Wholesome squeal appeal

It's easy to adore 'Hannah Montana: The Movie' - if you're a tween girl who loves Miley Cyrus ** ( 2 STARS)

April 10, 2009|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,chris.kaltenbach@baltsun.com

It's probably unfair to ask anyone older than 15 for an opinion of Hannah Montana: The Movie, much less any guy older than 15. If ever a movie was geared toward its target audience, this is that movie.

So let's get the definite positives out of the way. Hannah Montana is beautifully shot; cinematographer David Hennings clearly fell in love with Tennessee, where much of the movie was filmed, and you just might, too. The landscape has never looked so good. Also, the film earns its G rating; there's nothing offensive or off-color about it, and a little wholesomeness never hurt anyone.

Then again, 102 minutes of wholesomeness ...

The movie is set to move Miley Cyrus, if not Hannah herself, to another level by shedding her of her dual identity. For more years than seem plausible, the 16-year-old actress has been playing a character who, simply by donning a blond wig and ultra-trendy clothes, becomes unrecognizable to everyone around her. Thus Miley Stewart (Cyrus) has been able to remain a regular girl even while her alter ego, Hannah Montana, has become the world's biggest superstar.

By the way, is it just me who finds the wig disguise absolutely ridiculous, to the point where it undermines the rest of the film? How can it be that even close friends can't tell that Miley and Hannah are the same person? Compared to this, the idea that Superman becomes Clark Kent simply by donning a pair of glasses seems entirely plausible. At least Superman also acts differently as Clark, whereas Miley and Hannah are virtually indistinguishable.

Oh well, back to the movie, where it seems that this dual life is starting to get to Miley, who is forsaking her friends and her down-home roots in favor of life in the spotlight. This worries Miley's dad, Bobby Ray (Miley's real-life father, Billy Ray Cyrus ... you following all this?), who decides to take his daughter home to Crowley Corners and force her to reconnect.

She slowly does, thanks to some timely help from Grandma (Margo Martindale) and some killer smiles from ranch hand Travis (Lucas Till), the requisite adorable teen boy for Miley to get worked up over. There are also a few local crises thrown in, the biggest of which involves a snarky developer (poor Barry Bostwick) who wants to turn the town into a giant shopping mall.

Young Cyrus is undeniably cute, and some of her songs are as catchy as the law allows - especially "Hoedown Throwdown," an infectious mixture of country and hip-hop (at least that's what Hannah says). In 30-minute doses on TV, that's enough.

But asked to anchor a full-length movie, she simply doesn't have the chops to pull it off.

There are some nice father-daughter moments between the Cyruses; in fact, the father-daughter relationship is one of the franchise's strengths. But Billy Ray Cyrus isn't much help in the acting department, as his face seems unable to register any emotion other than concern.

Still, let's not get too worked up here. Hannah Montana: The Movie is harmless, even chirpy at times. The character's fans, those preteen girls who hang on every word andnote out of Miley Cyrus' mouth, will be plenty satisfied, maybe even delirious. Perhaps it's only right that the rest of us suffer quietly.

Hannah Montana: The Movie

(Walt Disney Studios) Starring Miley Cyrus, Billy Ray Cyrus, Jason Earles. Directed by Peter Chelsom. Rated G. Time 102 minutes.

The teen queen

talks about her chaotic career PG 2

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