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HANNAH MONTANA
The Complete First Season

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Miley Cyrus, Emily Osment, Mitchel Musso, Jason Earles, Billy Ray Cyrus
Directors:  Various 
Audio:  Dolby Digital Stereo
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  Disney
Features:  See Review
Length:  586 Minutes
Release Date:  November 18, 2008

“Miley…why are you dressed like a chicken?”

“Because they were all out of gorilla suits, now CAN WE MOVE ON?!”

Shows ***1/2

One teenage girl, two identities…no, it’s not some ridiculous plot for a spy thriller.  It’s Hannah Montana, and it’s the Disney Channel show that can’t be stopped. 

From being just another entry in the network’s lineup to becoming one of the most popular teen franchises on the planet, Hannah has captured the imaginations of young girls and their families around the world.  You can’t go into any department store without seeing her face.  She’s gone from television to platinum selling CDs, to a hit concert film and tour and more.  And young Miley Cyrus has only just turned sixteen.

I remember taking my first look at the show on Disney’s first four episode DVD release, then occasionally I would flip channels and find the program on, and watch it some more.  This isn’t a show aimed at me or my demographic, and I don’t even have kids, but I found myself tuning in regularly on weeknights to follow the adventures of Hannah and her family.  Mostly because of Miley Cyrus, whom I thought to have the natural comic timing of a Lucille Ball even at her young age.

One thing I always hoped for was that Disney would eventually release this show in complete season sets, and what can you say about the studio that taught us to wish upon a star?  Hannah Montana: The Complete First Season gathers all 26 episodes from the kickoff year on a nice four disc set.  You’ve wet your whistle with the previous limited releases, now you can enjoy Hannah as a full course meal.

Miley Stewart (Miley Cyrus) is a fourteen year old girl living a double life.  By day, she’s a typical teenage girl, by night, she’s the mega pop sensation known to fans everywhere as Hannah Montana.  She chose the dual identities so she could have the “best of both worlds”, being a normal kid with a normal life and keeping stardom as something she can put on and off, like a costume change.  It isn’t easy. 

Thankfully, she has the support of her family.  Though we learn her mother passed away years earlier, she still has her dad Robbie Ray (Billy Ray Cyrus), a one time music sensation who now devotes his time to his daughter’s career, and her older brother Jackson (Earles)…they bicker and fight like any siblings, but always come together in a pinch.

Miley also has her friends Lily (Osment) and Oliver (Musso).  In the first two episodes, they each get to learn her secret, and from that point, are always by her side in keeping Hannah separate from Miley.  It isn’t easy.  The first disc has Miley dating a boy who hates Hannah Montana…imagine how complicated it gets when the fellow tries to take Miley to a Hannah concert to give the pop star a fair chance.  Yikes!  Or how about what happens when Lily proves to be a little too uncool for Hannah’s celebrity circle…will friendship carry the day?  One guess.

That disc also introduces the inimitably great Vicki Lawrence as Miley’s grandmother, who teaches the kids a valuable lesson on family when Hannah’s concert for the Queen of England coincides with Jackson’s big volleyball tournament.  It’s priceless to hear the Queen ask “have we just been punked?”. 

The second disc continues the hilarity with a few of my favorite episodes.  In one, Miley tries to teach Lily a lesson about being comfortable in your own skin…but what about that gigantic billboard of Hannah sporting a zit as big as a weather balloon?  She also tries to use Hannah to play matchmaker for Oliver, with some awkwardly funny results. 

The third disc introduces us to celebutard Jake Ryan (Cody Linley), a teen heartthrob who needs a few lessons from Miley on how to live a normal life.  How will it be when Hannah guests stars on his hit zombie slayer show, while Miley begins to fall for the handsome but vacant star?  He appears in four episodes, including one where Miley accidentally blabs her secret to the press…family to the rescue!  And another where Dolly Parton makes her debut as Miley’s Aunt Dolly, having to help her niece out when a tape of her confessing her feelings for Jake ends up in his hands…OUCH!  But perhaps best of all is when Miley decides to make Jake jealous by taking up with a guy who turns out to be something other than what he seems.  Sounds familiar, huh?

The final disc starts with one of the funniest episodes ever.  In it, zealous paparazzi mistake Jackson for Hannah’s new boyfriend…AWKWARD!  But even worse is when Jackson finds there are perks to dating a celebrity, and milks the mistake for all it’s worth!  Jackson also ends up hired to be an assistant to Hannah with some laughably horrible results.  And Miley learns a lesson in honesty when Hannah has to hock a perfume that makes her have…um, some bad reactions. 

The cast is great, and make the most of the light family fare, but it’s really always been about young Miley Cyrus in the starring role for me.  I continue to hope that celebrity won’t take a toll on this talented young star and turn her from The Disney Channel into an episode of the E! True Hollywood Story.  Time will tell.

But she’s shown more than enough chops in comedy and music to maintain a bright future if she keeps her head about her.  This four disc debut season set is all the evidence you need to know that.

Video **1/2

There are some natural limitations with a show shot on video…images are naturally not quite as sharp as you might want, and the colors don’t pop as much, but this DVD presentation makes it all as clear as possible.  The transfers make the shows look better on disc than on standard TV broadcast, so that’s a plus.

Audio **

The stereo audio tracks are fine…not a lot of dynamic range, even with the music, but the dialogue is clean and clear, and the many songs included in the show all sound fine.

Features *1/2

Each of the four discs contains a “Hannah’s Highlights” special, which means you can watch one episode per disc with a special pop-up trivia track.  Problem is, when you select the highlights, the subtitles don’t default on, so you have to use your remote to get them started.  The fourth disc also has a short film of Miley and Billy Ray at home on their Tennessee farm, plus the premiere episode of the 2008 Disney Channel Games.

Summary:

Seeing this show in complete seasons is the way to go, so I’m very happy Disney has finally offered Hannah Montana: The Complete Season One to fans.  This light but funny show is a rocking good time for the whole family.

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