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Some day we might find out if Disney teen sensation Miley Cyrus is a real actress. We know she can do the shtick required by her Hannah Montana television show – comedy and the occasional pratfall aimed at tweens – but actual grown-up acting has thus far eluded her. Glorified television movies like Hannah Montana: The Movie are no place to prove that you won’t be the next Hillary Duff (remember her?).
Miley Cyrus takes her television persona to the big screen by again playing regular gal Miley Stewart, who moonlights as pop princess Hannah Montana. Miley is getting a little too attached to the Hannah persona, originally created so she could have all the musical benefits of a big star without losing the “normal life.” Her dad, Robby Ray (Billy Ray Cyrus), forces her back to their hometown of Butt Crack, Kentucky, or Big Chaw, Arkansas, or someplace equally “country.” The idea is, of course, that she will remember “who she is” and get the perspective she’s missing in L.A. while being pursued by unethical tabloid reporters (Peter Gunn) and guided by PR maven Vita (Vanessa Williams.) Ironically, Vita is the only interesting character in this film.
In addition to bringing along her television-show best friend (Emily Osment) and brother (Jason Earles), Miley gets a new love interest in local country boy Travis (Lucas Till) and pure-corn, down-home advice from her Grandma Ruby (Margo Martindale.) While the plot sort of revolves around reminding Miley that being a vacuous pop princess is not as fulfilling as hanging out with salt-of-the-earth folk and a rope swing at the old swimmin’ hole, there is also a love interest for dad (Melora Hardin from The Office), a “let’s put on a show” plan to save Dung Pile, Mississippi (or wherever) from an evil developer (Barry Bostwick), and lots of pickin’ and grinnin’ from Miley/Hannah and country stars like Taylor Swift and Rascal Flatts.
It’s not like Disney is going to kill the golden goose, by having a Hannah Montana movie be anything but a bigger version of the television show. It would have been more interesting, however, to do SOMETHING different or unique or daring with the character. Instead, the G-rated good times include lots of falling off ladders, falling into hay piles, falling off horses, and ferrets running up the mayor’s pants leg…seriously. In between, Miley gets into trouble by never acting rationally or intelligently in any situation. Rather than moving her date with Travis back an hour, she tries to go to that and a Hannah Montana event at the same time, with hilarious outfit and wig changes unseen since the golden age of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. Also, does it not bother anyone that a blonde wig is almost as bad a disguise as glasses on Clark Kent? Shouldn’t Miley be recognized as Hannah everywhere she goes?
Maybe Miley Cyrus will eventually get all Kate Hepburn on our asses and become the actress of her generation. She’ll likely need to break away from the Disney machine to do that, especially if they keep putting her in movies like this one. While your Hannah-crazy daughter, sister, or niece might love getting exactly what she expects, you should probably avoid this. Of course, you already knew that, didn’t you?
The Blu-ray of Hannah Montana: The Movie includes the now standard DVD and digital copies of the movie along with the Blu-ray copy. Actually, in comparison to other recent Disney live-action releases, it has a nice selection of extras, and while the movie is nothing to write home about, if your tween girl must have it, at least you’ll get your money’s worth.
Although neither Cyrus participates, there is a commentary by director Peter Chelsom. It’s a pretty basic commentary, with Chelsom telling us how great everyone is to work with and how much chemistry there is between certain actor pairings. It’s amazing how often a guy who makes a thoroughly average film doesn’t recognize it. I’m sure Chelsom was told by Disney what the movie needed to be, so it’s probably not his fault it’s so bland, but his commentary still acts like they made a great film. Anyway, at least there actually is a commentary.
The Disney folks seem to be under the impression that “Hoedown Throwdown,” a song and dance from the middle of the movie, is sweeping the nation. It’s a mix of rap and country as contrived and unexciting as it sounds, but the disc devotes 25 minutes to a two-part featurette showing the choreographer teaching the dance to the actors and then, joined by a couple of the younger actors (not Cyrus, of course), teaching the dance to you. If you ever did this dance anywhere, you’d be shot, but no one seems to realize that. The choreographer seems like a nice, hard-working guy, though, so I’m glad he’s getting some publicity.
Since Miley and her Hannah alter ego are both top-of-the-charts music peddlers, there are seven music videos on the disc. That’s six more than you’d typically see, but they don’t all feature Miley or Hannah, and most are just the movie version of the song. There are two versions of Miley’s “The Climb,” one an actual music video and the other the performance of the song in the movie. Two Hannah songs, “You’ll Always Find Your Way” and “Let’s Get Crazy” (which is not as interesting as Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy”), are just the movie presentation, as are songs by Rascal Flatts and Taylor Swift. There is one Billy Ray Cyrus song, but I would have recommended buying the Blu-ray if he’d covered his own “Achy Breaky Heart” and done the dance from that video. Sadly, he doesn’t.
There is a standard-issue blooper reel, along with 10 minutes of deleted scenes. About half the scenes relate to a subplot about how Miley’s brother is supposed to be in college but didn’t get in and hasn’t told his dad. They should have left it in, because as it is, his switch from going to college to working with an ostrich is not really explained.
Jason Earles hosts a 15-minute behind-the-scenes on filmmaking. It might be interesting to the young, female target audience, but anyone who has watched any DVD extras in their life won’t learn much new information. The final extra is “Find Your Way Back Home.” All the stars give tours of their hometowns. I should say, all the stars who live in either Tennessee or California (where filming took place) present tours. It’s, you know, fine.
I have to give the Disney people some credit for packing this one with extras. You still shouldn’t buy it unless you are forced to by an eight-year-old female family member who won’t talk to you otherwise. But if that’s not the case, you’re probably not even reading this review.
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