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Hannah Montana on DVD: The Complete First Season • Final Season | The Movie • Best of Both Worlds Concert Film • DVD Game
Livin' the Rock Star Life • Pop Star Profile • Life's What You Make It • One in a Million • Keeping it Real • Miley Says Goodbye? • Who is Hannah Montana?
That's So Suite Life of Hannah Montana • Wish Gone Amiss • Wizards on Deck with Hannah Montana

"Hannah Montana Forever": Who is Hannah Montana? DVD Review

Hannah Montana Forever: Who is Hannah Montana? DVD cover art -- click for larger view and to buy from Amazon.com Hannah Montana Forever: Who is Hannah Montana?
Show & DVD Details

Creators: Michael Poryes, Rich Correll, Barry O'Brien / Executive Producers: Steven Peterman, Michael Poryes, Gary Dontzig / Writers: Andrew Green, Michael Poryes, Maria Brown-Gallenberg, Jay J. Demopoulos, Douglas Lieblein, Gary Dontzig, Steven Peterman, Rich Correll, Barry O'Brien / Directors: Rich Correll, Bob Koherr, Shannon Flynn, Adam Weissman, Roger S. Christiansen, David Kendall, Lee Shallat Chemel

Cast: Miley Cyrus (Miley Stewart/Hannah Montana), Emily Osment (Lilly Truscott), Mitchel Musso (Oliver Oken), Jason Earles (Jackson Stewart), Moises Arias (Rico), Billy Ray Cyrus (Robby Ray Stewart)

Recurring Characters: Cody Linley (Jake Ryan), Tammin Sursok (Siena), Shanica Knowles (Amber Addison), Anna Maria Perez de Tagle (Ashley DeWitt), R. Brandon Johnson (Brian Winters)

Notable Guest Stars: Jay Leno (Himself), Valerie Mahaffey (Ms. Jameson), Drew Roy (Jesse), Dr. Phil McGraw (Himself), Robert Costanzo (Al Blaine), Wayne Wilderson (Office Diaria), Sydney Park (Kelsey Diaria), Ernie Grunwald (Ed), Nicole Randall Johnson (Lorraine), Tiya Sircar (Natasha), Patrick Ryan Anderson (Todd), Andrι Jamal Kinney (Cooper), Paul Vogt (Dontzig), Matt Winston (Fermine), Corbin Bleu (Johnny Collins)

Running Time: 185 minutes (8 episodes) / Rating: TV-G
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Standard Definition Broadcast Ratio) / Dolby Surround 2.0 (English, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish; Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled and Captioned
DVD Release Date: November 2, 2010 / Suggested Retail Price: $19.99
Episodes originally aired between March 24, 2006 and November 7, 2010
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9) / Black Keepcase

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"Hannah Montana" is finished. The closest thing you'll find to it today is "Hannah Montana Forever". It's not a spin-off, but the fourth and final season of Disney Channel's all-time biggest series rings in change, beginning with that new title.
"Forever" is a somewhat more mature and certainly more aesthetically pleasing swan song for the show that made Miley Cyrus the most famous teenager on the planet and her father Billy Ray relevant again. Production on the sitcom concluded May 2010, but in typical Disney Channel fashion, the remaining episodes are taking their dear time to air. Ten of Season 4's reported twelve episodes have aired since July, leaving only two shows left to see, including a series finale not scheduled to debut until next March.

The most noticeable change afforded the series is an increase in production values. Gone is the garish ever-blurry digital video that plagued the show for its first 42.5 hours of airtime. It is replaced with high-definition picture and a Filmized look. That was long overdue after the hundreds of millions of dollars generated by the low-budget program.

In a schizophrenic mirror conversation, Miley Stewart (Miley Cyrus) and Hannah Montana (Miley Cyrus) wonder if they're not having the worst of both worlds.

The Stewart family has moved into a Malibu ranch, with Miley/Hannah Montana (Miley Cyrus) now having her best friend Lilly Truscott (Emily Osment) living with her, her father Robby Ray (Billy Ray Cyrus), and her older brother Jackson (Jason Earles).

Miley and Lilly's other close friend, Oliver Oken, has been downgraded from the core cast; actor Mitchel Musso reprised the role once as a guest star and presumably will return for the series finale. If the show had to drop a regular, a better choice would have been Rico (Moises Arias), a character whose one note (precocious shrewdness) is lost in post-pubescence. But, no, Rico's still around. Joining the show as practically a regular but not with opening credits billing is South African/Australian actress/pop singer Tammin Sursok as Jackson's unexpected bikini model girlfriend Siena. (Remarkably she's only six years younger than the oddly youthful Earles, as the two bizarrely play their teenaged characters on opposite sides of 30.)

