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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Hannah Montana, Vol. 1 - Livin' the Rock Star Life
Hannah Montana, Vol. 1 - Livin' the Rock Star Life
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // G // October 24, 2006
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by David Cornelius | posted October 29, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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"Hannah Montana" just may be Disney's most shameless attempt yet at corporate synergy and multitalented-star-grooming. The sitcom, which debuted on the Disney Channel in March 2006, stars Miley Cyrus, daughter of achy-breaky country star Billy Ray Cyrus (who co-stars as, yup, her dad), as a pop star done up in makeup and blonde wig to resemble such Disneyfied teen pop idols as Hillary Duff. Each episode includes at least one snippet of a Hannah Montana concert, and whaddyaknow, a heavily-advertised "Hannah Montana" soundtrack CD has been released the very same day the first DVD collection of "Hannah Montana" episodes lands on video store shelves. The Disney prefab machine has never been in fuller swing.

Which is a shame, as judging from the first batch of episodes, "Hannah Montana" might be a reasonably charming kid-friendly comedy, if not for all that blatant cross-promotion getting in the way. The series' cutesy premise finds the younger Cyrus playing Miley Stewart, a junior high student who lives a double life as pop sensation Hannah Montana - it's a secret known only to her family and her two best pals. The secret identity exists to allow her to lead an ordinary life away from the screaming fans who never seem to figure out it's just a cheap wig and sunglasses.

The show has been built directly from the Disney Channel sitcom mold. We get a perky best friend (female) and a goofy platonic best friend (male); a dopey brother who provides more laugh-heavy secondary plotlines; a pair of unlikable snobby girls at school for us to boo and hiss; a zany teacher; and a blaringly phony laugh track.

The Buy Disney Stuff Now! issues aside, what hurts "Hannah Montana" is a reliance on shopworn set-ups and oversold punchlines; on a writing level, this is sitcom television at its most mediocre and forgettable. What helps "Hannah Montana," however, is the charisma of its stars. Cyrus does fine in the title role, her father is surprisingly sharp (and, yes, sometimes even funny), and young stars Emily Osment, Mitchel Musso, and Jason Earles manage to keep the charm rolling well enough. This is a good, if unproven and still shaky, cast, and even if the series fails to amount to much, it'll serve as a decent training ground for future talent.

The DVD

Disney has collected three early episodes of the series, plus one yet-unaired (as of this review) episode, in the single-disc DVD compilation "Hannah Montana: Livin' the Rock Star Life!" Either Disney thinks it's too soon for a larger collection or, more likely, it realizes it can milk more cash from its fan base by dishing out fewer episodes at a time.

The DVD presents the unaired episode first (if using the "play all" feature) and the pilot episode second. This is an odd choice, as the pilot (and the follow-up episode, also included) involves Hannah's friends discovering her secret, a secret they already know in the episode that kicks off the disc.

The episodes included are:

"Money For Nothing, Guilt For Free." In this "never-before-seen" episode, Miley and her friends compete in a charity fundraiser, hoping to stick it to the spoiled girls who win the contest every year. Meanwhile, Miley's brother, Jackson, becomes obsessed with finally beating dad in a series of challenges ranging from basketball to thumb wrestling. This episode is the sharpest of the bunch, perhaps because this is a later production, meaning by this point, the cast has become comfortable with the characters.

"Lilly, Do You Want To Know a Secret?" Miley wonders if she should reveal her secret to best friend Lilly, while Jackson keeps begging dad for money he can use on a date. This is the pilot episode, which explains both its awkwardness and its overuse of musical interludes.

"Miley Get Your Gum." Oliver's stalker-esque obsession with Hannah grows troublesome for Miley and Lilly, while Jackson bemoans buying a "girl car." The plotline involving Oliver's Hannah-mania is mercifully dropped after this, the show's second episode; it's a running gag that had already grown tiresome. Meanwhile, Jason Earles proves himself worthy of the kooky-subplot position. The kid's kinda funny here.

"I Can't Make You Love Hannah If You Don't." Miley scores a date with a ninth-grader who - gasp! - doesn't like Hannah Montana, but is nice enough to get Miley concert tickets anyway, while Jackson tries to avoid the advances of his best friend's overly flirtatious sister. In other words, it's episode number four, and the writers have already dipped into the sitcom cliché pool's deep end: Miley attends the concert, but keeps sneaking out so she can go on stage. A few bright moments can't save things from a concept this lousy.

Unfortunately, no chapter stops are included within the episodes.

Video

"Hannah Montana" is one of Disney's multi-camera, shot-on-video shows, and it looks just like you'd expect a multi-camera, shot-on-video show that was produced only a few months ago to look - bright, clear, serviceable but unimpressive. Presented in the series' original 1.33:1 broadcast format.

Audio

There's no need for Dolby 5.1 on a Disney sitcom, and this disc seems to know it. The mix is clear without overdoing it. But c'mon, Disney. Enough with that laugh track already. Optional English subtitles are provided.

Extras

The music video (3:35) for "The Best of Both Worlds" is little more than footage of the faux-concert that appears in every "Hannah Montana" episode.

"Miley On Following Your Dreams!" (4:55) isn't so much inspirational dialogue with Miley Cyrus as it is merely general behind-the-scenes fluff with a few moments thrown in with Cyrus telling us that following your dreams is important. The majority of the piece is "everyone is great to work with and stuff" and "what the characters are like" filler.

"Miley's Audition Tapes" (5:26) is just what it sounds like: video footage from Cyrus' auditions, with dad making a guest appearance.

Finally, the obligatory Disney promos and trailers are included, some of which also automatically play as the disc first loads.

Final Thoughts

The show is occasionally entertaining, occasionally average Disney Channel comedy. But that doesn't matter here: even the most extreme fan of the series won't find much on this disc, what with only four episodes (that unaired one is bound to air soon, I'm sure) and the slightest of bonus material offered. Hannah fans eager for a fix of a few early episodes will do fine to simply Rent It; after all, you'll have no problems catching reruns on the Disney Channel throughout the week, so it's not like there's any desperation to catch up any time soon.
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