The best thing that can be said about Hannah Montana: The Movie is that it isn’t this week’s Observe and Report (a film I watched even though I wasn’t reviewing it). At the same time, I have to confess that I got a good deal more enjoyment out of Dragonball: Evolution (a film I watched because I had to review it) than either of the other two. That should put this into perspective.
A degree of my distaste for Hannah Montana rests on the movie’s complete waste of director Peter Chelsom’s talents (what was the man thinking?). OK, so maybe Chelsom isn’t among the greats of filmmaking. And yes, he has to answer for the star-studded disaster Town & Country (2001). But he also made such agreeable films as Serendipity (2001) and Shall We Dance (2004), and such early charmers as Hear My Song (1991) and Funny Bones (1995). In contrast, Dragonball merely squanders the abilities of James Wong, the guy who gave us the Final Destination series.
OK, I know I’m not the target audience for this movie—or even a hapless parent, who might be dragged to it by some dewy-eyed tot (my nearly 33-year-old daughter has less than marginal interest in Miley Cyrus). For that matter, I didn’t even have to review Hannah Montana. Co-critic Justin Souther actually offered to do so. It was a nice gesture, but I was curious to see if maybe Peter Chelsom could make something out of whatever the project offered. At least my curiosity was satisfied.
The whole movie revolves around the bizarre notion that the fictional Hannah Montana character is actually the fictional Miley Stewart character (something a blonde wig keeps the whole world from noticing), who is actually Miley Cyrus in real life. Somewhere in that conceit there is almost certainly something deeply philosophical, but I’m too worn out by the film’s frantic need to be frantic to poke around for it. Well, Miss Cyrus (as herself) assured us a week or so ago that we’d be surprised by how deep the movie is, so maybe this is what she meant. My feeling at the time of watching it was that it was sufficiently deep that I mightn’t be able to extricate my feet from it without losing both shoes.
The plot finds Miley Stewart losing touch with her roots and the genuine person she once was, owing to her celebrity status as pop-star Hannah Montana. Things reach crisis level when Hannah gets into a shoe-store fight where she tries to skewer Tyra Banks with a stiletto heel. Civilized people might well consider this a laudable attempt, but dad Robby Ray Stewart (real-life Miley dad Billy Ray Cyrus) takes a dim view of it and whisks his cash-cow daughter off to Crowley Corners, Tenn., for a deprogramming dose of appallingly idealized “real life”—that’s “real life” as envisioned by folks whose idea of such was obviously cobbled together from the more backward examples of 1950s sitcoms.
In Crowley Corners we find endless picturesque vistas, a hunky farm boy (Lucas Till, Walk the Line), an evil land developer (Barry Bostwick, reminding us how long ago Rocky Horror was), an endlessly wise grandmother (Margo Martindale, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story) and Miley introducing “a little hip-hop” at a hoedown. There’s also a lot of forced slapstick (who decided Billy Ray Cyrus was a physical comedian?), some random country singers (I have no idea who they were) and more life lessons than you can shake a stick at (a pastime that would be more profitable than watching this movie).
It’s obvious that Peter Chelsom put quite a lot of effort into making the film look good, and he invests a lot of energy into making the musical numbers lively and interesting. The problem is that the songs—apart from “Rock Star,” which was appropriated from Lustra’s “Scotty Doesn’t Know” from the 2004 film Eurotrip—are stunningly unmemorable and no amount of swish pans and interpolations of fantasy can overcome that. In the end, it’s just a lot of wasted energy on a project the vapidness of which staggers the mind. Rated G.