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Hannah Montana: The Movie DVD & Blu-ray Review

Hannah Montana: The Movie poster Hannah Montana: The Movie

Theatrical Release: April 10, 2009 / Running Time: 102 Minutes / Rating: G

Director: Peter Chelsom / Writers: Dan Berendsen (screenplay); Michael Poryes, Rich Correll, Barry O'Brien (characters)

Cast: Miley Cyrus (Miley Stewart/Hannah Montana), Billy Ray Cyrus (Robby Ray Stewart), Emily Osment (Lilly Truscott), Margo Martindale (Grandma Ruby), Jason Earles (Jackson Stewart), Peter Gunn (Oswald Granger), Melora Hardin (Lorelai), Mitchel Musso (Oliver Oken), Lucas Till (Travis Brody), Barry Bostwick (Mr. Bradley), Moises Arias (Rico), Vanessa Williams (Vita), Jared Carter (Derrick), Beau Billingslea (Mayor), Katrina Hagger Smith (Mayor's Wife), Emily Grace Reaves (Cindy Lou), Jane Carr (Lucinda), Taylor Swift (Herself), Rascal Flatts (Themselves), Tyra Banks (Herself - uncredited)

Songs: "The Best of Both Worlds: The 2009 Movie Mix", "The Good Life", "Game Over", "Everything I Want", "Let's Get Crazy", "Backwards", "Bless the Broken Road", "Don't Walk Away", "Dream", "Back to Tennessee", "Crazier", "Hoedown Throwdown", "Butterfly Fly Away", "Rock Star", "The Climb", "You'll Always Find Your Way Back Home", "Let's Do This", "Spotlights"

Buy Hannah Montana: The Movie from Amazon.com: 1-Disc DVD • 2-Disc Deluxe Edition DVD • Blu-ray/DVD Combo


and Kelvin Cedeno

"Hannah Montana" began like any Disney Channel television show. Created by a trio of middle-aged men whose TV résumés date back to the early 1980s, it applied a new one-note premise to a format twice proven successful ("That's So Raven", "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody"). The youthful cast, boy and girl best friends, wacky sibling, and broad writing were nothing new, but that one-note premise -- ordinary teen girl is secretly a famous pop star -- and the musical nature it entailed apparently helped the low-budget sitcom stand out.

By now, you either know about the show's success or don't care. Record-setting ratings, chart-topping albums, voraciously scalped sold-out concerts, a profitable 3-D movie, and endless media coverage all came within two years of the program's debut. The novelty of Hannah's tween empire has worn off, but the popularity hasn't. And so, few could be surprised to see the show's feature-length expansion going to the big screen and, amidst light spring competition, opening #1 at the box office.

Having to break into the Hannah Montana concert, Lilly (Emily Osment) and Miley (Miley Cyrus) crash through a banner and give us the movie's best sight gag. Although Hannah Montana's (Miley Cyrus) impromptu amusement park concert is well received by partygoers, it has a more damaging effect on her BFF, whose Sweet 16 party it takes over.

Hannah Montana: The Movie seems aware of what it must do from its start, which is to translate an inane third-season sitcom into a respectable piece of family entertainment. The shortcuts and sloppiness that are at home on the Disney Channel won't really fly being blown up to a 3-story screen. So, while the film stays true to the series, themes and characters, everything is more polished.

Replacing the garish low-grade digital video and routine multi-camera format of the show are a pleasant 35mm look composed by a seasoned director (Shall We Dance's Peter Chelsom) and cinematographer (David Hennings, Ice Princess).
Substituting for Roxy the bodyguard played by notorious overactor Francis Callier is newly-introduced personal assistant Vita, portrayed by Vanessa Williams. Kicking things off, the show's opening title theme, "The Best of Both Worlds", gets performed at length with the vigor of the 3-D Concert Movie but with some remixed portions and the visual imagination of something edited, not live. The number sets the scene for the kind of invention that the show's many limitations generously lend themselves to.

As the story opens, the down-to-earth aspect of Miley Stewart (Miley Cyrus) appears to be slipping away while fervor for her famous alter ego Hannah Montana remains strong. A fight with Tyra Banks for a shop's last pair of stylish shoes delays Hannah/Miley and, with a paparazzo on her trail, she is forced to show up at best friend Lilly's elaborate amusement park Sweet 16 bash as Hannah. Excited crowds form and a dejected Lilly (Emily Osment) lets slip Miley's real hometown to Oswald Granger (Peter Gunn), a reporter for British Bon Chic magazine who's desperate to uncover the singer's secret identity.

Hannah is stunned and Robby Ray (Billy Ray Cyrus) quite pleased upon their private jet's surprise landing in rural Tennessee. On a horse, Miley gets up close and personal with childhood friend turned cowboy Travis Brody (Lucas Till).

