“Hannah Montana 3D”

Hannah Montana 3D

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The film industry is placing some big bets on the burgeoning technology of 3D projection.  Not only will it boost the distinction between the theatrical vs home experience, it will do much to deter piracy.  As to piracy, shooting a film through a handheld camera, or even purloining a print from a dodgy projectionist, will produce a dizzying, blurry DVD.

Dreamworks and Disney have both planted their flags in the 3D sand. Other studios are fomenting plans as well. U2, arguably the biggest band in the world, placed a wildly successful bet on 3D. The bet is paying off both artistically and financially.  IMAX remains a great place to experience the ultimate out-of-home film experience, and with 3D it becomes a truly transcendent experience.

And now along comes the biggest name(s) for tweens, as Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus strut their stuff in 3D. The film, currently in release, has seen its run extended after breaking per-screen revenues last week.  This is undoubtedly due to the pent-up demand of tweens who were shut out of concert tickets last fall.  Many Moms presumably bailed out of Super Bowl parties with their daughters gleefully in tow.

The film does a good job of balancing the demand for a straight ahead concert film [as is the case for U2 3D] and behind the scenes footage.  Given that the clever conceit of Hannah/Cyrus is that she is both a rock star and the everyday girl next door, this film wisely gives glimpses of both worlds.  Indeed, if you are familiar with her biggest hit “The Best of Both Worlds” then you know exactly what to expect: a confident, bubbly teenager backed by a competent band pumping out frothy tunes, in a well-choreographed show. 

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Both of her parents are shown to be a significant part of her life; Dad Billy Ray undoubtedly is proud that his daughter is shifting far more units than her ever did with his 1992 hit “Achy Breaky Heart.”  Mom essentially admits she was given the role of handling her daughter’s rapid mid-concert costume changes to keep her maternal instincts channeled.

The film provides a generous 17 song sampling, cut from several concerts.  Although parents might notice some continuity errors as the intra-song edits reveal that more than once concert was filmed, overall the energy of Hannah’s live shows comes through. 

The 3D film’s production was set in motion long before she created a tizzy among tweens and their flustered parents as her fall 2007 tour sent scalper tickets through the roof.  Kenny Ortega ‘conceived, produced, designed and choreographed’ the show, leveraging his success with the High School Musical franchise (now inevitably entering its third chapter).  Like the concert tour, the 3D film astutely shows both personas: over the years Hannah may lose her traction but Miley could become a longer-lasting performer until her (nearly all female) audience moves toward weightier female artists like Joni Mitchell or Kina Grannis.

The backstage footage (all shot in 2D) encompasses rehearsals, the aforementioned costume changes and a few tender moments with Dad.  The concert footage allows the boom cameras and 3D technology to swing into gear.  There is very little eye fatigue from the 3D glasses (parents with a more nuanced aural palette may become sonically fatigued, however).   A few riffs from the addictive “My Sharona” leap over the decades into “Rock Star.”  As not only a nod to respect for prior generations, “I Miss You” is a surprisingly effective ode to her grandfather. The ballad pulls on any parent’s heartstrings.

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The film’s director of photography. Mitchell Anderson, draws from his two most recent projects: “Transformers” and Martin Scorsese’s take on a Rolling Stones concert “Shine A Light” (premiering this week at the Berlin Film Festival). As also displayed in the superior U2 3D, unlike the usual 2D process 3D is best served shooting close and wide.  We are therefore served lots of Hannah’s toothy smile and vibrant dance sequences.

The bubbly Jonas Brothers are also given screen time.  The trio is in the long line of heartthrobs, from Fabian to the Monkees to Bobby Sherman to the Hanson Brothers. The Jonas Brothers recently sold out Gibson Amphitheatre in record time, and competed with three shows at the venue over Super Bowl weekend.  Their first film “Camp Rock” will be out in the fall, and they will release their next album in the summer.  In a bid for greater artistic relevance, they promise more of an Elvis Costello and Beatles influence.

The Hannah Montana tour ranked number 11 last year, generating $24.4 million dollars.  The High School Musical tour amassed $22 million dollars as the 14th biggest tour of 2007.  The massive exposure of both on the Disney Channel also shifted millions of units of discs and apparel.  The Hannah Montana 3D film is a logical and satisfying next step, both financially and artistically.  Take your daughters and be a hero.


Brad Auerbach has been covering the media, entertainment and technology scene for many years. He has written for Time Out London, Village Voice, LA Weekly and once upon a time won a New York State College Journalism Award.

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