I noticed "Hannah Montana" improving near the end of its third season, based on the contents of the DVD compilation Miley Says Goodbye?. Who is Hannah Montana?, this review's subject released at the beginning of November 2010, continues that trend with the Season 4 shows it offers. "Hannah" is still stupid when it wants to be, but Robby Ray's parenting isn't as corny, Jackson's plots are a little less gross, and the show doesn't try to sharply turn from live-action cartoon to tender moral. Miley Cyrus: still not the best actor, but comfortable and beyond confident. Emily Osment: still the most talented cast member, but manages to lift the show up instead of dragging herself down.

As part of their minstrel duties for "I'll Always Remember You", Siena (Tammin Sursok) assumes a Lady Gaga-type personality with Rico (Moises Arias) and Jackson (Jason Earles) being the diminutive jesters of her court. With a French fry in her hair, Miley Stewart (Miley Cyrus) complains to her father for the very first time about the riot-inducing nature of her pop star alter ego in the "Hannah Montana" pilot episode.

It's not easy assigning a number to the DVDs featuring this series, but it seems fair to call Who is Hannah Montana? the seventh DVD of its kind,
the single-disc random episode collections that Disney has favored for its Disney Channel fare.

Curiously, Disney recently announced a March 8, 2011 DVD release for "Hannah Montana Forever": Final Season. That 2-disc set will join The Complete First Season, released in November 2008, as one of the rare multi-disc chronological in-house Disney Channel DVD collections (the others being "Lizzie McGuire", "[Tales from] Avonlea", and "Five Mile Creek", all of which went unfollowed). That announcement would appear to render Who is Hannah Montana? unnecessary, but despite the "Forever" titling, the disc only pulls one hour-long and one standard half-hour episode from Season 4. The other five episodes (and yes, Disney has finally filled a compilation disc to capacity instead of stopping at 90 minutes of featured content) originate from the first three seasons.

Who is Hannah Montana? more than lives up to its title with the most consistent theming of any single-show compilation I've ever encountered. You see, each episode has Miley Stewart revealing her world-famous pop star alter ego to someone in her life. Oddly, the disc arranges its episodes in a Memento fashion, almost perfectly reverse chronological order, so that with the "Play All" option Miley's identity begins as a secret to almost no one (in the corner-rounding Season 4 two-parter that actually debuted five days after this DVD was released) and ends in the series' pilot episode, where even her best friend has no idea. I don't think the disc was designed to create a Leonard Shelby experience, but to get the newest content out there front and center and then work back from there.

Besides upping the amount of content to just over three hours, this disc also departs from tradition by including episodes that are already available on DVD. While obviously the entirety of Season 1 is on the 4-disc, 26-episode Complete First Season DVD (which has amazingly dropped to a price point comparable to the 4-episode compilations), all but the Season 4 episodes (which are soon bound for the Final Season DVD) have also appeared on compilations. The two Season 1 episodes were also a part of the very first "Hannah Montana" DVD (Livin' the Rock Star Life), Season 2's Jake Ryan two-parter topped the third compilation (Life's What You Make It), and the least meaningfully revelatory Season 3 show "Ready, Set, Don't Drive" received bonus feature inclusion the 2009 compilation Keeping It Real.

Let's take a closer look at the featured episodes...

Hannah Montana's relationship with guitarist Jesse (Drew Roy) goes public on Jay Leno's Tonight Show, which means that the few old-timers tuning in who haven't nodded off before the musical guest now know about it. Miley's driver's license philosophy: if at first you don't succeed, bribe the DMV employee with Hannah Montana backstage passes.

4.09. "I'll Always Remember You" (Part 1 & Part 2) (48:56) (Originally aired November 7, 2010)
When Miley's double life creates difficulties for her relationship with musician Jesse (Drew Roy) and also stands in the way of her getting to attend college with Lilly (at "Stan-FORD"), she considers revealing her secret to the world, or at least the couple million geezers who watch Jay Leno's sad, sad "Tonight Show" revival. Disney demonstrates they know their audience with not just multiple Leno appearances
but a Dr. Phil sighting as well. Miley schizophrenically debates with Hannah. And like "He Could Be the One", the whole episode lets Jackson and Rico serve as musical storytellers, this time joined by Siena. Their varying styles emulate everything from Cats to Lady Gaga. Remember, this is the new, improved "Hannah Montana"!

4.04. "De-Do, Do-Do, Da-Don't-Don't-Don't Tell My Secret!" (22:31) (Originally aired August 1, 2010)
Despite the pleas of Jackson, Miley doubts that Siena can keep her secret identity a secret. Rico fishes with Robby Ray.