Shortly after, in a cosmic coincidence the film hardly notices, Miley's father Robby Ray (Billy Ray Cyrus) decides his girl needs a reality check and, without notice, takes her back to Crowley Meadows, Tennessee and the farm she grew up on, for two weeks of "Hannah Detox." Upset to leave Malibu behind, Miley nonetheless removes her wig and instantly gets a love interest in Travis (Lucas Till), a friend from childhood who's now a real, swell cowboy. Dad gets a love interest himself in new-in-town lady foreman Lorelai (Melora Hardin).

Hannah Montana: The Movie Bloopers Reel Clip:

As does hospitable host Grandma Ruby (Margo Martindale) in the form of a mall developer (Barry Bostwick), or rather she would if the movie bothered to follow through on that thread. Instead, he's simply the mild villain of the obligatory save-the-town plotline.

Hannah's universe benefits considerably from leaving behind an excessive laugh track and fake sets for photogenic locations and no compulsion to be funny every 30 seconds. Depth and substance are gained as instead of a resolvable lightweight sitcom problem we have a bona fide mid-teen crisis. It's treated seriously, as the goofier characters from the show, like walking joke brother Jackson (Jason Earles), are reduced and their over-the-top tone softened. (The presence of Oliver and Rico amounts to little more than contractually-obligated cameos for Mitchel Musso and Moises Arias.) Reflecting the increase in drama, the franchise's signature bubble gum pop gives way to acoustic country (although Miley retains a processed studio sound in any setting) with Rascal Flatts and Taylor Swift making unidentified singing appearances.

While the movie is surprisingly adept operating as good-humored family drama, it realizes that it can't abandon the broad physical comedy central to the program. This invites contrivance and silliness in familiar pickles: Lilly doubling as Hannah, the old two-places-at-once dilemma, and a lobster dinner with a loose ferret that inevitably goes up in flames. It's not that these tired gags are without humor; they just don't mesh well with the surroundings.

"Hannah Montana: The Movie" piles the layers onto this joke as Robby Ray catches love interest Lorelai (Melora Hardin) giving a foot massage to a phony Hannah Montana (Lilly). Miley (Miley Cyrus) gets some country wisdom and support from maternal grandmother Ruby (Margo Martindale).

Even when it's not going for broke with standby sitcom antics, the film hits some wrong notes. Miley's puppy love arc wanders into melodrama. A climax meant to be poignant is more humorous (unintentionally) than anything else. And two bigger issues loom over the entire film.

One involves continuity. As is obvious for an ongoing franchise as huge as this, the movie is sure to not do anything it can't undo or move past. With this in mind, either the movie must be considered a disjoint diversion of its own,
or the romances and relationships involving characters played by film actors should be taken with skepticism. Hannah Montana: The Movie may appear to have a brain, but the TV show that spawned it is all too likely to dismiss the events of the film, with or without a passing reference.

The other aspect undermining the good is the further stretching of the already flimsy and beyond ridiculous notion that nobody sees the resemblance between Miley and Hannah. It's nothing that suspending disbelief à la Clark Kent and Superman can't cure (although Superman stories don't go on and on about dual lives) and that's something the young girls this is aimed at obviously can handle. But it does grant an air of stupidity to everything that transcends, an air that can be traced back to the franchise's conception.

It seems fair to call Hannah the fourth Disney Channel property to come to theaters in the past two years (and fifth this decade; remember Lizzie McGuire?). Moviegoers around the world have made it clearly the second most successful in terms of attendance (behind only High School Musical 3). A just-under-$80 million front-loaded domestic gross and sure-to-grow foreign earnings in that same neighborhood confirm Hannah as a moneymaker for Disney, who spent a reported $30 M to produce the film.

Hannah Montana: The Movie comes to home video next Tuesday in the three different editions Disney presently loves to give its latest films. Those are: a single-disc movie-only DVD, a two-disc deluxe DVD with some extras and a digital copy, and a Blu-ray combo with more extras and both of the deluxe DVD's discs.

Buy Hannah Montana: The Movie Blu-ray/DVD Combo from Amazon.com Blu-ray and Details

BD: 1.85:1 Widescreen; DTS-HD 7.1, Dolby 5.1 (French, Spanish)
DVD: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen; Dolby Digital 5.1 (ENG, FRE, SPA)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: August 18, 2009
Three single-sided discs (1 BD-50, 1 DVD-9 & 1 DVD-5 DVD-ROM)
Suggested Retail Price: $44.99
Blue Keepcase in Embossed, Holographic Cardboard Slipcover
Also available in Single-Disc DVD
and Deluxe Edition DVD with Digital Copy

VIDEO and AUDIO

All three of Hannah Montana: The Movie's releases present it in the 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio in which it was theatrically exhibited. Were this not following three years of television programming, I would probably just say the DVD looks fine and move on to more interesting things.
Hannah Montana and other Disney Jewelry
But Hannah looks more than fine because viewers are used to the blurry, unappealing video of episodes on TV and DVD. That fact makes the professional polish easy to appreciate and I have nothing bad to say about the picture, which displays appropriate sharpness, nice colors, and perfect clarity.

