Nobody really cares what a 53-year-old movie reviewer with a 31-year-old daughter thinks about the awkwardly titled Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour in 3-D. It wasn’t made for me, and it wasn’t made for an age group that I have to deal with on any kind of regular basis. In fact, someone had to explain to me that Hannah Montana is the “rock star” alter ego of Miley Cyrus (daughter of country singer Billy Ray Cyrus) from a Disney Channel TV show aimed at a 4- to 12-year-old female audience. This has spawned a recording career and the concerts from which Hannah Montana was created. What the results are exactly is another matter.
Viewed with the keen disinterest of a parent not being badgered into coughing up $18 a ticket to sit through 74 minutes of pared down concert padded out with backstage “documentary” footage, what I saw felt a lot like the Barbie’s Playhouse version of Madonna’s Truth or Dare (1991). It all seemed just as manufactured as a Madonna career move, and, unlike many of my critical brothers and sisters, I never escaped the sense that the documentary footage was every bit as calculated and staged as the concert footage. That feeling was only exacerbated by the fact that the blonde-wigged Hannah Montana character looks for all the world like the Disney factory’s latest Hilary Duff clone. I’ve no doubt that Miley Cyrus’ fans would be more than happy to explain to me why they’re nothing alike, but at this point in time, the biggest difference for me is that Cyrus has yet to cause me to suffer through Raise Your Voice (2004) or The Perfect Man (2006). (But hey, she’s only 15. Give her time.)
The difference between Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus pretty much comes down to the wig. In either incarnation, Cyrus belts out the same undistinguished bubblegum pop songs in much the same upbeat manner. Objectively, she’s a lively performer of moderate talent with the knack of appearing unaffected. From a parental standpoint, she also has the advantage of being utterly safe. That’s a big plus to a lot of people—unless, of course, you happen to embrace the idea that a little rebelliousness is a good thing.
There’s also the question of how one feels about such a completely fabricated event. When I was the right age for this kind of response cultivated by Hannah Montana, its closest counterpart came in the form of the Beatles in Richard Lester’s A Hard Day’s Night (1964). It was in black and white and not in 3-D—and it cost a whopping 25 cents for a ticket where I lived—but it had a freshness that’s totally absent here. Yes, the characters of the Beatles were carefully calculated, but none of the kids screaming in the audience needed to be programmed into it. Their performances consisted of four guys standing on a stage singing. There were no fireworks going off, no colored lights, no athletic dancers, no streamers, no confetti. I’m sure it’s partly the curmudgeon in me, but comparatively speaking, there’s just no contest between true spontaneous excitement and the manufactured variety on display in Hannah Montana. But again, this is essentially an innocuous entertainment that will delight its target audience without doing any obvious damage to anyone. Rated G.