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
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.