Best of Both Worlds but Master of None.
Hannah Montana disappointing for everyone but fans.
Here’s the problem with me saying Hannah Montana: The Movie was bad. I’ll say I didn’t like it, and people will say “Oh, that’s because you’re not in the right demographic. If you were a 10-year-old-girl, you would have liked it.” And that’s probably true. When I was 10, my sister and I loved a TV show called “Sledgehammer.” We thought it was hilarious. This is a show that was so not-popular it doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry. A few years ago, it came out on DVD and I got it for Jamie. We watched it on Christmas afternoon. We were very puzzled, because it turns out the show was awful.
So, I get that younger kids might like stuff that isn’t at all good. Which is handy, because Hannah Montana: The Movie isn’t good. At all.
Here’s the plot (and, having never seen an episode of the TV show, I had to ask Chesapeake Family’s Office Goddess Diana Brown to give me a rundown of the basic premise.) Miley Stewart (Miley Cyrus) is a high school student who leads a double life as teen pop star Hannah Montana. With a blonde wig and lipstick she Clark Kents her way through high school and stardom—the only people who know about her secret identity are her dad, Robby Ray (Billy Ray Cyrus), brother Jackson (Jason Earles), the rest of her extended family, and her best friend Lilly (Emily Osment). When Hannah starts to dominate Miley’s life—leading her to royally mess with Lilly’s Sweet 16 birthday party—Robby Ray drags her off to her hometown of Crowley Corners, Tennessee, so she can reconnect with her roots. She does this mainly by connecting with Travis (Lucas Till), a local cowboy who has rassled him up a mess o’ hair product, and her grandma Ruby (Margo Martindale.) The entire time she’s pursued by evil paparazzo Oswald Granger (Peter Gunn), who wants to dig up some dirt on America’s Sweetheart. Crowley Corners is also under threat from an evil developer (Barry Bostwick, who is getting old) who wants to build a mall, as evil developers always do in the movies. (And, although Bostwick is getting up there, the during-credits dance sequence shows that he can still seriously move it.)
Here’s the thing: Miley Cyrus cannot act. She’s hammy in the way a lot of child stars are, but … she’s not a child. She does have an solid sense of comic timing, especially when it comes to physical comedy, but that only carries her so far. When she’s in a scene with anyone else—especially with Travis—you can see her just waiting for other actors to say their lines so she can say hers. But you never get that the struggle Miley faces—the fact that she’s been hiding and lying for so long, the decision whether to give up the Hannah façade forever—is real. There’s no depth to her performance.
You know who can act, though? Emily Osment as Lilly. Lilly’s struggles with Miley’s choices—being shoved to the side when Hannah shows up at her birthday party, having to cover for her friend—do seem believable and not just the stuff of teen TV. Also, Vanessa Williams as as Miley’s agent Vita does her best, and the fantastic Melora Hardin gives a nice performance as Robby Ray’s love interest Lorelai (she gets the Tennessee accent exactly right, as she sounded just like my Memphis-born and –bred niece.)
Director Peter Chelsom lets “funny” bits go on for waaaay too long (people falling down is funny! Revolving doors are funny! Miley feeding chickens is funny!), but otherwise keeps things moving. The musical numbers—and they are legion—are actually pretty good, and Miley Cyrus is a much better musical performer than actor. Chelsom might want to learn to manage his extras better—like, make sure all of the extras in the shot actually look surprised if something surprising happens. And if you end with a huge wide shot of a carnival at the end of the movie, I’m just saying you might want to put some people on the rides because otherwise it looks creepy and weird.
In terms of inappropriate content, there really isn’t any. Travis appears once bare-chested after a (clothed) swim with Miley. Miley and Travis kiss. Robby Ray and Lorelai kiss. There is slow dancing. You see the back of the mayor’s boxer shorts after he takes off his pants because there’s a ferret in them (really.) There’s a catfight between Hannah and Tyra Banks, but it’s played—way too long—for laughs and isn’t violent.
The tween girls at the showing I attended seemed to enjoy the movie, I guess. So I bet most tween girls would like it. But that doesn’t mean it’s good. It’s not good. It’s a predictable plot (though spawned out of what could be a cool idea) exaggeratedly done by a poor performer and directed by someone who thinks that funny things only get funnier if you show them for a long time. If you’re looking for unobjectionable material for your tween, then see the movie, buy the DVD. But if you’re looking for quality, look elsewhere.
The previews shown at a screening at Annapolis Mall on Friday, April 10 were Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Shorts and Up!.
Kristen Page-Kirby is the editor of Chesapeake Family. She last reviewed Monsters vs. Aliens.