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DVD Review: Hannah Montana – The Complete First Season

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Remember the good old days of Hannah Montana?

You know, before scalpers were asking as much as $3,000 a ticket for her sold-out concerts. And before Vanity Fair was getting hammered for the “topless” pictures of her real-life alter ego Miley Cyrus. And before 15-year-old Cyrus was dating a 20-year-old underwear model.

Ah yes, the good old days.

The good news is you can bring ‘em right back with Hannah Montana – The Complete First Season on DVD. The four-disc set includes all 26 episodes that originally aired in 2006-07.

Hannah Montana, like most Disney Channel fare, relies on cheesy, derivative, and lowest-common-denominator writing. And yet, the show manages to be consistently entertaining, thanks primarily to a solid principal cast. (Who knew Billy Ray Cyrus could be funny on purpose?)

The show doesn’t take any time at all establishing backstory, instead introducing us immediately to Miley Stewart, a seemingly regular girl who has to balance her secret life as pop star Hannah Montana with her normal life in junior high. Fortunately, Hannah Montana is more focused on the hijinks that Miley and her friends encounter than Hannah’s music, which pre-pubescent girls adore, and most everyone else must find exceedingly grating. (You know how many secretly relieved parents there must have been when those Hannah Montana concert tickets were nowhere to be found.)

Miley Cyrus is not a bad actress, and she’s pretty winning in the dual role (although, more convincing as regular girl Miley.) The show gets a lot of mileage out of her willingness to do just about any gross-out gag. Nearly ever other show, she finds herself doused in some type of food product it seems. Real-life dad Billy Ray Cyrus is a welcome surprise too as Robbie Ray Stewart, a former Nashville country star who bears more than a few similarities to the actor playing him. Cyrus is incredibly good-natured through it all, gently poking fun at himself and looking like he really enjoys what he’s doing.

The most reliably funny element of the show is Robbie’s interaction with older son Jackson (Jason Earles.) There’s a decent amount of comic energy there, and although the exasperated father/screw-up son motif gets beaten like a dead horse, their humorous conflicts manage to remain pretty fresh over the course of these 26 episodes. Earles (who, astonishingly, is 31 years old) is the kind of actor who could break into genuine success in a leading part. He may be 31 already, but with that babyface, it really shouldn’t matter.

The major weakness of Hannah Montana becomes readily apparent after ingesting 26 episodes over several days — the writing sucks. There is plenty of storyline repetition in just these episodes, and there’s far too much plot recycling going on here for a show with almost an entire year to produce one season. I know, I know, most of the target demographic for Hannah Montana has never even thought about the show’s scripts, but it does matter. Of course, as the character has become more and more of a commodity, the writing has probably suffered even further.

Hannah Montana has been a huge success for the Disney Channel and for Miley Cyrus, but it’s doubtful the show will last much longer than its current third season. And that’s going to work out just fine for all parties involved. Disney has plenty of irons in the fire, and shouldn’t have too much trouble locking down the tween demo for years to come. As for Cyrus, I’m confident she’ll be able to move on to bigger and better things.

The Hannah Montana – The Complete First Season DVD set comes with 26 episodes spread across four discs and several disposable bonus features, including a visit to Miley’s hometown, an episode of the 2008 Disney Channel Games and Miley’s selections of her favorite episodes.

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About Dusty Somers

Dusty Somers is a Seattle-based editor and writer. He is a member of the Online Film Critics Society and Seattle Theater Writers.