Twice this year I’ve made the mistake of generalizing a movie unseen; holding a fanatic following against the movie. The first was Sex and the City, which wound up making its way onto my list of 2008’s best movies. The second is Hannah Montana: the Movie, which isn’t going to garner the same acclaim for 2009, but winds up not being as bad as I expected.
Now that I’ve actually experienced Hannah Montana’s story, I get the appeal of the character. Much like Harry Potter appeals to kids who want to have something wondrous happen to them (like suddenly being told they’re a wizard), Hannah Montana appeals to people who fantasize about a double life – one that allows them to be who they really are, while another one allows them to live out their wildest fantasies. It’s not an opportunity many are afforded, so I can see why the Hannah Montana franchise has made so much money.
In many ways, Hannah Montana is like a Spider-Man story, only with glitter and glamour instead of web-slinging and crime fighting. The concept of a normal person with a better known public identity is certainly the same: Miley Stewart (Miley Cyrus) is a simple country girl, but she also leads the life of super-pop star Hannah Montana. The double life has started to wear thin for Stewart, who has gotten so used to the high-life of Hannah that she’s ready to give up everything and become the pop star full time.
Meanwhile, Miley’s behavior has worn equally thin on her father/manager Robby Ray (Cyrus’s real life dad, Billy Ray Cyrus). Since dad’s still the one calling the shots, he hijacks one of Hannah’s trips to New York and lands the family back home in Tennessee, where Miley is told she has to give up being Hannah, for at least two weeks. At first the transition is hard, but Miley quickly starts to realize that the simple life offers some benefits Hannah’s life could never afford. The girl who once wanted the best of both worlds suddenly finds herself being forced to choose between the two.
As I said, having watched the movie, I now get the character. The double life of Hannah/Miley is something a lot of teens can relate to, or wish for. The dream of fame and popularity is also a shared goal for many. For both of those, Hannah Montana: the Movie does a good job of fleshing out both the good and bad sides of these things, which makes the character and her story appealing. It’s cute, in a harmless sort of way, even if Miley and Hannah are separated by such a thinly veiled disguise that Clark Kent’s glasses suddenly look brilliant.
Now I’m not saying the movie is perfect. Neither father nor daughter is much of an actor, with Miley Cyrus bringing a less annoying version of Amanda Byne’s classic mugging to camera into play, while Billy Ray Cyrus goes so country with his act it looks like he’s auditioning for another Beverly Hillbillies movie. The movie is also jam-packed with musical numbers, some of which play out rather cleverly, while others make part of the movie feel like an extended music video. All the songs are to be expected I guess, after all Miley Cyrus is a Top-40 radio star, but she already had a concert movie with The Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour. At least the music gets a little change of pace throughout the picture, as country artists like Rascal Flatts and Taylor Swift make appearances.
Hannah Montana: the Movie isn’t going to compete with most other movies out there for attention, but if it happens to be on the television or the DVD is around, it won’t kill any brain cells by having it play. It’s a cute, harmless story that should definitely appeal to the Hannah Montana crowd, and I enjoyed it (although it’s certainly not going to inspire me to start watching the series). It may lack the ultimate super-hero lesson that, “with great power comes great responsibility,” but the idea that “life’s a climb” is far from the most painful metaphor I’ve heard in a movie recently.
On the Disc:
The Blu-ray edition of Hannah Montana: the Movie is another of Disney’s releases where they include both a DVD and digital version of the movie along with the Blu-ray disc. While I hate that they advertise these as “3-Disc Editions,” which sound like they have more content than they do, I will continue to laud Disney for helping people sensibly grow a Blu-ray collection.
While I enjoyed the movie, I haven’t become such a fan of Hannah Montana that the bonus material here appeals to me. I suspect most fans of the character will enjoy them though. Extras include a “how-to” for the movie’s “Hoedown Throwdown” dance, music videos, deleted scenes, and a blooper reel.
I do enjoy it when bonus material expands on a movie’s theme, and the strong point of that here is “Find Your Way Back Home,” which sees the stars of the movie returning to their respective hometowns, much like Miley Stewart does in the movie. Followed by cameras, we see where cast members from the movie’s filming locations in California and Tennessee come from. Again, the main interest here is that it builds on the movie’s theme somewhat.
Finally, for those more interested on the movie side of things, there is a filmmaker’s commentary from director Peter Chelsom. It’s not fantastic, although it’s a bit more in depth than the 15-minute “I Should Have Gone to Film School,” hosted by actor Jason Earles. Both of these are very basic looks at movie making, which should be of interest to the young, typical Hannah Montana audience, but left me feeling quite bored.
- Rafe Telsch