The Disney Channel's biggest hit series is this fluffy bit of wish fufillment starring Miley Cyrus (daughter of singer Billy Ray, who also stars) as Miley Stewart, a teenager who moves out to California from Tennessee to become a pop star. By day, she's an average student who lives a normal life with friends and homework. At night, she's Hannah Montana, a pop star who sells out huge concerts and looks oddly like a younger Hilary Duff.
The episodes are often centered around Miley and her friends - Oliver Oken (Mitchel Musso) and Lilly Truscott (Emily Osment) - getting into adventures or Miley trying to keep her pop star identity a secret. The series doesn't exactly look slick, even for a cable series (the school sets look like they were taken from "Saved by the Bell"), but the show offers some fun plots and energetic performances (Billy Ray Cyrus is entertaining as Hannah/Miley's father/manager.)
While the series has become a smash hit for the Disney channel, it wasn't until the recent "Best of Both Worlds" tour that one could really see the astonishing popularity of both Cyrus and her alter ego. In a time where musical tours have seen diminishing ticket sales, "The Best of Both Worlds" tour not only sold out quickly, but some were willing to pay shocking amounts to scalpers for tickets, with some reports of tickets changing hands for as much as $6,000 for a pair. Other things one can get for less than $3,000 = airfare to Hawaii and a 7 night hotel stay.
Craziness and cost comparisons aside, those who weren't able to get tickets for the sold-out shows can get a front row seat in the comfort of their own living room for about $20 with this DVD. "Hannah Montana: Best of Both Worlds Tour" is directed by Bruce Hendricks, whose work I enjoyed with the Disney IMAX feature, "Ultimate X", which took an up close look at the extreme sports of the X Games. "Best of Both Worlds" wasn't shot with IMAX cameras, but was shot with digital video and did make its way to some IMAX venues.
I won't go into great detail on the music itself, but Cyrus certainly is quite the natural performer, offering a high energy set that really seems to connect with the audience, who appear to be screaming at the top of their lungs with every lyric. The Jonas Brothers also join Cyrus on stage for a few numbers, as well. At the opening of the film and at points throughout the show, the film breaks for some looks behind-the-scenes and interviews with fans.
Technically, the picture is first-rate, with Hendricks and his crew of cinematographers allowing the viewer to get a front row (or at times, on stage) experience. I was also pleasantly surprised that the editing wasn't nearly as rapid-fire as many similar concert films out there today. The DVD release offers an extended edition of the show, as well as both 2-D and 3-D editions of the film (there are four old-school 3-D glasses included.) The 2-D version is on the first disc, the 3-D version is on the second.
VIDEO: "Best of Both Worlds Tour" is presented on DVD in 2-D in 1.33:1 full-frame (unfortunately, not the film's original aspect ratio of 1.85:1) Strangely, the 3-D version (while a fun gimmick, I think old-school 3-D is a little difficult to watch for long periods of time) of the show allows viewers the option of watching either the 1.33:1 full-frame or 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen edition. I'd rather have had the 1.85:1 option in 2-D than 3-D. The 1.33:1 full-frame presentation (in terms of picture quality, not in terms of the aspect ratio) looked just fine, with very good sharpness and detail. A few minor traces of artifacting were spotted, but the presentation was otherwise clean, with no edge enhancement or other faults. Colors looked bright and bold, with stage lighting, costumes and other elements that showed bright, well-saturated colors. Colors never appeared smeary or otherwise flawed, and flesh tones looked accurate.
SOUND: The film is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. While the picture quality was pretty good, the audio presentation was a little underwhelming. The sound mix seemed on the plain side to my ears, with a fairly conservative (considering the size of the concert) spread across the front speakers, and rather mild support from the rear speakers. Audio quality was satisfactory, as while vocals and instrumentals were crisp and clear, the presentation as a whole lacked a certain punch, not sounding quite as dynamic as I'd expected. Again, this is a fine presentation that fans will likely find more than pleasing, but I've heard other concert DVDs that offer better audio quality and a more immersive sound mix.
EXTRAS: Additional performances - "SOS" and "Broken", as well as karaoke versions for some of the songs in the feature and an 11-minute "behind-the-scenes" featurette. Finally, promos for other titles from the studio are offered.
Final Thoughts: Overall, "Best of Both Worlds Tour" provides a breezy, high-energy show - while I'm not in the target audience, fans should be thrilled. The DVD provides pleasing image quality and satisfactory audio, as well as a few supplemental freatures. Recommended for fans.