Here's a scenario worth considering: Get a dozen people together in a room and make them unanimously define comedy. After sending the coroner to pick up the mummified bodies a few weeks later, the truth will be told - it's impossible. What does this have to do with Hannah Montana? I'm not sure. One of the more popular teen shows certainly offers familiar slapstick and comedy of errors commonly found in the "situation comedy" (or "sitcom" in shorthand).
Obviously, the show revolves around Miley Stewart (Miley Cyrus) and her "alter ego" Hannah Montana. For some reason, she is protective of her two identities. How an actress-singer could keep her real identity and a fictional character unassociated in the Internet age, I'm not sure. Her usual crowd includes her friend Lola (Emily Osment), brother Jackson (Jason Earles), and dad Robby (Billy Ray Cyrus). There's also her apparent rival Ashley, who seems to inhale helium before delivering a line.
This DVD subtitled "Keeping It Real" offers four complete episodes. While they are of varying quality in the humor department, "Don't Stop Til You Get the Phone" jumped out the most to me. I will now analyze.
Miley is tired of her "O-Phone" and wants the new "Z-Phone." Apparently, she doesn't have enough money to upgrade, so she plans on selling a paparazzi photograph of Hannah hanging upside down to the tabloids. Unbeknownst to her, the photograph reveals "Hannah" wearing Miley's necklace, which has "Miley" in big letters. So, like, she totally has to sneak out of that getting printed so everyone knows her secret. Her plan is to get an even more embarrassing picture. This results in her and Lola seeking out Dwayne Johnson so they can get a ridiculous picture of him.
What happens when a film scholar watches a show such as this? I spent the entire episode thinking of the parallels to fine cinema. Perhaps the duality of Hannah/Miley resembles Fellini's approach in 8 1/2? Jackson appears with blue paint/cream smeared over his face like Jean-Paul Belmondo in Pierrot le fou. The opening shot of this episode has Robby apply a fake beard while peering into the mirror - shades of Bergman? Lola is close to "Lulu" in Pabst's Pandora's Box, save for switching inky black hair for hot pink. Maybe I should stop now.
In "The Test of My Love", Miley falls in love with Trey - who happens to have parents that exist solely to act as Noel Coward impersonators. And this is followed by the Stewarts doing impressions of Robert Newton as Long John Silver as if he were Coward. There is a moment that's funny when it's revealed Miley is eating beef pancreas with his date's parents. Maybe it's because "sweetbreads" is a funny word itself.
The humor tends to be in the vein of repeating gags that were old when The Three Stooges were doing them. So predictable it becomes, I started thinking about how bad a character's rug looked until he peeled it off his scale a moment afterwards. On a more serious point, this is likely to be much fun for its target audience and a review will not make or break opinions. It's harmless entertainment and each episode finishes out with a wholesome moral.
These episodes seem to originate from 1.33:1 standard definition broadcast video, most likely Digital Betacam. There's no way this will match a show shot in HD or even 35mm, but I feel the DVD presents the inherent look faithfully. Colors do pop out nicely and detail is always good. While the video is interlaced, as expected, it looks quite smooth when upscaled to 1080p on my system. Otherwise, the interlacing can look obnoxious on some monitors. Compression could be better, as larger patches of similar color such as shadows tend to have a blocky appearance. Odd, since the disc seems to be dual-layer for what amounts to barely over two hours of content.
The sound mix is simple Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo surround. While it's not the most complex or defined, this is probably a close representation of the highest quality broadcast. The background music and occasional songs do have a nice bit of depth. The canned laughter has a good crisp sound that has no equal. Surround activity is limited mostly to the canned laughter and the music.
The extras consist of a short fluffy featurette, "Miley's Makeover: Hannah Gets a New Look," which covers the costume design. There's also an extra episode, "Ready, Set, Don't Drive" that's on the same level as the other four episodes. As usual with Disney's teen/child geared DVDs, the FastPlay feature is available and more pre-feature trailers than you can shake a stick at.
There are also subtitles in English (SDH), Spanish, and French; as well as Spanish and French dubs. Watching this show with French audio and English subtitles is highly amusing.
Hannah Montana isn't high entertainment, but it's still fun on its own merits. The presentation quality is on par with standard shot-on-video fare and I'm sure the short featurette would interest fans of the show. Just be careful with your teenagers and don't over-absorb them into just one show. After all, a girl needs options.