyrus

Specs: 1.33:1 Full Screen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Chapter Selection (4 chapters per episode)

Released: June 29th, 2007

 

What's "Hannah Montana" you ask? Why, it's just the Disney Channel continuing its dominance on the all-coveted tween market. One of the channel's biggest shows for quite awhile now, the series stars Miley Cyrus as Hannah Montana, a teen superstar who doesn't want her school to know she's famous (but her two best and "normal" friends do) - so she conceals her identity as Miley Stewart. Of course, the pressure to lead this twisted and dangerous double life as a public sensation AND as a teen facing the typical growing pains can lead to some zany situations and consequences - but it's all okay as long as you have family and friends to guide you through. Not since Disney's own "That's So Raven" has teen life been so accurately been portrayed on television (I'm being sarcastic - just in case some of you actually took me seriously).

Based on what I viewed of the show, "Hannah Montana" packs what you expect of a typical sitcom aimed at kids and young teenagers: stereotypical characters who are more like human cartoons, lots of corny jokes and one-liners, chaste romances that are taken way too seriously and a tidy moral to wrap up everything at the end. Oh, and some high-gloss pop music and a cast of likable young actors - Miley Cyrus, with her beaver teeth, is hyperactive and is probably that girl you want as your best friend if you are twelve (or the one you point out in school and laugh at for being "quite the character). Emily Osment is regulated to the sidekick role, and damn, she eerily reminds me of her older brother (whatever happened to him, beside that unfortunate run-in with the law?). And the actors in the young male parts - Miley's other friend and brother (Mitchel Musso and Jason Earles) - are filled with energy and enthusiasm, even if these budding actors are stock characters that a young generation probably see themselves (or their friends and brothers) in. And Billy Ray Cyrus - yes, Miley's own dad and once a music sensation himself - is on the show too, and he seems to be enjoying himself in kid-friendly land (who says there are no second acts in American lives, especially in this media-centric day and age obsessed with pop culture?). No, Billy's fate is not because of his dwindling music career which technically ended decades ago, but probably because not enough of you watched "Doc" on the fledging PAX network.

But in all seriousness, "Hannah Montana" has a formula that works: it is pretty wholesome and entertaining, and reaches just the right audience: it's plotlines can be enjoyed by those in their single digits, but has elements for those who have entered their double-digits... but probably aren't exactly ready for WB (err, CW) offerings yet. It's also a fantasy; a show where you have to take a leap of faith that a lot of teenagers who apparently don't read blogs or US Weekly don't recognize that a famous pop star is right under their noses. The subtle genius of "Hannah Montana" - in why it is probably such a success - is that it plays into a standard tween fantasy, or as the marketing and theme song puts it, "the best of both worlds": being young, being rich and successful for belting out pop tunes by a second-tier Max Martin and having fun out in the public eye... but also having that private life: fun with family and friends, and relatable stuff. You know, like crushes on boys and uh... school. (Can't we relate to all of this? Don't we all want to secretly have the life of Hannah Montana?)

At the same time though, as appealing as this is for a younger audience, "Hannah Montana" is a marketing juggernaut - merchandise galore, not to mention its music has gotten a life of its own. With that said, it's no coincidence that this latest DVD release - entitled "Pop Star Profile" - is coming out right when the new "Hannah Montana" CD has hit shelves (which also includes - OMG - Miley Cyrus' solo debut as a bonus CD). Apparently this synergy and massive hype works, since the new Hannah CD opened to number one on the Billboard charts.

But for those of you who are really in it for the series (or if you are a parent just treating your child), four episodes are included on this DVD: "New Kid In School," "More Than A Zombie To Me," "Good Golly Miss Dolly" and "People Who Use People." These episodes really seem to play up the confusion of young love - all that yearning, jealousy and uh, how being in the public eye and sealing your identity can make it all the trickier. Again, this show - for obvious reasons - isn't my cup of tea. But if it is for you, or someone in the Disney Channel's demographic, then I hope you and them enjoy the machine.

 

All the episodes on the DVD are presented in 1.33:1 full screen, just as they aired on the Disney Channel. The video-taped episodes look really good: other than some noise and slight edge halos, the series looks pretty pristine. Colors are vibrant and well saturated, fleshtones look quite natural, and detail is well-refined. The episodes look pretty sharp, overall. No complaints should be had here, but I must wonder if kids are nitpicky when it comes to the quality of the transfers of their favorite TV shows on DVD (I somehow doubt it).

 

The episodes are given the Dolby Digital 5.1 treatment, but there isn't much as far as surrounds or anything that's truly enveloping. Dialogue is clear and easy to hear, and the sound effects that come up here and there give a little pop, but not much else. The show's constant laugh track is a bit on the loud side at times, but coming across best is the music in the show - particularly the pop tunes that get performed. (And subwoofer use? Uh, what subwoofer use?) In all, I'm sure a two-channel Dolby Surround track would have been more than sufficient for this show. English subtitles and English closed captions are included.

 

Not much. There's a Live Performance of Miley Cyrus performing the song "Nobody's Perfect," and it's pretty cringe-inducing. (Let the hate mail begin!) The song is in non-anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1 (is this going to be on an upcoming concert DVD?). A little more substantial, and lasting a bit over five minutes, is the featurette The Real Miley Cyrus. I'm sure kiddies will love seeing that Miley Cyrus has a real, normal family... just like their own (uh, maybe). The Cyrus siblings and her mom talk about Miley's home life to an extent, and Miley's cast members talk about how close they are to her (aww). Clips from the show and on-the-set footage are dispersed.

 

Like all of Disney Channel's programming, I'm too old for this kind of thing... but at the same time, I can see why kids enjoy shows like "Hannah Montana" - it's goofy, innocent fun (see? I'm not that much of a crummedgon). As far as a DVD release goes, it is decent enough - the episodes look and sound fine, but the extras are sparse. Fans of the show (and all you parents who get hounded by your kids to buy them things), I'm sure you'll be picking this one up.