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"HANNAH MONTANA THE MOVIE"
(2009) (Miley Cyrus, Billy Ray Cyrus) (G)

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QUICK TAKE:
Drama: A concerned father drags his teenage daughter -- whose alter-ego is a huge pop star sensation -- back to her small, country hometown in hopes of putting her priorities back into order.
PLOT:
Miley Stewart (MILEY CYRUS) seems like an average teenage girl, but unbeknownst to all but a handful of people, her alter-ego is huge pop star sensation Hannah Montana. The fact that she's seemingly starting to forget her real identity isn't sitting well with her widowed dad, Robby Ray (BILLY RAY CYRUS), and when she shows up at the 16th birthday party for her best friend Lilly (EMILY OSMENT) dressed as Hannah -- more out of necessity while trying to avoid paparazzo Oswald Granger (PETER GUNN) while traveling with her publicist, Vita (VANESSA WILLIAMS) -- her dad knows he has to take extreme measures.

Accordingly, rather than flying with her to an awards show in New York, he diverts the private plane back to their hometown of Crowley Corners, Tennessee in order to celebrate her grandmother Ruby's (MARGO MARTINDALE) birthday along with others, including her older brother Jackson (JASON EARLES). Miley isn't happy about this development, but can't do much about her dad's two week "Hannah detox," although things look up a bit when she runs into her former childhood friend, Travis Brody (LUCAS TILL), who's grown up into a handsome and charming young cowboy who's working for Ruby.

Also employed by her as the ranch foreman is Lorelai (MELORA HARDIN) who catches Robby Ray's eye and vice-versa. As her grandmother tries to save Crowley Corners from developer Mr. Bradley (BARRY BOSTWICK) who wants to build a shopping mall there, Miley returns to her roots and sees what's really important in life, all while trying to prevent her alter-ego secret from being revealed.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
The first line of the chorus of Jim Croce's "You Don't Mess Around with Jim" has the helpful advice, "You don't tug on Superman's cape" (and the third: "You don't pull the mask of the ol' lone ranger"). While the Man of steel was generally known as friendly to all but criminals, you never know when a tug might result in an unexpected punch across the country. Then again, maybe supermen hid his Clark Kent glasses in his cape, and pulling on that might dislodge them, thus revealing what the residents of Metropolis and elsewhere were too dim to otherwise notice.

It's not just superheroes, however, who can hide their alter egos with simple head accoutrements. After all, there's Miley Cyrus (teen daughter of Billy Ray "Achy Breaky Heart" Cyrus) who, as Miley Stewart on The Disney Channel's "Hannah Montana" simply dons a blonde wig and thus becomes that shows title character.

That double identity has served Cyrus well, not only on the sitcom(that I have never seen), but also in her recording career (don't own any of her CDs or MP3s) and then 2008 concert film (which I did see). While that coal is still hot and before the tween popular sensation is finally retired, we now have "Hannah Montana The Movie," the full-length, big-screen version of the sitcom.

With no previous exposure to that show, comparisons are moot, so we will take a look at the pic -- directed by Peter Chelsom from a screenplay by Daniel Berendsen -- as a standalone project. While not as insufferable as I feared (which also held true for the concert flick), it's no great shakes either, although I'm guessing it will play quite well for its target audience.

For everyone else, it has its moments (the best, not surprisingly, being the concert sequences), but there are also some moderately effective emotional notes. Otherwise, this comes off as a light and lukewarm recycling of "Doc Hollywood" (although the fish isn't exactly out of water) as filtered through a sitcom mentality and formulaic approach to storytelling.

In short, it's about a big-city girl who's too full of her self and lifestyle that she's forgotten and/or has no time for the "simpler" people and their way of life. Accordingly, her dad (the real Mr. Cyrus) changes their plans, takes her back to her small hometown, and makes her undergo two weeks of Hannah Montana detox.

While she's getting her psyche reset, she must not only contend with a paparazzo (Peter Gunn) who's tailed her there, trying to discover her secret, but also falling for her childhood friend (Lucas Till, ready to get the tweens swooning) who's grown up into a handsome and charming cowboy who just so happens to be working for her grandmother (Margo Martindale).

Continuing with the conveniences, her dad likewise becomes smitten with another grandmother employee (Melora Hardin) who can even work on a truck (what a find for him, beauty and mechanical aptitude in one package). Throw in all sorts of slapstick style material, the requisite having to change clothes and personas in a hurry to serve two simultaneous events, and lots and lots and lots of songs as performances or just on the soundtrack, and tween girls and any other fans should be in hog heaven.

Considering all of the music (and despite my general dislike of characters suddenly breaking into song to describe emotions and or further the plot), I kept wondering how the film might have worked as a full-fledged musical. Such thoughts easily flowed forth as I found myself easily bored (due to falling far out of the target demographic) when the music stopped and the predictable drama set in.

Had the cast and crew taken some chances with the material (I know, that's highly unlikely considering the cash cow it so obviously is) and jettisoned both the slapstick and sitcom style acting, the pic might have been good. As it stands, it's certainly fine enough for its fans, what with the G- rated content and various life lessons contained within. Innocuous but entertaining enough at moments, "Hannah Montana the Movie" rates as a 5 out of 10.




Reviewed April 7, 2009 / Posted April 10, 2009


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