Okay, okay, maybe Best of Both Worlds isn't exactly the instant classic the rest of that bunch is, but Disney's opening salvo at bringing their billion dollar pop princess to the big screen pretty much
I'll admit to being kind of out of the loop about the whole Hannah Montana phenomenon. I mean, I'm a semi-pretentious former college radio DJ who's pushing thirty: y'know, not exactly the Disney Channel's target demo. I gotta say that Miley Cyrus puts on a heck of a show, though, and the music's a lot different than I strolled in expecting.
This is a live concert, not hiding behind banks of synthesizers, layers of pre-recorded vocals, or stacks of canned drum loops. Nope, for pretty much the entire show, there are two guitars, one keyboardist, bass, drums, a couple of backup singers, and that pop pixie herself, Miley Cyrus. When Miley calls herself a secret rock star on the Disney Channel, she's not fooling around. She -- well, she and Hannah Montana -- seem to be more into '80s mixtapes than Britney Spears or pre-fab synth-pop. F'r instance, the driving riff in "Life's What You Make It" sounds like it could've been nicked from Berlin or The Knack, "See You Again" could pass for Pat Benatar, and the concert as a whole is dominated by chugging, muscular guitars more than anything else. The lyrics skew young, sure, but the songs are all upbeat and infectiously poppy. Because of that '80s-pop-rock bent, I can see Best of Both Worlds being something parents would dig listening to with their kids. I know a few people my age who aren't ashamed to have Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus spinning in their CD changers, and even if I'm not about to dart out to the record store myself, I'll admit that a couple of these songs -- especially the ridiculously catchy "Start All Over" -- have been running through my head ever since I first gave the movie a whirl. Along with the hypercaffeinated power pop are one kinda-sorta-flamenco-ish number, funky dance-pop, and even a couple of turns with Miley strumming along on an acoustic guitar.
Best of Both Worlds is split down the middle between songs performed by Miley Cyrus in and out of character as Hannah Montana, and the Jonas Brothers bridge the two sets with a couple of songs of their own. Mixed in with the live performances is a bunch of footage of rehearsals, clowning around backstage, and random bits with tykes in line belting out their favorite Hannah Montana songs and a small army of dads trying to win tickets for their kids by racing in high heels. There are sixteen songs in the concert in all, starting off with Miley in that familiar blonde wig, yanking it off for the second set, and doing a duet -- kind of -- with herself for the finale, "The Best of Both Worlds".
Sure, sure...I know some of you probably hopped over to this review hoping for some really cynical and snarky write-up, but I do try to take these stacks of Blu-ray discs on their own merits, and I'm not going to slag something this good-natured, catchy, and unrelentingly poppy. If you're a Hannah Montana fan -- or just a home theater nut with a pint-sized fan bouncing around the house -- Best of Both Worlds ought to be a heckuva lot of fun. This Blu-ray disc is light on extras, but it looks and sounds great, and there's even a 3-D version of the movie packed on here for good measure. I can't say I'm going to tear on over to Target and grab a stack of Hannah Montana-slash-Miley Cyrus T-shirts and CDs, but I'll admit to enjoying this concert disc a lot more than I thought I would, and I'll cheerfully give Best of Both Worlds a big, bold Recommended.
Video: Two versions of Best of Both Worlds have been piled onto this dual layer Blu-ray disc, including one in 3-D. It's kind of a drag that this is anaglyph 3-D -- y'know, the red and blue kind -- but the
There's also a traditional 2-D version, and it's one of the slickest looking concert flicks I've caught in high definition. The show is bright and vividly saturated, and the candy-colored hues of the wigs and wardrobe continually leap a couple feet off the screen. Whenever Miley is on stage, the image is crisp and overflowing with detail, and the bitrate is beefy enough to keep the AVC encoding from ever hiccuping.
There is some video noise lurking in the background, really rearing its buzzing little head under low light, and the quality of the backstage footage is less consistent and not nearly as polished as the rest of the movie. One early rehearsal even suffers from some pretty nasty aliasing. There are also a few scattered shots where the image seems to bleed slightly, although maybe that's a side effect of converting away from the 3-D photography. Still, these are really minor gripes, and I think I'd have to give the nod to Best of Both Worlds as the best looking concert disc I've given a whirl on Blu-ray.
Both versions of Best of Both Worlds are presented in 1080p at the movie's theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1.
Audio: Wow. Best of Both Worlds is backed by two lossless soundtracks -- a stereo PCM mix along with a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track -- and it packs a wallop. The multichannel audio does a really nice job of capturing the live concert sound, not coming across as canned or overly sweetened in a studio. The chugging guitars and fuzzy synths are spread convincingly across all of the speakers, and Miley-slash-Hannah's vocals are rooted front and center. The vox don't really soar above the rest of the instrumentation the way I went in expecting, and the center channel could probably stand to be punched up a few notches. Some of the crowd noise is kinda shrill and piercing, but the rest of recording is solid, particularly the crisp snare and colossal kick drum. Clean, punchy, and not marred by a flicker of clipping or distortion, Best of Both Worlds sounds pretty terrific on Blu-ray.
There are also
Extras: This Blu-ray disc packs on a pair of additional live performances -- "S.O.S." by the Jonas Brothers alongside Miley Cyrus' "Good and Broken" -- and both of them are presented in high definition and Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kbps).
There's also a sing-along option, spouting off the lyrics to all of the songs from the movie featuring Hannah Montana, and each word changes color as Hannah belts 'em out. Aside from "The Best of Both Worlds", none of the songs from Miley's set (or the Jonas Brothers', for anyone keeping track at home) get the sing-along treatment.
"The Ultimate Personal Tour" (11 min.; standard def) is a guided tour on, around, and even under (!) the stage, courtesy of Miley and the Jonas Brothers. Interspersed throughout the backstage tour are interviews with Miley where she chats about how surreal it is to see her name on the marquee of a sold-out arena, what a typical day on tour is like, and what a blast it is to play with an act her own age. There's some candid footage tossed around in there too, following Miley as she raids an ice cream bar and a quick meetup with her big sister talking about how their family gets together right before she steps on stage.
A big stack of trailers and plugs rounds out the extras.
Conclusion: Best of Both Words is cute, bubbly, and infectiously poppy, and Disney's put together a heckuva Blu-ray disc to go along with it. Yeah, yeah...you already knew before clicking into this review whether or not you were gonna shell out thirty bucks for Best of Both Worlds, but if you or your kids are Hannah Montana fans...? Recommended.