Disney // 2009 // 102 Minutes // Rated G
Reviewed by Judge Daniel Kelly (Retired) // August 18th, 2009
She has the best of both worlds. Now, she has to pick just one.
Teen superstar Miley Cyrus has risen to the very pinnacle of fame in the past few years, the combination of her TV show Hannah Montana and pop ballads having endeared her to the hearts of tweenagers worldwide. At just 16, Cyrus has a multi-million dollar empire with the promise of at least a few more successful years ahead of her. For the minute at least, the legions of adoring fans seem content to fawn over their idol and buy anything that she's pushing. A lucky coincidence when it came to this lackluster feature film. Hannah Montana: The Movie hit the top of the box-office in April and turned decent coin on its theatrical run, despite a bevy of uninspired reviews and unenthused guardians. The question is will kids be purging parental wallets for this Blu-Ray release as well?
Miley Stewart (Miley Cyrus, Bolt) lives like a regular teenager but with one huge difference. She has an alter-ego -- pop star and music phenomenon Hannah Montana...but in order to maintain her regular day to day routine, only her family and closest friends know. However, recently Miley has begun to suffer because of Hannah, the latter dominating the teen's life with several bratty public displays occurring as a consequence. So in an effort to abolish the LA diva lifestyle, father Robby Ray (Billy Ray Cyrus, Mulholland Dr.) brings Miley back to her real home, Crowley Corners, Tennessee. After a bout of initial reluctance, Miley starts to embrace her humble origins, but that poses a problematic choice for the teen star: Hannah or home?
Miley Cyrus seems like a talented enough girl, she can act competently and whilst her singing abilities aren't revolutionary, it's not hard to spot their appeal within a certain demographic. I can see her enjoying a decent career both in front of the camera and behind a microphone, yet be that as it may, it's hard to excuse a starring vehicle as dull as this one. Hannah Montana: The Movie is as wholesome and age appropriate as entertainment gets but it also finds itself mired in a basin of tedium for large stretches of its runtime. In a world where Pixar has elevated the quality of kids films, this sort of mediocrity just feels needless. Who's going to watch Hannah when as an alternative they could be enjoying the company of Woody or Buzz? The answer is very probably nobody.
I understand perfectly well that there are those who devote daily chunks of their lives to watching Cyrus on the TV, but Hannah Montana: The Movie feels lifeless in comparison to the boob tube version. On the small screen, the story of Miley Stewart is presented in far more digestible chunks and there is an infectious energy that pleasantly disguises the calorie-free nature of the plotlines. However up on the silver screen such pros can't outweigh those minuses, and in movie form there are a few new problems to add to those already existing. The screenplay is paper thin and the slapstick gags and love interest feel choppy and lazy when choked down over 102 minutes. Basically it's just not a TV show that needed to be made into a movie for any reason other than money.
Cyrus is in her element and in fairness has perfected the Miley/Hannah doppelganger to within an inch of flawlessness. She shows reasonable comedic ability, credible emotional range, and of course an agreeable set of vocals; much of what there is to like about Hannah Montana: The Movie stems from Cyrus herself. I enjoyed many of the scenes she shared with onscreen and real life dad Billy Ray Cyrus and a few of her more colourful and imaginative comedic set-pieces really do click. If you're going to wade through a paper thin story pulled out to an inexcusable length of 102 minutes, it might as well be with a lead you like, and Hannah Montana: The Movie at least offers that. However move away from the star and you're left in tepid waters. Billy Ray aside, little of the support musters credible impact of any sort. As the love interest, Lucas Till (Walk the Line) is wet and unappealing, the romantic narrative crushed under his one dimensional performance and some less than impressive writing. Most of Miley's Tennessee-based family are crudely pasted stereotypes; the actors thrust into the roles given no chance from the get go. I like the fact that Cyrus is more or less never off the screen but the writers should have realized a few interesting personalities for her to interact with was a necessity, as neglecting that fact has led to one of the critical flaws in this motion picture.
The message that the film is promoting is a good one, and as I mentioned before Cyrus and co. really earn their G rating, but the story is weak and the various subplots built around it are predictable and far from engaging. I suspect even the least demanding of little girls might have their patience tested by Hannah Montana: The Movie and its flat and listless story. I like the film for promoting the importance of family and the vitality in being yourself, but surely the screenwriters could have found a more original way to sell the morals. In many ways the film is like a church sermon, filled with good advice and important messages but sadly boring as hell. There just isn't much entertainment value to be derived from this thing.
The bubblegum enthusiasm which marks out the TV show and helps disguise the flaws on the smaller screen seems strangely absent here. There are moments of heavy goofing and Cyrus gives it her all, but something about this enterprise feels not quite right. Could it be director Peter Chelsom? Could the once promising British filmmaker have wished that maybe he hadn't been roped in to helm this feature? I expect so because his direction lacks spark or energy, the cartoon polish that made Hannah such a hit on TV is definitely in short supply here. The cinematography and technical aspects of Chelsom's work are all fine but I strongly suspect from an artistic stand point he really didn't care, thus explaining the lack of Saturday morning-style gusto here.
Disney has released this film on an excellent Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital copy combo. The video presentation is absolutely stunning whilst the 7.1 DTS- Master audio is excessive in its brilliance. If you're picking up the movie for a little girl, I would just go for the DVD, because let's face it, that will do her just fine. However if for some reason you fancy adding this to your own collection go for this technically awesome release. The audio and video are so good it'll probably make you wish they had been applied to a better movie. The special features are pretty cool and should go down solidly with Cyrus fans. Bloopers and deleted scenes add to the movie experience (if you're a fan...otherwise don't bother) whilst a selection of featurettes are crisp and easy to grasp for the young. One in which Cyrus guides the viewer around her own home is pretty neat and whilst the making of is decidedly goofy and simplistic, that's probably the way kids want it. For the more grown-up buyer we get a mushy and passable audio commentary from Chelsom, further evidence that despite all his praise for Cyrus, his heart really wasn't in this. The Blu-Ray offers some interactive dance material that should appeal to all those who like a bit of fun, and there is also BD live capability and a digital copy to relish. Not everything here is worth your time, but fans really couldn't have hoped for a more comprehensive release.
Cyrus isn't the best pop star working today but some of the music on show is boppy and catchy in the best way possible. One scene in particular at a Hoe-Down features some terrifically amusing musical interludes, which for my shame, I had a great time with. A few of the tunes border on schmaltz but overall I dig the musical work done here. It's got admirable spirit and it's not hard to see the wider appeal.
Also as I've mentioned in at least a few other places, Cyrus has ability; given better material I could see myself becoming a fan.
Hannah Montana: The Movie isn't going to be one of 2009's worst movies and this is indeed a spectacular Blu-Ray release, but all the same I can't recommend picking it up. The banal story is mostly to blame for such reluctance, though there are numerous other quibbles too.
Cyrus is free to go on the grounds that she leaves pap like this behind and
targets more consistently entertaining work. Everyone else is guilty, and needs
to try a lot harder.
Review content copyright © 2009 Daniel Kelly; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 7.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated G
* Deleted Scenes
* Gag Reel
* Dance Experience
* Music Videos
* Digital Copy
* DVD Copy
* Official Site
* Video: Jason Earles interviews Miley and Lucas
* Video: Lucas Till Photo Shoot