A no-frills ”Hannah Montana” DVD
Hannah Montana: Pop Star Profile
G, 91 min.
While the subtitle of this latest Hannah Montana release may suggest otherwise, don’t get your kiddies’ hopes up for something revealing here, like, say, an extended bonus feature about the fictional entertainer or even Miley Cyrus, the actress who plays her. In fact, there is very little that will be new to any longtime fan of the Disney Channel series. Just nine minutes of extras — a concert performance of Hannah Montana’s contagious ”Nobody’s Perfect,” and a short featurette punctuated with Cyrus family interviews — pad out this helping of four episodes.
Fortunately, this story arc — from well into the show’s first season — is a good one. It begins with Miley Stewart (Cyrus) trying to decide whether or not to reveal her identity as teen pop sensation Hannah Montana. Meanwhile, Jake Ryan (Cody Linley) — a teen actor who shamelessly laps up the benefits of his celebrity status — gets Miley fired up because of all the attention he gets at school. Miley ultimately decides to keep her secret veiled, and the warring duo fall for each other — just like star-crossed (or, pop star-crossed) lovers are supposed to. Young and old alike will enjoy Dolly Parton’s hilarious guest spot in the episode ”Hello, Dolly.” The perky, stalwart country star is believable as Miley’s glam-fabulous aunt and provides the teenager with a generous helping of down-home mothering and advice. That’s something the starlet needs and only randomly gets from funnyman father Robbie (played by Miley’s real-life dad, Billy Ray Cyrus), who’s usually busy pulling a prank on son Jackson (Jason Earles).
This all holds up because Hannah Montana is good tween TV, plain and simple. Minus the whole pop-star thing, Miley Stewart is a normal, silly teenager focused on school, friendships, and an entirely relatable family. ”I’m a teenager,” says Miley. ”We act without thinking and we get zits. It’s what we do.” Because Miley keeps her celebrity status secret, she manages to do the things most teens do — hit school dances, hang at the beach, and fret over boys — which is refreshing. The extras on this release aren’t worth going into any more than the mention above, but that’s okay: The handful of episodes stand up on their own. B+ —Tanner Stranksy
Recommended ages: 7 and up
Arnie the Doughnut…And 4 Other Fantastic Adventure Stories
Did you ever think that food had feelings or thoughts? I’m not talking about the slice of pizza or the tub of Peanut Butter Panic that repeatedly screams ”Eat me!” Or food that was once alive and is now no longer kicking. No, the star of this DVD happens to be a doughnut with real existential issues. Adapted from a children’s book (as are the other titles in this Scholastic set) by Laurie Keller, ”Arnie” tells the tale of deep-fried frolicker who thinks life is grand, especially when, just hours old, he gets to go home with Mr. Bing. Arnie later realizes — to his complete horror — that all Mr. Bing wants to do is consume him. So both of them come up with lists of other things Arnie would be good for. Bowling? Picture-frame sub? Anything but the belly. In another quirky tale, ”Roberto the Architect,” based on Nina Laden’s book and narrated by Sean Hayes, yet another creature dreams big: a termite who builds fabulous homes for other insects (meet his friends Frank Lloyd Mite and Fleas Van der Rohe). All stories come with a special read-along function at the bottom. B —Eileen Clarke
Recommended ages: 3-9
The Zula Patrol
PBS, check local listings
Of course, getting kids to focus on reading is important. But science is a crucial subject too, and something that doesn’t receive enough attention. That’s where the Zula Patrol comes into play. Based on adorable aliens from outer space whose mission is to save various groups from all sorts of peril, Zula cleverly sneaks science lessons amid all the frivolity. When the Bowlin’ Stones threaten to break up and never perform another concert, we learn about the different types of rock: metamorphic, igneous, and sedimentary. The lessons are reinforced in a clear and entertaining way that savvily plays up the kid-friendly aspects (Hot lava? Volcanoes? You’ve got their attention!). The show’s tagline is ”Intergalactic Brain Fuel.” Well said. A- —EC
Recommended ages: 4-8