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HANNAH MONTANA: THE MOVIE: THE REVIEW

                    Every now and then I try to perform a public service for my readers. For example, I always sit through the end of the movie credits to let you know if the filmmakers have tacked on a stinger, and if it's worth sticking around for. And I often go to kids' movies so I can let parents know if there's enough clever stuff to keep grown-ups amused, or if they should ditch the kids at the theater and flee.
    If you have kids around the Hannah Montana target age, which I'm guessing to be about 4 through 14, you probably know as much about “Hannah Montana: The Movie” as you need to, because the  franchise has been on television since 2006. It's being broadcast on the Disney networks in India, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, so you'd have a hard time missing it.
    I imagine most parents leave the kids to it and go read Proust or play Hangman, even though disgraced and impeached Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich admits to having seen every episode, which should make everyone feel a little shivery and creeped out.
    I am happy to let you know that “Hannah Montana: The Movie” is devoid of absolutely anything that could possibly give offense. It is also devoid of surprise, ingenuity, poetry, soul, wit, and memorable tunes, which won't bother the target audience, because the movie does have enough energy, earnestness, physical humor and colorful dance numbers to keep them occupied. Their parents, however, will find it a rough slog.
    For the blissfully uninitiated, Hannah Montana is a rompin', stompin' pop star, introduced as “the most popular teenager in the world,” and the alter-ego of Miley Stewart. Miley is sometimes a sweet, unaffected regular teenager who tries to get on with her life while juggling concert tours and photo shoots. Her dad tries to keep her grounded, and as the movie opens he kidnaps her (for her own good, of course) and takes her back to Tennessee for her Grandmaw's birthday party.
    Miley stomps and huffs because she'd rather be at an awards show in New York, and this lasts for about 90 seconds until she runs into an old classmate: a tall drink of water who admits he used to have a crush on her in the first grade. This puppy-love interest is played by newcomer Lucas Till, who labors under the disadvantage of being prettier than she is, which makes the audience a little uneasy.      Hannah/Miley (henceforward known as H/M) is soon dressed in coveralls and gathering eggs, which she puts into her back pockets, leading to the old eggs-in-the-back-pockets comedy routine. Most of the physical comedy is about that predictable, but it didn't seem to bother the four-year-olds in the audience, who thought the head-stuck-in-a-pumpkin bit was a laff riot.
    The plot provides an equally predictable villain in each of H/M's worlds: Hannah is stalked by an unscrupulous reporter who's trying to unearth her secret for a trashy British tabloid, while Miley's Sweet Home Tennessee is being bought up by a developer who wants to pave it and build a mall.
    How H/M, with a little help from her family and friends, manages to foil both threats and still land her first-grade sweetheart, is the work of not quite 90 minutes of what publicists everywhere would call Rollicking Good Times, and which I will call Not Quite Ready For Prime Time.
    H/M and her dad are played by real-life father-daughter team Billy Ray Cyrus and Miley Cyrus: coincidence, or ruthless marketing ploy? You decide. While both Cyruses can come close to being declared talent-free zones, Miley turns in a performance that sometimes actually borders on winsome, and for the most part she can sing in tune.
    It's easy to be cynical about the machinations of Hollywood, but the dream-makers have been manufacturing and marketing stars since the very beginning of the era, and while the process has destroyed quite a few, like Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe, it hasn't worked out too badly for others, so maybe the kid will survive.