The DVD's Dolby 5.1 soundtrack also satisfies completely. The prominently featured music makes good use of the soundfield without overpowering dialogue. The latter is crisp and natural. And we also get some rural atmosphere and sound effects as well.

Overall, the Blu-ray's results are quite pleasing. Although color-timed in some instances to be a bit murkier, the varied color palette still appears vivid and accurate. Clean of both print and digital artifacts, the image only falters slightly in the sharpness department. It's detailed to be sure, but it tends to be softer than expected. The fine film grain present would suggest that this may have been an artistic decision rather than a disc issue, and it's not enough to seriously distract.

The Blu-ray's DTS-HD 7.1 surround soundtrack equally satisfies. A film of this sort tends to use the sound field more for music than for effects, and that's exactly the case here. Each musical number expands throughout the whole system and is nicely separated. The dialogue-driven scenes in between are clear and front-centered, with the surrounds offering little more than background ambience. It's not the type of track designed to show off a surround system, but it does what's required of it well.

Snoopy gossip journalist Oswald Granger (Peter Gunn) is surprised to see a CGI alligator in his hotel room bathroom in this deleted scene. Tyra Banks goofs up enough to ensure prominent placement in the bloopers reel. Miley Cyrus looks up and smiles at the night sky tinting everything blue (except that unnecessary border) in her music video for "The Climb."

BONUS FEATURES

The bonus features begin with four deleted scenes, collectively and individually introduced by director Peter Chelsom, who comfortingly declares the film his director's cut. The biggest cut explains why Jackson's college life has him working with wild animals. There's a disposable father/daughter moment. Two scenes give reporter Oswald comeuppance for his snooping, one with those animals and one involving Jackson's otherwise unseen Hannah wig business. Altogether, the scenes and intros run 10 minutes and 30 seconds.

Outtakes (3:48) are introduced by Chelsom and named "Fun with Hannah & The Gang." Though the flubs and goofiness are fairly routine, they're a bit more entertaining than most blooper reels. Especially amusing is when a censor of the word "crap" leads one to one wonder what other things Jason Earles might try not to do in his pants.

Miley Cyrus' music video for MTV Award winner "The Climb" (3:52) of course gives us a bit of the requisite film clippage, but takes a more creative/artistic approach for the most part. Miley performs amidst laser pyramids and golden canyon edges, when she is not walking down a lonely road on a blue night and dancing in the rain. Because it's illogically both letterboxed and windowboxed, the video only claims a fraction of the screen.

Emily Osment presents the Hollywood sign as part of her Los Angeles tour in "Find Your Way Back Home." Making up for his lack of screentime in the film, Jason Earles gets to host "I Should Have Gone to Film School" and interview crew members like this production assistant in a Jack Bauer t-shirt. Hannah doesn't make for the most inconspicuous Waldo on the DVD's colorful main menu.

Somewhat hidden under the Backstage Disney heading are three substantive features.

"Find Your Way Back Home" (15:00) has Miley and mother Tish Cyrus taking us around their hometown of Franklin, Tennessee. They make stops to serve ice cream, adopt a kitten, and comment on sites of historical and personal interest.
Then, Emily Osment gives a brief tour of her favorite places in her home, Los Angeles, with brief visits to Pink's Hot Dogs, the La Brea Tar Pits, and the Santa Monica Pier. Believe it or not, this is one of the most candid and entertaining bonus features I've seen in a while.

A dash is rarely as significant as it is in the next feature's title: "I Should Have Gone to Film School - With Jason Earles" (15:15). The man who plays Miley's older brother Jackson interviews cast and crew members to learn what their role on production is. Text scrolls supplement the comments, giving us a humorous but genuine understanding of the different facets of film work. It's another refreshing alternative to a standard making-of piece and you'll leave knowing what a "gaffer" does.

Last comes an audio commentary by director Peter Chelsom. He does a decent job, managing to stay informative and interesting for much of this solo track. He doesn't look down upon the movie (that's why it's better than expected) and rather than just praising all involved (there is some commendation), he discusses special effects, editing tricks, production occurrences, deleted scenes and so on. Is there enough of interest to sustain the full 100 minutes? Not unless you really, really liked the movie. Even then, you're probably sad the cast doesn't join in on this discussion.

