Judge Gordon Sullivan knows that if Hannah Montana is one in a million, there are eight of her in New York City.
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 Cyrus: Best Of Both Worlds Concert (published August 19th, 2008), Hannah Montana: Miley Says Goodbye? (published March 15th, 2010), Hannah Montana: Pop Star Profile (published July 11th, 2007), and Hannah Montana: The Movie (Blu-Ray) (published August 18th, 2009) are also available.
On Stage She's a Superstar.But at Home She Leads A Totally Normal Life!
It's happened to most of us: you turn on the local top 40 radio station and the #1 hit of the day has just started. Out of curiosity (or masochism) you keep listening. First, you notice that the girl (or boy) can't sing that well and needs production tricks to cover that ineptitude. Next you notice that the lyrics are the same vapid statements about undying love. Finally, you shake your head in wonder that such unimaginative stuff is the number one selling single. But then a funny thing happens: four hours later, you find yourself humming a tune, but can't name it. Then you realize, it's that darn pop song. Despite the fact that you hated (or at least barely tolerated) every moment of it, you can't get it out of your head. This was roughly how my experience with Hannah Montana: One in a Million went. The stories are trite, the acting is sub-par reaching up to average, and I often marveled at how popular Miley Stewart and her alter ego are. But darn if I didn't feel like I could watch more of it once this disc was over.
Facts of the Case
Miley Stewart (Miley Cyrus) is a mild-mannered young girl by day, and pop star princess by night. She lives with her dad, Robbie Ray (Billy Ray Cyrus, Mulholland Dr.) and her brother Jackson (James Earles, National Treasure). Her best friend is Lilly (Emily Osment, Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams), and they're always getting into typical teen trouble. The cast is rounded out by school friend Oliver (Mitchell Musso, Monster House) and Rico (Moises Arias, Nacho Libre), who owns the surf shop where Jackson works. Together, this bunch lives and learns together, all while keeping Hannah Montana's true identity a secret.
This Disney DVD contains four episodes:
• "Lilly's Mom Has Got it Goin' On"
• "Me and Mr. Jonas and Mr. Jonas. and Mr. Jonas"
• "I Will Always Loathe You"
• "That's What Friends are For?"
I feel like a pebble crushed against the rising tide of Hannah Montana-worship. I see her face everywhere, and nothing I say here will dissuade the faithful from buying up this disc in huge quantities on release day. Since I doubt the average tween needs to be persuaded or dissuaded from this disc, I'll address my comments to the other two main groups who are likely to read this review: parents, and the curious.
Parents who are reading this review to determine the suitability of this disc for their children need not fear. Miley doesn't have to deal with drug addiction, unwanted pregnancy, or any other mature situations. Instead, these four episodes explore the time-tested themes of coping with friendship, family, and crushes, but from a perspective your 5 year old won't find too difficult. There is a requisite "gross out" moment in each episode, like some characters eating "fast acting prune butter," but the show never strays too far into the scatological. Hannah Montana, like most sitcoms, has a lesson in every episode, but they are general enough that they are also unlikely to cause offense. Although this is my first contact with Hannah Montana, I feel it is unlikely that this disc represents a drop in quality, so those who have enjoyed Hannah's previous adventures will find something worthwhile here.
To the curious (or masochistic), this show is unlikely to surprise or disappoint. If you think a sitcom about an early adolescent with dual identities is your cup of tea, then Hannah Montana will delight you with life lessons and tween shenanigans. The show's star is slightly disappointing, as she relies too much on facial contortions instead of timing to achieve her comedy. Hopefully she'll grow out of it. The ones to watch, instead, are Emily Osment as Lilly and James Earles as Jackson. These kids' talent shines through even these meager roles. Billy Ray Cyrus spends most of these episodes looking uncomfortable or confused, but considering he's the father of a teen pop idol, it suits his character. Moises Arias rounds out the cast, and he may be the most talented of all. Sadly, his talent is hid inside the most obnoxious character on the show: Rico. I just can't stand that little kid.
On the technical side, this DVD looks and sounds fine considering its cable origins. It's not reference quality, but it looks better than many shows I've seen on DVD. The inclusion of subtitles is a nice addition, especially when some of the catch-phrases start flying. The extras are aimed exclusively at that tween audience who have made Hannah Montana such a sensation. These extras start with two music videos, both of which showcase Hannah in all her glory. It's something fans are likely to love, although I found them rather trite (and hearing a 14 year old girl talk about checking someone out was mildly disturbing. Or maybe I'm getting old.) The spotlight on character feuds is okay, but plays like a bumper for when content doesn't quite fill an hour time slot. It features clips from Disney Channel shows, including Hannah Montana, while James Earles narrates the origins and resolutions (if any) of the top 10 feuds. Yeah, it's a shameless plug for Disney Shows, but the young audience is unlikely to care. Also included is a bonus episode of That's So Raven. I actually found the included episode slightly disturbing. So much of the humor, especially in the first five minutes or so, was based on racial stereotypes: the dumb white girl, the high-strung latina, the street-smart black girl. Sure, Hannah Montana get some laughs from Rico's latin-lover type, but there are fewer jokes at his expense in all four Hannah episodes than there are stereotypical jokes in the first five minutes of this Raven episode. I'm not saying the show is racist, but I think there are enough humorous aspects to high school life that a show aimed at teens doesn't need to base so much of its comedy on racial stereotypes.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I thought the days of piecemeal episode releases were over when we switched from ugly plastic cases to shiny plastic discs, but Disney has proven me wrong. I can understand, with the tween audience in mind, not releasing an entire season at a time. It's unlikely that most of the intended buyers, considering their age, would have access to the funds to buy a 60 dollar Hannah Montana box set. Even with the audience in mind however, this disc still seems a little light. Twenty dollars for four episodes (or five if you count the Raven episode) is a bit ridiculous. It seems entirely possible that Disney could double the number of episodes on this disc without sacrificing quality. Yes, they'd make less money that way, but they'd also leave their customers with more money to buy things like the Hannah Montana doll, so it's a win-win situation.
I can't claim that I'm a fan of Hannah Montana, but the show's time-tested formula leaves me a begrudging admirer. I'll never seek out any more Hannah-related media, but if it should come my way in the future I won't have to run screaming in the other direction (unless all the episodes are about Rico).
Hannah Montana is found not guilty, while Disney is fined for not giving fans more episodes at a time.
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Scales of Justice
• "The Top 10 Disney Channel Character Feuds"
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