April 16, 2009

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Hannah Montana: The Movie (G)
Miley Cyrus sees that you have some money you haven’t spent on her merch yet, right there, in the corner of your wallet, and thusly she releases Hannah Montana: The Movie, required watching for girls aged 4 to tween.

And it is pretty much girls; my elementary-school-aged stepson’s response to the movie was a wrinkled nose and some statement about it being “for girls.” Guess you’ve been slacking, Ms. Magazine.

Unlike the Best of Both Worlds 3-D concertxtravaganza from a while back, Hannah Montana: The Movie delights us/sears bad pop into our brains with some plot as well as the Jem-is-totally-outrageous-level music. Miley Stewart (basically Cyrus, but with a dead mother) is having a hard time being a regular girl and not giving in to the diva-like world of Hannah Montana, the secret-identity, blonde-wig-wearing version of herself who is the Madonna (circa True Blue) of the pre-driver’s-license set. Her dad, Robby Ray (real-life Miley’s real-life dad Billy Ray Cyrus), decides after “Hannah” gets in a shoe fight with Tyra Banks (probably the movie’s best scene) that it’s time for a cooling-off period. Since to-your-room probably isn’t a big threat to someone with a multi-million-dollar record contract, he takes her to the family’s hometown of Crowley Corners, Tenn., where the people are right-living and right-thinking and don’t cotton to any rock-star foolishness. (Also, where some of the characters dress like it’s Little House on the Prairie night at the barn raising, just to accentuate the folksiness.)

While Miley learns some humility by living without her Montana-ness for a while, three other plots unfurl: (1) an evil condo developer is threatening to pave over God-fearing Crowley Corners and Miley’s grandmother (Margo Martindale) is trying to raise money to stop him; (2) evil tabloid journalist Oswald Granger (Peter Gunn) is trying to uncover dirt on Hannah and follows her to Crowley Corners from L.A.; (3) both Miley and Robby Ray find love — Miley with childhood friend turned cowboy Travis (Lucas Till) and Robby Ray with Lorelei (Melora Hardin, who is now, for me, permanently Jan from The Office, singing “Son of a Preacher Man” at her baby shower).

Along the way there is singing, of course, lots and lots of singing — some of it by guests Rascal Flatts and Taylor Swift — including a country-hip-hop-line-dance thing that must be Billy Ray’s way of saying “take that, Achy Breaky haters.” The movie is Tinkerbell Nail Polish girly and Wonder Bread wholesome and there are, I guess, some nominal messages about sticking by your friends and family and not being a sassy-pants to your dad. But there was also something that irked me about this movie. I don’t know if it’s the aggravating stereotype that the middle of the country is a bit hayseed but good while the coasts are slick and pretty but bad. Maybe it’s the fact that the movie acts like it’s about responsibility and sacrifice but it doesn’t actually require any from its characters. Maybe it’s the very-close-to-the-surface commercialism in a movie about how there’s more to life than just commercial success. Maybe it’s the fact that it isn’t really even about that, that the time spent at the farm is just an excuse for chicken-related pratfalls.

When it boils down to it, though, me and my concerns (or you and your pop-music induced headache) are not the issue here. The issue is the girls who want to see it. They lined up at the theater I saw the movie at and they giggled throughout. So take their happiness and Hannah satisfaction and multiple it by your wincing and it will probably equal a C.

Rated G. Directed by Peter Chelsom and written by Daniel Berendsen from characters by Michael Poryes, Rich Correll and Barry O’Brien, Hannah Montana: The Movie is an hour and 42 minutes long and is distributed in wide release by Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.