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I Heart Jonas DVD Review

Buy I Heart Jonas from Amazon.com Jonas: I ♥ Jonas
Show & DVD Details

Creators/Executive Producers: Michael Curtis, Roger S.H. Schulman

Writers: Michael Curtis, Roger S.H. Schulman, Kim Duran, Zachary Rosenblatt, Ivan Menchell, Linda Mathious, Heather MacGilluray / Directors: Lev L. Spiro, Paul Hoen, Savage Steve Holland, Jerry Levine

Cast: Kevin Jonas (Kevin Lucas), Joe Jonas (Joe Lucas), Nick Jonas (Nick Lucas), Chelsea Staub (Stella Malone), Nicole Anderson (Macy Misa), John Ducey (Tom Lucas)

Recurring Characters: Frankie Jonas (Frankie Lucas), Chuck Hittinger (Van Dyke) / Notable Guest Stars: Tangelia Rouse (Ms. Snart), Sara Paxton (Fiona Skye), Jim Turner (Robert Lincoln Coler)

Running Time: 155 minutes (7 episodes) / Rating: TV-G
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio), Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired; Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9) / Originally aired June 21 - November 8, 2009
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99 / DVD Release Date: January 26, 2010
White Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover

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By Kelvin Cedeno

How is it that a show like "Jonas" can simultaneously break the Disney Channel assembly line mold yet still fit right in? Television is usually the launching pad for stars of the decidedly tween network, often leading to albums and films. With boy band sensation the Jonas Brothers, however, the TV show has followed albums, films, and a degree of popularity.
This seems odd as you'd think Disney would prefer to keep the boys elusive enough so that the fans want more (while still slapping their faces on a myriad of merchandise, of course). Instead, Joe, Nick, and Kevin Jonas appear in their own sitcom, "Jonas", which may make them too easily accessible to fans.

Even with this unusual marketing approach, "Jonas" manages to succumb to a lot of Disney Channel conventions. The premise is rather "Hannah Montana"-ish in that its celebrity musician protagonists struggle to pursue their careers while still being normal teenagers. Most of the storylines involve either a "Three's Company"-style misunderstanding or the brothers unsuccessfully trying to hide something. Usually once per episode there's an original song meant to either convey what a character is thinking or serve as a backdrop to a zany montage. Speaking of zaniness, "Jonas" is perhaps the most manic live-action show to come from Disney Channel in quite some time. This is ironic considering the series is shot on film in a single camera format, one far more involving than the usual three-camera digital video process.

Joe Lucas' (Joe Jonas) Steve Urkel-inspired getup, the extraneous amount of Kleenex for his sinuses, and his graduation portrait from wizarding school are all attempts to scare away the publicity-hungry Fiona in "Frantic Romantic." Stella (Chelsea Staub) tries to enjoy her awkward evening at a basketball game with Joe (Joe Jonas), unaware of his cold symptoms.

So how do these elements mesh together? To be honest, the results are surprisingly not bad. The storylines may be a little too familiar, but the presentation keeps things interesting. The nutty tone sets the show apart from its Disney Channel brethren. "Hannah Montana", "The Suite Life on Deck", and "Sonny with a Chance" all feature over-the-top antics, but there's something about the way "Jonas" approaches its humor that makes it feel more polished than the other three. The cast, including the Jonas Brothers as fictional versions of themselves, shows a knack for comedic timing largely missing from the aforementioned sitcoms. "Jonas" is never outright hilarious, but it earns a few chuckles and quite a few smiles, all of which are steps up from cringes and eye-rolling, at least. Because it doesn't take itself so seriously, there's less of a need for forced morality lessons, another plus.

Even though the hyperactive shenanigans make this fairly watchable, they don't completely distract from the ho-hum stories. It feels like every episode's premise has been done elsewhere both repeatedly and recently. True, the fame and career aspects of the show add a dimension to these well-worn plots, but not to a drastic degree. That means that while "Jonas" is arguably the most professional and fine-tuned program currently on Disney (save for "Phineas and Ferb"), its accomplishments are less impressive when compared to other mainstream television. The series, thankfully, avoids most of the schmaltz found on the network's other programs, but there's a still a lack of relevance to the content. That there's so little weight to anchor the humor down makes "Jonas" feel more lightweight and insubstantial than it otherwise should.

I ♥ [Heart] Jonas marks the program's second DVD release. Coming just in time for Valentine's Day, the disc compiles seven episodes that focus heavily on the budding romance between Joe and his wardrobe stylist friend Stella Malone (Chelsea Staub). This perhaps isn't the best way to jump into the show. The stories featured deal so extensively with the romantic arc that Nick and Kevin are left with little to do. It seems strange that no romantically-themed episodes involving them were culled for this set.

Joe isn't quite sure what to make of his Sgt. Pepper-inspired getup when meeting the Prime Minister. One of these Musketeers is not like the other, one of these Jonases just doesn't belong.

1. Fashion Victim (21:54) (Originally aired June 21, 2009)
The brothers are due to meet England's Prime Minister. To distract Stella from going to the movies with Van Dyke (Chuck Hittinger), Joe ruins the outfit she picked out for him for the ceremony.

2. Love Sick (23:24) (Originally aired August 2, 2009)
Stella thinks Joe is avoiding going out with her. While this is true at first, he eventually falls ill and is forced not only to cancel on her legitimately, but also get better before a big morning show performance.

3. Three Musketeers (22:39) (Originally aired August 9, 2009)
Joe gets cold feet over acting with his brothers in a production of The Three Musketeers. His role, which happens to be the love interest of Stella's character, is taken over by Van Dyke.

