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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Hannah Montana: The Movie

If anyone asks, I’m going to say it’s because I stood too close to a gaggle of Scientololoonies and the Xenu radiation or fairy dust or whatever it is that makes them the way they are clouded my mind in a Percocet-like haze of happiness because as weird as it sounds I actually liked the new Disney film, Hannah Montana: The Movie.

How uncool is that? The whole world seems to positively hate Hannah Montana, or Miley Cyrus, or both. It’s practically impossible these days to separate the two, but then that is the whole premise of the Hannah Montana phenomena, which first began as a television show on the Disney Channel in 2006, when Miley was only 13. In the past three years, besides making 64 episodes of the television series, the girl has appeared as Hannah in a couple of tv films, including a straight-up ‘Hannah’ concert and a silly exploitation flick with those other ‘tween heartthrobs, the Jonas Brothers.

The ongoing-story of the series and now the big-screen movie is that Miley is the Clark Kent of pop music as she leads a double life, first as quiet “regular” teen Miley Stewart from Crowley Corners,
Tennessee, and then, when she whips on a blonde wig, suddenly becomes unrecognizable to family and friends as the stupendous Britney-famous Hannah Montana, who can fill stadiums and rake in millions with hit after hit, all written by her in her spare time. What is true is that whether Miley actually authors her works or not (she doesn’t) she does have the pipes to sell cds in “real” and “reel” life, and she really does maintain a close relationship with her father, country crooner Billy Ray Cyrus (“Achy Breaky Heart”), who, in a staggering bit of casting, plays Robby Ray Stewart, Miley’s country singing pappy and Hannah’s closest advisor in her various television and cinematic incarnations.

So as Hannah Montana: The Movie begins we see a busy and overwhelmed Miley/Hannah, trying to balance an Obama-busy schedule that increasing overlaps and inevitably leads to her fail at fulfilling a HUGE promise to a friend. Best friend forever Lilly Truscott (Emily Osment; Surviving Sid) feels the brunt of Hannah’s overshadowing fame when the singer makes an unwelcome and unexpected appearance at Lilly’s sixteenth’s birthday party instead of her expected guest, Miley. It’s not that Miley wants to spoil her pal’s big day, but a sudden “emergency” request to have Hannah fill-in for another celebrity on the red carpet at an awards show in New York facilitates the unfortunate timing that allows only a few minutes for Miley to visit her best pal while on the way to the airport as Hannah in order to make the gala in NYC. She just doesn’t quite expect the reaction from the other partygoers or Lilly herself by showing up in her “Hannah drag.”

She also doesn’t expect the reaction she gets from her Dad, but then there wouldn’t be much of a movie without it. He realizes his “little girl”
needs to let go of Hannah for a while and get back to being his sweet old little Miley full-time, finding her true self and regaining her childhood values. To do that, he detours “Hannah” on her trip to New York and, without her knowing it, the private jet instead heads home to (Yee-haw!) Crowley Corners, Tennessee. Well, more specifically, it lands in a cow pasture outside of town somewhere.

What happens next is a not-too-original sitcom adventure involving a nosy British journalist (Peter Gunn; A Bunch of Amateurs) from some tacky tabloid snooping around for dirt on a secret he overheard Hannah’s manager, Vita (Vanessa Williams; tv’s “Ugly Betty”) mention in a conversation with the young star after he bugged the singer’s dressing room. At the same time, there also just happens to be an unscrupulous land developer (Barry Bostwick; Nancy Drew, but really, who doesn’t always remember him most as ‘Brad Majors’ from The Rocky Horror Picture Show?) in town
determined to destroy the pristine beauty of the valley by building a mall and erecting high-rise condos in places now occupied by verdant green hills and fresh, well-stocked streams. This “Snidely Whiplash” character is only missing the moustache he needs to twirl after each outrageous line he delivers to the townsfolk to make him a complete cartoon, but even so, he is a laughable enough boob not to be taken very seriously. If anything, he is a mere contrivance used by writer Daniel Berendsen (Cinderella III: A Twist in Time) to force Hannah Montana into coming out of hiding to save the day with a big ol’ fundraising concert to save the countryside forever and keep Crowley Corners free of development from those “big city fellers” as her grandma Ruby (Margo Martindale; tv’s “The Riches” and “Dexter”) would call them.

The movie is packed full of Miley, er, um, Hannah singing her heart out, even in the background scenes. If I sound confused, I’m not. Just sit through the end credits and you’ll see for yourself that the music is split between songs sung by ‘Miley Cyrus’ and those sung by ‘Hannah Montana’ as if the studio wants to continue to divide credit between the two as if they were
separate artists. And before you wonder, yes, Miley has some nice moments singing too, including a sweet duet with her father and a rousing (if exhausting) “Hoedown Throwdown.” Also on hand are surprise vocals by “guest” town residents Taylor Swift and Rascal Flatts. Who knew such a little burg was host to so much talent?

Oh, and don’t worry, there’s also some chaste PG-style love in the air as Miley experiences a hint of romance with her first grade crush Travis Brody (Lucas Till; Laid To Rest), now all grown up and looking like a Cougar’s wet dream with his mostly innocent smile and his dreamy baby blues. Ironically, I’ll bet you can guess who Travis has no interest in or patience for when “Hannah” comes to visit at the same time as Miley is on hand. Hmmm. Could this lead to problems? Well, of course, but this being a Disney movie, life will go on and nobody’s going to get raped, shot or end up with an STD ~ just a foot-stomping anthem of American inspiration that’ll have audience members wanting to wave a flag (bring your own; they are not provided by the management like those cool 3-D glasses at Monsters vs. Aliens).

Hannah Montana: The Movie is no Oscar winner for sure, but there are lots worse ways to spend an evening… Two words ~ Dragonball: Evolution. I know a lot of people, my dentist included, have a hard time with long doses of Miley. It’s true the girl does have too much gum and not enough teeth to go with ‘em, but if you can look past that and her lack of Lohan “I’m too cool to let you even look at my reflection in a mirror” attitude, then you’ll totally enjoy the gangly, goofiness of a sixteen year old girl being just that while she plays dress-up and sings her heart out in Hannah Montana: The Movie. If you can’t handle this, then maybe you should hang out near a couple of Scientololoonies and take a whiff or two. But be careful. Too many whiffs and you could end up hoping for a sequel to Dragonball: Evolution and, trust me, nobody needs that.

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