Movie review: 'Hannah Montana: The Movie'

Friday, April 10, 2009


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Hannah Montana: The Movie

SNOOZING VIEWER Musical dramatic comedy. Starring Miley Cyrus, Billy Ray Cyrus, Emily Osment and Lucas Till. Directed by Peter Chelsom. (G. 102 minutes. At Bay Area theaters.)

Resourceful parents think tactically about which movies they agree to chaperone. Find a way to persuade some other mom or dad to take the kids to the new "Cheaper by the Dozen" picture, so it's your turn when the Pixar film comes to town. The new "Garfield" movie? That's what grandparents are for.

"Hannah Montana: The Movie" isn't an abomination. The characters are wholesome, the plot is easy to follow and the songs all sound the same, so you can really only get one stuck in your head at a time. But even as adults give their blessing for prepubescent moviegoers to see the film, they should be plotting to stay as far away from the theater as possible. If you're no longer old enough to carry a Hannah Montana lunch box, this movie will feel like punishment.

It didn't have to be this way. Miley Cyrus is arguably more talented than the teen acting-singing phenom that you used to follow, and there have been plenty of decent tween-aimed movies in recent years to serve as a model. Movies such as "Bridge to Terabithia," "Nim's Island" and "Enchanted" were enjoyable for middle school-age girls and their parents.

The makers of "Hannah Montana: The Movie," by contrast, attempt absolutely nothing creative or unpredictable. The plot is "Sweet Home Alabama," with a slapstick "Home Alone" villain thrown in, high jinks ripped off scene for scene from "The Brady Bunch" and not-one-but-two fundraising benefit concerts to keep the developers from paving over the town square. (If we just write the check now, could the filmmakers include a plot that hasn't already been covered 17 times on "The Dukes of Hazzard"?)

The movie starts where the hit Disney Channel television show left off. Cyrus is Miley Stewart, who is trying to retain her secret identity while traveling the world as the super-famous Hannah Montana. Miley starts to lose track of her roots and her father Robby Ray Stewart, played by real-life dad Billy Ray Cyrus (yes, that Billy Ray Cyrus), forces her to spend two weeks in her small-town Tennessee home. Cue the spunky grandmother, cute farm boy love interest and bumbling English paparazzo who is about to unveil the truth about Miley's alter ego.

"Hannah Montana: The Movie" is 102 minutes, with about 40 minutes of plot. The rest of the time is filled with musical interludes, including half a dozen songs by Cyrus, two by her father and enjoyable cameos by Rascal Flatts and Taylor Swift. The latter choice was actually a mistake, because Swift is so talented that she makes Cyrus seem bland by comparison. Swift's performance is followed by Cyrus' hip-hop country number, which is just as annoying as it sounds.

Is there anything to recommend? Once the story lands in the country, the "Little House on the Prairie" vibe is kind of nice. Director Peter Chelsom doesn't do much with his actors, but he makes Tennessee - credit the filmmakers for shooting on location - look really beautiful. And the hair and makeup team have done a great job making Billy Ray Cyrus look grown-up and responsible, even with his shirt unbuttoned to his navel.

It's like that whole "Achy Breaky Heart" nightmare never happened.

-- Advisory: This movie contains comic violence and scenes of hip-hop country dancing. Members of all of the world's religions need to immediately set aside their differences, and collectively pray that this doesn't become a trend.

E-mail Peter Hartlaub at phartlaub@sfchronicle.com.

This article appeared on page E - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle


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