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SONNY WITH A CHANCE
Sonny's Big Break

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Demi Lovato, Tiffany Thornton, Sterling Knight, Brandon Mychal Smith, Doug Brochu, Allisyn Ashley Arm
Directors:  Various
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  Walt Disney
Features:  See Review
Length:  89 Minutes
Release Date:  August 25, 2009

“Marshall, your mother’s on line four.”

“Take a message.”

“And five.”

“I gotta go.” 

Shows ***1/2

Somehow, The Disney Channel has a knack for aiming for a specific target audience but managing to hit me.  I’ve enjoyed Hannah Montana, Wizards of Waverly Place…but my favorite of all is their breakout comedy Sonny With a Chance.  Not only does it have one of the best titles ever bestowed upon a television program, but also boasts the Channel’s brightest and most talented young star.

I had never seen Camp Rock, so my first introduction to Demi Lovato was a music video she did on The Disney Channel.  I turned to my wife and said, “Whoever that girl is, she can REALLY sing!”  The Disney Channel has been known for introducing cute youngsters that sing well enough to market a tune or two, but with Ms. Lovato, they got a girl with an amazing set of pipes that put every other star on the network to shame.  Yes, sorry, Miley...even you.

But that wasn’t what made me get into her new show.  Sonny With a Chance debuted not long after my upgrade to high definition, and it was one of the only shows on The Disney Channel to actually get broadcast in full HD…not even Hannah Montana gets that kind of treatment.  Enamored by my new set, we tuned in.  And we laughed.  A LOT.

It’s all about Sonny Munroe (Lovato), a down-to-earth girl from Wisconsin who earns a big break…a spot on her favorite teen sketch comedy show, So Random.  In the first of the four episodes included on this DVD, we see Sonny make the transition from small town girl with big dreams to the La La Land of Hollywood.  But it won’t be easy…the show’s resident vain queen Tawni (Thornton) doesn’t take to the idea of some Midwestern girl moving on to her territory!

And then, there’s the rival show…Mackenzie Falls.  We only get glimpses of it, but it seems to be one of those teen dramas we all know and love so well, and it’s the network’s big show, which means star Chad Dylan Cooper (Knight) and cast mates get all the perks, while looking down at the So Random crew. 

Two episodes deal with Sonny’s initiation into the bitter rivalry.  In one, her attempt at a peace offering backfires terribly, but she has not yet begun to fight for her friends.  And in another, the rejection of her “lame superhero” sketch (“Flat-U-Lance?”  “He’s silent, but deadly!”) sends her dangerously close to making the jump to the Falls…Sonny, say it isn’t so!

But my favorite of the four is the “Cheater Girls” episode.  In it, Sonny and Tawni create new characters for a sketch that are absolutely hysterical.  But in order to bring it to the show, they have to pass a geometry test.  How far is Sonny willing to go to make that happen?

This is a funny show with terrific young characters, including Nico (Smith), Grady (Brochu) and Zora (Arm), but it’s really Demi Lovato who brings it all together.  Her bright smiling face and comedic timing prove that she’s more than just a tremendous singer (though the show’s theme song gives her a little chance to show off that talent, too).  Sonny With a Chance might just be one of the funniest comedies on the air right now…and it’s the kind of comedy the whole family can laugh at.

Video ***1/2

Being that the show gets broadcast in HD, I was kind of hoping for a Blu-ray collection.  Not yet.  In fact, this DVD doesn’t even give us widescreen presentations.  That being said, the color and detail of the show looks fine in standard definition, and there’s a lot of cool stuff to see in the main prop house set.  Images are well contained and defined, and colors are natural looking and don’t bleed into one another.

Audio ***

The box says stereo surround, but my player recognized it as having 5.1 audio, so I’m going with that.  It’s a good mix for a simple comedy, with the music cues giving it a little more dynamic range, and spoken words coming through cleanly and clearly.

Features **1/2

The best extra is the inclusion of a bonus episode, “Sonny in the Middle”.  In it, a well-intentioned birthday gift from Sonny causes a rift between Nico and Grady…this one’s hysterical!  There’s also the cliffhanger episode of Mackenzie Falls, which had me agreeing with Tawni when she asked, “What is your show even ABOUT?!”  You can also watch Demi’s audition tape, and see Cole and Dylan Sprouse from Disney’s The Suite Life talk about the wonders of Blu-ray.  Some sneak peeks round out the supplements.

Summary:

Sonny With a Chance is the perfect show to showcase the perfect young star in Demi Lovato.  She can act, she can make you laugh, she’s got an amazing singing voice…can she do any wrong?  These four episodes are a good introduction to The Disney Channel’s young show…enjoy, but come on…how about a Blu-ray next time?  Please?

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