Disney's "Blu-ray is Suite" infomercial with Dylan & Cole Sprouse and Kim Rhodes is presented here in a slightly abbreviated form (4:45). There's also a minute-long briefing on digital copies.

In addition to "The Climb", the Blu-ray Disc includes six more music videos: "Back to Tennessee" (4:22) performed by Billy Ray Cyrus, "You'll Always Find Your Way Back Home" (3:51) and "Let's Get Crazy" (2:59) by Hannah Montana, a movie version of Miley's "The Climb" (4:06), Rascal Flatts' "Bless the Broken Road" (4:17), and Taylor Swift's "Crazier" (3:15). None of the extra videos comes as anything memorable musically or visually, but they're easily digested. All are presented in high-definition except for the first version of "Climb" and "Back to Tennessee."

The last BD-exclusive feature, "The Hoedown Home Experience" (14:39) (HD), is split into two parts. The first five minutes, called "Everybody Now...", act as mini "making-of" on one of the film's biggest musical numbers. Cast/crew members reflect on it and how they approached the choreography. The second portion, "Learn the Moves", follows choreographer Jamal Sims and actors Mitchell Musso and Moises Arias as they break down the dance step by step for viewers. Even together, the parts may not be very deep, but they provide both some fun shots from the set and a useful tutorial for those who wish to learn the "Hoedown Throwdown."

Before FastPlay starts DVD movie playback, previews run for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Princess and the Frog (the full trailer), "Sonny with a Chance": Sonny's Big Break, Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie, and Disney Movie Rewards. The menu adds promos for Disney Blu-ray, Earth, Santa Buddies, Princess Protection Program, Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure, Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience, and Disney Friends for Change. The Blu-ray disc loses "Friends for Change", Wizards, and the two Demi Lovato previews, but gains a Disney Parks and Resorts spot.

MENUS and PACKAGING

The DVD's main menu
Hannah Montana Fathead Wall Graphics Rock!
rotates through cut-out photos of Miley and Hannah amidst dancing sunflowers and a colorful chicken coop backdrop. All of the other menus are not animated but accompanied by excerpts of either score or Miley's "Hoedown Throwdown."

Blu-ray adds a montage to the same cut-out main menu design and plays the film itself when the pop-up menu is selected during the feature. The listings are somewhat awkwardly arranged. A box in the upper left hand corner gives running times and descriptions for each feature. The loading icon presents another wooden piece, this time of a painted-on chicken's eggs being colored in as the menu loads.

The Blu-ray Combo pack holds a booklet promoting Blu-ray, a booklet with your Disney Movie Rewards and Disneyfile Digital Copy code and instructions. Another booklet advertises various things including Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie coming to DVD this holiday season and a 5-episode "Hannah Montana" compilation due October 13th.

Miley Stewart moves through a revolving door with the metaphorical weight of her Hannah Montana wig in her hand. It wouldn't be "Hannah Montana" without a wacky lobster dinner bringing out five people (Jason Earles, Emily Osment, Billy Ray Cyrus, Vanessa Williams, Beau Billingslea) in search of the missing teen pop star.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Hannah Montana: The Movie pulls off perhaps the biggest about-face of any active TV series to big screen transition. The result isn't anything terrific, but adults should find it far more attractive and easier to take than the lowbrow show.
Kids who already love these characters may not necessarily appreciate the more intelligent and dramatic tone, but they'll enjoy seeing Miley be Miley and Hannah and singing songs and having fun and learning lessons.

Disney's three-release method once again complicates the purchase process. Do you need bells and whistles or to save a few bucks? Since the Deluxe DVD's bonus features are unusually strong, I'd recommend going that route. If you're planning to buy from Amazon (and support this site, no doubt, by using our link below), you'd be silly not to opt for the Blu-ray combo. Right now, the e-tailer is actually selling the Blu-ray/deluxe DVD/digital copy set for $3 less than simply the deluxe DVD + digital copy. Basically you're saving money getting a disc you might not use in the near-future and a case that doesn't match your others. Or you're spending a few dollars more than the movie-only to get all bells and whistles.

This is, of course, another push from Disney to adopt the pricier high-def format in which they've invested so much and to embrace their steeply-tagged Combo packs. I'm sure that soon they'll stop selling the deluxe DVD and digital copy on their own.

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Hannah Montana: The Complete First Season • Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert • Hannah Montana DVD Game
Hannah Montana Episode Compilations: Keeping it Real • Livin' the Rock Star Life • Pop Star Profile • Life's What You Make It • One in a Million
Multi-Series Events: That's So Suite Life of Hannah Montana • Wish Gone Amiss | CD/DVD Combos: Soundtrack • 2-Disc Special Edition Soundtrack
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Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience • Princess Protection Program • Camp Rock • Radio Disney Party Jams: The Concert
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Reviewed August 14, 2009.