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DVD Review: Who is Hannah Montana?

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Before watching the latest Hannah Montana DVD release, Who is Hannah Montana? I had never watched a single episode of the show- not even a brief YouTube clip. I’ve also never seen the Hannah Montana feature film that came out last year.

I was 22 years old when Hannah Montana debuted on the Disney Channel in March 2006. Miley Cyrus and her Hannah Montana character were both 14 years old, and Disney Channel execs were aiming for an even younger audience. I have no younger siblings, and I wasn’t doing any babysitting back then, either.

Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus

But I haven’t been living under a rock! Ever since 2006, the whole Hannah Montana phenomenon was certainly noticed by me. The celebrity tabloids started filling with photos and stories about Hannah Montana star Miley Cyrus. And while browsing Claire’s or the toy department, I’ve seen Hannah Montana dolls, wigs, and other officially licensed merchandise everywhere.

Now it’s November 2010, and the last episodes of the show have already been filmed. Miley has had success in movies unrelated to Hannah Montana, and she’s already had some pop hits under her own name. Parents have complained that Miley has been acting too sexually provocatively, when her fans are apparently impressionable young girls. But Miley has recently turned 18, and she’s made it obvious that she wants to be seen as a sexy woman instead of a Mouseketeer for the pre-teen set.

But, there’s still money to be made from all of those millions of young fans. This newest Hannah Montana DVD, Who Is Hannah Montana? features the debut of a special hour long season four (last season) episode in which Hannah Montana reveals her secret identity, Miley Stewart, to the world.

Frankly, the episodes on this DVD will never be considered among Leonard Maltin’s Great American Films, so to review this release fairly, I must consider Hannah Montana’s target audience. The DVD includes the series’ pilot episode, and episodes from each season, so it gave me an excellent chance to understand the show as a whole.

The theme of this DVD is the moments when Miley Stewart reveals herself as Hannah Montana to others.  Miley Stewart is a pop star, but she wants the Best of Both Worlds– to have a life as a celebrity and as a normal teenager, at the same time. In order to achieve that, she puts on a blonde wig and uses the stage name Hannah Montana when she’s working as a pop star, and she goes to school and hangs out with friends as Miley. By simply wearing a blonde wig, no one can tell that she’s really a famous person! Hey, if the glasses worked for Clark Kent…

The show seems like it’s art imitating life. It doesn’t help that the role of Miley’s dad, Robby Ray is played by Miley Cyrus’ real father, Billy Ray Cyrus. Billy Ray and Robby Ray have both been country music stars. Miley has the same first name as her character, taking cues from Tony Danza and Tim Allen. Miss Cyrus is now a pop star, just like Hannah! But poor real life Miley doesn’t have a secret identity to hide behind, I wonder how that makes her feel?

The young actors on this show, Miley Cyrus, Emily Osment, Mitchell Musso, Jason Earles and Moises Arias, are always overacting. But ten year olds don’t want subtle Oscar worthy performances. The show does an excellent job of staying amusing for viewers with short attention spans.

The seven episodes on this DVD are full of Vaudeville-style physical humor. The fourth graders watching this DVD won’t know what Vaudeville was, so the Disney Channel is their Vaudeville. Miley Stewart pours her iced tea on her on again, off again boyfriend Jake Ryan when he tries to make up with her, by landing on the beach from a parachute. When rabid Hannah Montana fan Oliver Oken sticks his hand in the window of Hannah/Miley’s limo, she gets her dog to kiss his hand. He thought he received a kiss from her, and tells the whole school about it. In the pilot episode, when Oliver and Miley’s best friend Lilly Truscott sneak into Hannah’s dressing room, Hannah/Miley covers her face in cream pie, so that they don’t discover her true identity.

In every episode on this DVD, Miley reveals her secret to someone. In the pilot, Lilly finds out, and for the rest of the series, she’s one of the few supporting characters who know. Jake Ryan, who’s a famous actor, finds out in another episode. Miley’s older brother Jackson’s girlfriend Sienna finds out in another episode. Much of the tension and humor in this series is derived from Miley and her double life.

In the featured episode that appeared on this DVD before being aired on the Disney Channel, Miley has to share her secret with the world.

At this point in the series, Miley is dating her guitar player, Jesse. He’s seen kissing Miley in public, so the media knows they’re an item. Then, during a Hannah Montana performance on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno (yes, he makes a cameo appearance), Jesse can’t hide his affection from Miley/Hannah, and Jay declares Jesse and Hannah to be lovers, with millions watching! Jesse has a big problem, because he doesn’t want the world to think he’s cheating on Miley with Hannah, or the other way around.

Later in the same episode (“I’ll Always Remember You”), Miley’s best friend Lilly finds out that she was accepted to Standford (a fictional Stanford?) University, but Miley was rejected. When Miley asked the admissions person why she was rejected, she’s told that Lilly’s extracurricular activities are more impressive than Miley’s. Miley made up some lame extracurriculars for her application, because she had to hide that she’s been busy being Hannah Montana. When Miley visits Standford again, this time as Hannah, she discovers that if Hannah applied with Miley’s grades, she’d be accepted.