3.02. "Ready, Set, Don't Drive" (22:33) (Originally aired November 9, 2008)
After failing her road test, Miley decides to use her famous persona to get her license in time to drive to a party. But it backfires, and she ends up in jail, having to prove herself.

Lilly (Emily Osment) votes that Miley give Jake Ryan (Cody Linley), the apologetic movie star of this cardboard standee, another chance in "Achy Jakey Heart." Oliver "Smokin'" Oken (Mitchel Musso) would never recognize longtime pal Miley Stewart as Hannah Montana because, you see, he's looking upside down through the limo sunroof.

2.09. "Achy Jakey Heart (Part 1)" (22:30) (Originally aired June 24, 2007)
Movie star Jake Ryan (Cody Linley) steps back into Miley's life, taking extreme measures to ask her forgiveness. After he's completely open with her, a guilty Miley wonders if she should tell him she's Hannah Montana. The stupid B storyline of both parts sees Jackson trying to open his own reasonably-priced beach stand to compete with Rico's.

2.10. "Achy Jakey Heart (Part 2)" (22:30) (Originally aired June 24, 2007)
Miley's relationship with the newly-informed Jake Ryan quickly goes south, leading her to take drastic public steps to get him to dump her.

1.02. "Miley, Get Your Gum" (22:37) (Originally aired March 31, 2006)
To get Oliver over his Hannah Montana infatuation, Miley considers revealing her secret. Jackson buys "a chick car" (not to be confused with a chick magnet car).

1.01. "(Pilot) Lilly, Do You Want to Know a Secret?" (23:48) (Originally aired March 24, 2006)
Best friend Lilly learns Miley's big secret in this, the very first "Hannah Montana" episode.


Though "Hannah Montana" finally made the jump to high-definition this year, this DVD still presents the Season 4 episodes like the older ones in the increasingly outmoded 1.33:1 "full screen" aspect ratio. While there may not be a dimensional change, there is still a significant difference in picture quality. This year's episodes look clean, sharp, and basically flawless. They are far superior to the ever-blurry episodes of the first three seasons. All the episodes are presented in Dolby Surround 2.0, offering a less dynamic aural experience than what you would expect from a 21st century series about a musician. The basic tracks are fine and the French and Spanish dubs plus subtitles (along with English SDH) are a welcome touch, even if you probably won't use them.

Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale) sits with Boi (her Yorkie dog) while telling us about (and showing us scenes from) the upcoming HSM spin-off movie "Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure." Publicity photos and featured episode clips come together on the predominantly purple DVD main menu for "Who is Hannah Montana?"


The DVD includes just one bonus feature and it's not even directly relevant. It is a sneak peek of Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure (2:09),
an upcoming Disney Channel Original Movie spun off from the High School Musical franchise. The preview offers a mix of clips and Ashley Tisdale describing the plot.

The Bonus Features menu's other two listings are Disney's now standard pitches for Blu-ray and Disneyfile digital copy, neither of which applies to this title or the TV side of the Hannah Montana universe. While some might be bummed to not to get more meaningful bonus features, the DVD has been loaded to capacity with episodes in their absence.

The FastPlay-equipped DVD opens with a single promo for Disney Blu-ray. The same thing is all that plays from the menu's "Sneak Peeks" (sic) listing.

The main menu plays an instrumental version of the theme tune while rotating through character pics and videos. It cues playback if you don't act.

Inside the standard black keepcase, one finds a Disney Movie Rewards code, a Disney Blu-ray 3-D advertisement, and a booklet of Disney Channel ads.

Miley (Miley Cyrus) takes a very mature approach -- hairy armpits and a Bjφrk-inspired red carpet outfit -- to ending her relationship with Jake. Post-pubescent Rico (Moises Arias) goes fishing with Robby Ray (Billy Ray Cyrus) in one of Season 4's "comedic" storylines.


If you've been dutifully collecting all of the "Hannah Montana" DVD compilations and intend to get the Final Season set when it drops in March, there is nothing here that you won't own elsewhere.
Having said that, Who is Hannah Montana? may be the fairest compilation of them all, spanning the series' run, maintaining a theme, and for once filling a disc up. There is more breadth and volume to this than any of the show's other single disc releases. But that's a fact that will only be appreciated by selective and casual fans; the devout either own or will soon own all these episodes (with the Season 4 set promising more suitable widescreen presentations).

Basically, Who is Hannah Montana? feels like a "Best Of" release that does a nice job of surveying the series with key episodes. It makes for a decent taste of a show that has rarely been better than decent. When "Hannah" leaves the air and its viewers have grown up and developed nostalgia, this might be the disc to rekindle their appreciation for the series. However, that scenario is many years off and it will be a long while before Hannah disappears from Disney Channel and public consciousness.

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Reviewed December 9, 2010.