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HANNAH MONTANA: THE MOVIE
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Miley Cyrus, Emily Osment, Jason Earles, Margo Martindale, Melora Hardin, Vanessa Williams, Billy Ray Cyrus
Director:  Peter Chelsom
Audio:  DTS HD 7.1, Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Walt Disney
Features:  See Review
Length:  102 Minutes
Release Date:  August 18, 2009

“So…you and Miley are close?”

“You have NO idea.”

Film **1/2

With the success of Hannah Montana on the Disney Channel, it was no surprise the powers that be would figure out a way to translate that to the big screen.  Now, they’ve done it twice.  Once was a 3D concert experience that brought Hannah’s live show to life, along with her counterpart Miley Cyrus.  But after that, it was time for her to truly have the best of both worlds, as not only a television star, but a feature one as well.

Hannah Montana: The Movie brings the pop star back down to earth and to her hometown…after all, before Miley Stewart (Miley Cyrus) became a chart-topping singer, she was a little girl from a small town in Tennessee called Crowley’s Corner.  And being that as of late, the Hannah alter-ego has been consuming the young girl’s life, her father Robbie Ray (Billy Ray Cyrus) decides it’s time for a reality check.

Miley had missed her best friend Lily (Osment) on her 16th birthday, and Hannah accidentally kind of spoiled the day.  After a very public shoe fight with Tyra Banks, even though her publicist (Williams) approved, Robbie Ray makes Hannah’s next stop a two week engagement in Tennessee.  And there, Miley will have to decide once and for all who she really is…down-to-earth girl next door, or megastar.

With her grandmother (Martindale) having a birthday of her own, and older brother Jackson (Earles) getting ready to make the move to college, Miley will have to remember what it was like to be just another gal in a small town community.  But with greedy developers threatening to change her hometown forever, will Hannah have to step in to save the day?

That’s the basic story, and for her first real feature, Miley Cyrus proves herself a more than capable star.  With castmates like Mitchel Musso and Moises Arias reduced to cameo appearances, and less screen time for Emily Osment, Miley has to carry the weight of the movie mostly by herself.  And she succeeds.

What’s missing is the sense of fun from the television series.  Sure, there are comedy escapades, from Jackson’s new job working with animals to a Hannah/Miley double engagement where she races from one place and one disguise to another a la Peter Brady, but overall, the film takes itself way too seriously. 

One has to question some of the plot decisions as well.  Why in these films are developers always bad guys, and why do they always want to bulldoze a little town in the middle of nowhere to put up a mega mall when the population is probably only a few hundred?  And if the whole town was willing to spend money to see Hannah Montana at a fundraiser in order to pay their taxes and avoid the wrecking ball, why didn’t they just pay up in the first place?  And could an entire community really be trusted to do what they decide to do in the end?

There are some great new songs here, including “The Climb”, which is one of Hannah’s most beautiful, and a really touching song that Miley sings with her father.  Musical guests like Taylor Swift and Rascal Flatts make appearances, and even Billy Ray gets in on the musical fun.  Miley also proves her dad has nothing on her when it comes to the line dance with her rendition of “Hoedown Throwdown”.

But when all is said and done…I just wish it had been more fun.  Watching the dances during the end credits makes me believe the cast had a great time making the movie, but somehow, it didn’t translate so well to the actual picture.  Bringing the comedic energy of the television show to the big screen should be the next big goal…then Hannah truly will have the best of both worlds.

Video ***

This is a mostly solid high-definition transfer from Disney…images are sharp and well-detailed, but from time to time, colors and depth just come across as a little flat.  There’s often a somewhat muted quality to the presentation, as though it were a made-for-TV movie instead of a big budgeted feature.  There’s even a touch of grain noticeable here and there.  It’s not bad, by any stretch…but might be slightly less than what you’ve come to expect for Blu-ray.

Audio ***1/2

The DTS HD 7.1 track fairs a little better, mostly owing to the songs.  The music gives the audio a little extra dynamic range, and the concert sequences help open up both front and rear stages a little more.  Dialogue is nicely rendered against it all…once or twice, it seemed a bit muffled, but overall, solidly presented.

Features ***1/2

There are a pair of extras exclusive to the Blu-ray release.  One is for the “Hoedown Throwdown”, where you can learn the moves and line dance like a pro, and one on the experience of doing the dance with the cast.  Also featured is a BD LIVE experience, for those with internet-capable players.

Apart from that, there’s a commentary track from director Peter Chelsom, a blooper reel, four deleted scenes and 7 music videos including Miley and Hannah, Billy Ray Cyrus, Rascal Flatts and Taylor Swift, a look at the stars and their hometowns, plus an analytical look at the people who make a movie work hosted by Jason Earles.  Rounding out are some previews, plus the full DVD of the movie and a bonus digital copy disc.

Summary:

With television, CD and film success, there’s no reason to believe that Hannah Montana will be packing up her wig anytime soon.  Hannah Montana: The Movie reminds us all what a terrific young star the Disney Channel has in Miley Cyrus…hopefully by the next go around, the studio will remember how much fun she can be as well.

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