So, the only solution to make sure Jesse can continue to be Miley’s boyfriend, and that she gets to attend Standford, is to reveal her big secret, which she does during a second appearance on the Tonight Show. This doesn’t count as a spoiler, because ten year olds following the series were anticipating that very moment.  Although the show is kind of cheesy, it kept me somewhat entertained. I think little girls loved the show because it’s a big fantasy for them to have Hannah Montana’s life. The show is what it is.

The DVD is G rated, the violence is no more intense than an iced tea being dumped on Jake’s head, and the sex is no steamier than a few kisses. These episodes have been carefully written for their young audience.  This DVD will be purchased by parents and grandparents to make their kids happy. No one is going to not buy this DVD based on a critic’s review.

For a Disney marketing machine, it’s fairly palatable. I could watch this as a babysitter, if I was one.  The show will air its final episodes in 2011, and Hannah’s audience has already moved on to the Jonas Brothers and Justin Bieber. Only time will tell if Miley Cyrus is able to avoid the child star curse and become a 21st century Annette Funicello. That is, if Annette Funicello had ever pole danced on the Teen Choice Awards.

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About Kim Crawley

  • Chris- MC Hammer has had all of the pop music success and record sales, moneymaking world tours, etc. that Miley Cyrus the recording artist has. Look what happened to him.

    Being on the top of the charts and performing on the same stages as A-listers is no guarantee of a long lasting career. I’ve already seen many pop stars come and go, and I’m not even 30 yet.

    It’s possible that Miley Cyrus will be a star for the rest of her life. But it’s just as likely that she’ll be a has-been before she turns 30.

    I don’t doubt that she has a lot of talent. But even talent and working hard is no guarantee of long lasting success. People are often fickle.

    The episodes on this DVD are the only Hannah Montana episodes I’ve ever seen, as I made clear in my review. It makes sense that I would assume the extracurricular activities Miley Stewart applied to Standford with were made up. Those extracurriculars sounded silly, and that seemed the intent of the writers. I haven’t watched the episodes where Miley Stewart really did those things.

    I’m sure the producers/directors of the show wanted overacting from their young cast. I said in my review that it’s not something that kids would mind. I was watching the DVD as an adult who’s watched Meryl Streep, etc. and it’s still overacting to me.

    Hannah Montana is a product expertly crafted for it’s young audience. So is Barney the Dinosaur. I made it clear in my review that I’m aware of who the show is for. As a critic, though, it’s my job to be honest about the impression I have, and my opinions.

    You seem to be a Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus fan. Don’t worry- none of Miley’s fans will stop buying her works because of my review, or the review of any other critic.

  • Chris

    Kim, you got a few things wrong: Miley Cyrus was 12 when the pilot was shot and 13 when all of the first season was shot, not 14. Her character was 14 for that season. Also, those extracurricular activities in Miley Stewart’s Standford application were not made up, they were all from episodes. I would add that 1960s sitcom style over-the-top overacting is a signature of all Disney sitcoms. If an actor was unable to deliver that kind of “overacting” she would not be hired for the job. I’d have to say that you leave the reader with a seriously distorted idea of who Miley Cyrus is. She’s not Annette Funicello who was so badly typecast from her Disney experience that she could only get jobs on silly teen-on-the-beach movies. Miley has a substantial worldwide music career separate from her TV and movie work. She’s had several charted hit singles, two number one albums and all of her albums have been in the top ten. Unlike Annette Funicello, she’s paid close attention to crafting for herself a well known persona that works against her Hannah Montana typecasting. That’s why she was able two weeks ago to appear on the same stage at the EMAs with Rhianna, Katy Perry, Kesha and many other of the world’s top-selling adult pop stars. Unlike Annette Funicello, Miley is one of the world’s top-selling pop stars, just like Katy Perry or Lady Gaga is. Her on-stage performances in her two sold-out tours established Cyrus as a serious music act who could stand shoulder to shoulder with any pop act in the world. Industry insiders don’t predict a stalled adult career for Miley because she’s done the work necessary to make herself known worldwide as a recording artist and movie star quite separate from her 12-year-old role as Hannah Montana.

  • Stemi- I was 22 in 2006, when Hannah Montana debuted. I’m turning 27 in January.
    This is a DVD aimed at kids, but I assume parents and grandparents will be reading the review, not 11 year olds. When I review a DVD, book or video game that’s marketed to kids, I describe what content the media may or may not have that may be objectionable to some parents.
    I was basically saying to parents- ‘There’s no sexuality in this TV show, except perhaps for some kissing, in a G rated manner.’ Some parents who may not have watched the show might be concerned about sexual content, because of the way Miley Cyrus has sexualized her image in music vidoes and public appearances.

  • Stemi

    Honestly, and no offense, but why would there be sex? Really, it’s a kids/teens show. I get it that you’re 22 and not into Disney, but seriously? Why were you even looking for that??

  • Rachel

    Honestly, I think the only person overacting was Miley. At least in the first and fourth season. But if you only watched Emily’s acting in the fourth season, then yes I would agree with you, but even then she’s great. Jason Earles, Mitchel Musso and Moises Aries (sp?) are also great actors. And this is coming from a semi-fan, not-very-much-fan of Hannah Montana. Those three and Emily are the best actors. Miley and Billy Ray…eh, not so much. :/