Judge Clark Douglas wonders if this is really the best both worlds have to offer.
Our reviews of Hannah Montana And Miley Cyrus: Best Of Both Worlds Concert (Blu-Ray) (published August 27th, 2008), Hannah Montana: Keeping It Real (published April 6th, 2009), Hannah Montana: Miley Says Goodbye? (published March 15th, 2010), Hannah Montana: One In A Million (published January 26th, 2008), Hannah Montana: Pop Star Profile (published July 11th, 2007), and Hannah Montana: The Movie (Blu-Ray) (published August 18th, 2009) are also available.
Get ready for the year's most eye-popping, dance-in-your seat musical experience!
I'm not sure that I've ever been tasked with reviewing anything more critic-proof than Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert. I could spend pages and pages telling you why I don't care for the music of Miley Cyrus. If I were to do that, absolutely no one would care. Either you are absolutely dying to see this concert film, or you have no interest in it whatsoever. I am firmly in the latter category, as I imagine most readers over the age of 16 are. Hannah Montana's popularity is an unstoppable cultural force, and those of us who don't like it have no choice but to sit in the corner and wait until the next big thing comes along.
The most notable thing about Best of Both Worlds is not the popular Ms. Cyrus or her music, but the fans. Hordes of screaming, squealing pre-teen girls create a high-pitched thunderstorm of approval from start to finish. It doesn't matter which song Miley is singing, and it doesn't matter how well she is performing. The girls are just thrilled to be there, gasping with excitement at the prospect of being in the same room as their idol. Flashing cameras, bright cell phone screens, and way too many glowsticks are employed by nearly every audience member. The music isn't the point; the music is just an excuse for the party. Often the room grows so loud that the lyrics to each song become incomprehensible in the feverish chaos.
For most fans of Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana, this will not be a liability. This isn't a good way to listen to the actual music…that's what the CDs (they still make those, right?) are for. When Best of Both Worlds played in theatres, there were many reports of theatres turning wildly chaotic, with audience members singing and dancing along. Now that it's on DVD, young girls can do the exact same thing at home, rocking out and squealing to their heart's content in front of the television screen. The vibe of the movie demands this; it would be incredibly boring if you simply sat there and observed the whole thing.
Unfortunately, sitting and observing is precisely what I did. My knees simply can't bear the prospect of dancing along to Hannah Montana, much less my conscience. Cyrus performs the first half of the concert as her famous alter ego Hannah Montana, and I was struck by how mundane all of her songs are. Each tune is almost identical: an energetic, upbeat, and slick pop number featuring vapid and vaguely inspirational lyrics about partying and following your dreams. Not a single tune breaks out of this mold; there is no musical diversity whatsoever. The best thing that can be said about these numbers is that Cyrus is more or less spreading positive messages (thin as they may be) to the kiddies.
Midway through, we get a guest appearance from the Jonas Brothers, who cause the level of squealing to get just a little bit louder than you thought it could. These teen idols change the pace just a little bit (replacing Montana's enthusiastic pop with whiny teen angst), but after three songs, I was more than ready to bid them farewell.
The second half of the concert focuses on Miley Cyrus outside her Hannah Montana persona. The songs here are still very pop-oriented, but there is a much greater deal of musical diversity in these numbers. There's a salsa piece, a song with some Tex-Mex flavor, a gentle country ballad…I didn't really like the songs a whole lot better, but at least I could remember which was which. It should also be noted that these songs are a little edgier, which is not necessarily a positive thing. The lyrics tend to be flirtier, and Cyrus performs them in a slightly less innocent manner that uncomfortably seems to position her as the next Britney Spears.
The most interesting elements of the film are the bits of behind-the-scenes footage, which only take a few minutes of the running time. There are some interviews about what goes in to creating one of these crazy shows. My favorite observation from a stage hand about being at the concert: "It's like being behind a jet engine when it's taking off. Actually, it's worse." More of this material would have added increased interest for viewers like me, but I'm sure that the kids wouldn't have cared for that. My single favorite moment in the film involves a group of dedicated dads putting on high heels and participating in foot races in an attempt to win tickets to the concert for their little daughters. Many of them fall flat on their faces, scraping their chins and losing what little dignity they may have had. They are braver men than I.
The transfer isn't really that great; compression is an issue due to the fact that the film is included on each disc twice (you have the option to watch it in fullscreen or widescreen). Some of the darker scenes could stand to be a little bit sharper, though explosions of fireworks and confetti look pretty good. The sound is okay, but not as great as you would hope for a film like this. It's a noisy track with a constantly aggressive bassline, but not as sharp or clean as I was expecting (there's some notable distortion here and there). I assume the Blu-ray release is far superior to this one.
Now, this film is being packaged as a 2-disc deluxe edition, but that is a little misleading. Disc 1 offers the film in 2-D, and Disc 2 features the film in 3-D (the movie comes with four pairs of 3-D glasses). Personally, I recommend watching the film in 2-D. In theatres, audience members were given quality 3-D glasses, but the DVD comes with the cheap and annoying red & blue kind that give me a headache. Both discs have the same 11-minute behind the scenes featurette and two bonus songs. So really, there's less than twenty minutes of supplemental material included in this 2-disc set. Oh, and there's a sing-along subtitle track, if that's your cup of tea.
Again, I doubt this review will sway anybody one way or the other. Hopefully it provides some helpful info for those of you who are planning to pick up the film anyway. As for myself, I need to pull out my copy of The Last Waltz and spend the rest of the day attempting to recover from this chaotic assault on my personal tastes. Guilty.
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