4. Karaoke Surprise (21:54) (Originally aired September 6, 2009)
To celebrate their 15-year "Friendaversary," Joe throws a surprise party for Stella with Macy's (Nicole Anderson) help. Stella, however, believes the two are secretly dating each other.

Fiona Skye (Sara Paxton) sets up an impromptu meeting with Joe (Joe Jonas) that ensures front-page coverage on tabloids like Celebrity Dirt. The boys utilize their bodyguard Big Robb when confronting Stella the day after her not-so-special birthday.

5. Frantic Romantic (22:09) (August 16, 2009)
An up-and-coming actress (Sara Paxton) feigns a relationship with Joe to fuel her own career. To throw her off, Joe creates a publicized coupling between him and Stella.

6. Forgetting Stella's Birthday (21:54) (Originally aired August 27, 2009)
When the boys forget Stella's birthday, they decide to make it up to her by celebrating the day after. Unfortunately, they've got an exclusive interview with a renowned journalist scheduled that same night.

7. Double Date (21:39) (Originally aired November 8, 2009)
Joe plays it cool when Stella decides to go on a date with Van Dyke, but that doesn't stop him from trying to ruin their evening. Meanwhile, Kevin experiences an unpleasant sugar high from Nick's homemade cookies.

VIDEO and AUDIO

The seven episodes contained in "I Heart Jonas" are presented in the 1.33:1 "fullscreen" aspect ratio of their standard definition broadcasts. That is a shame. Although some Disney Channel programs treat widescreen as an afterthought and end up with unused frame space in HD, that doesn't seem to be the case with "Jonas." Shoulders and elbows are regularly cut off as are the occasional ear. So while both 4x3 and 16x9 ratios are technically acceptable, it appears more thought was given to widescreen framing.

As for the image quality itself, it's average and not much more than that. The peculiar decision to cram seven episodes onto one disc results in compression artifacts. Colors seem appropriately bold, and the single-camera format allows for a sharper image than other Disney Channel shows. Were it not for the persistent artifacting, this would be a decent presentation.

Like most television programming, the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtracks come across more like stereo. Dialogue and effects are focused towards the front of the sound field. The musical numbers broaden the scope a bit, but not too often. All of the individual elements are mixed cleanly and meet expectations.

In cahoots with an unnamed actor, the Jonas Brothers stage a radio show for pranking Jordin Sparks, one in which the radio host is less than suitable for the job. Jordin Sparks, consider yourself JoBro'd! The "I Heart Jonas" DVD's colorful main menu changes headshots within each cube as the show's theme song blares.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

This I Heart Jonas DVD comes with one sole bonus feature: "You've Just Been JoBro'd! - Surprising Jordin Sparks" (10:38). Apparently part of an ongoing series, this is the Jonas Brother version of the Ashton Kutcher show "Punk'd." The target in this installment is American Idol winner Jordin Sparks, who was touring with the group at the time.
Without spoiling too much, the boys pull a prank on her involving a less-than-professional radio interview. It's not as hilarious as the one that appeared on the previous "Jonas" DVD, but it's still amusing.

Not so much a bonus feature as it is a regularly-scheduled advertisement, "Dylan & Cole Sprouse: Blu-ray is Suite!" (4:45) is a promo in which the twins give a spiel on the wonders of Blu-ray. It's appeared on many Disney DVDs as of late and doesn't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. "Learn How to Take Your Favorite Movies on the Go: DisneyFile Digital Copy" (1:00) is a tutorial and advertisement all in one, explaining how the digital copies that come in Disney's combo packs work. Since I Heart Jones come with no such copy, the promo seems irrelevant here.

The main menu is designed similarly to the one found on the Rockin' the House DVD with multicolor squares that each change into a different headshot. The show's theme plays over this. Submenus feature additional music cues and are designed similarly to the main menu but remain static.

The colorless disc comes in a white Amaray case. An embossed, shiny cardboard slipcover slides over this and has a handy "To/From" tag for Valentine giving (though why any boyfriend would give his girlfriend a DVD in which she can drool over three other guys is anyone's guess). Packaged inside are three magnets, each with a different Jonas brother on it. A pamphlet for other Disney Channel shows and films is also included along with a Disney Movie Rewards code.

When trying to communicate how valuable Stella's wardrobe contributions are, the brothers imagine their look without her input. Joe (Joe Jonas) and Stella (Chelsea Staub) attempt to skewer each other at dinner, but not before Macy has them freeze with Van Dyke (Chuck Hittinger) for a photo op.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

"Jonas" is probably the best live-action series airing on Disney Channel at the moment. It demonstrates sharper, less cringe-inducing humor than usual, and the whole production is more mainstream and less homespun. Still, those qualities aren't quite enough to fully save the show from feeling inconsequential or unmemorable.
The decision to give the Jonas Brothers their own sitcom after reaching fame seems odd, especially since it runs the risk of overexposure towards even the most devoted of fans. However, if the producers can break free of the cookie-cutter stories and learn to give it heart without cheese, "Jonas" could turn into something more noteworthy.

I Heart Jonas features seven episodes focusing on the Joe and Stella arc. The image on these is hampered by compression artifacts, but the sound is acceptable. The "You've Just Been JoBro'd!" extra is fun to watch, though a lack of behind-the-scenes features is still glaring. Fans of the series may want to pick this DVD up since Disney seems allergic to season sets, but everyone else wanting to check out the series is better off tuning to Disney Channel, which is scheduled to air the show 20 times in the next week alone.

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Reviewed January 22, 2010.