Screenwriters: Dan Berendsen
Starring: Miley Cyrus, Billy Ray Cyrus, Emily Osment, Jason Earles
Running time: 102 mins
With a hit Disney TV series, platinum album, burgeoning movie career and a place on Forbes's 'The Celebrity 100' rich list at the tender age of 16, Miley Cyrus isn't so much a tween superstar, more a licence to print money. Hannah Montana: The Movie, her latest outing as Miley Stewart - klutzy schoolgirl by day, international singing sensation by night - has already proved a box office hit in the US and now has designs on replicating that success over here.
The story kicks off with Miley in a race to transform into Hannah (all it takes is make-up and a blonde wig) in time for a big concert. As her diva behaviour escalates, dad Robby Ray (Billy Ray Cyrus) attempts to keep her grounded by reminding her she has dishes to clean when she gets home. After upstaging best friend Lilly's (Osment) birthday and furiously brawling with Tyra Banks (Radiohead got off lightly on this evidence) for a pair of zebra pattern stilettos, Robby Ray decides that his daughter needs a reality check and takes her back to Tennessee to reconnect with her roots and tone down the sass.
With her switching personas and identity dilemmas, Hannah resembles a superhero with blurred lines between her real self and alter ego. Though on the surface its concept may seem like a girly alternative to the brawny comic book fare that draws teen boys into cinemas, Hannah Montana's target audience skews younger than the lead star's 16 years. On one hand it presents the everyday problems of growing up, on the other a sexed-up glimpse of adulthood as seen through the eyes of a chirpy, buck-toothed blonde popstrel. It's not surprising that the Montana series has attracted a rabid following from young girls who dream of becoming famous.
With this film, Disney has utilised the same template that set tills ringing for High School Musical 3. Consequently everything that works in HSM3 hits home here, and both movies share similar shortcomings. Like the Zac Efron-fronted threequel, Montana has a cringe-worthy and limp romance, and a finale that conveniently solves an unsolvable problem, ditching any sense of realism to let Miley have everything her way. There's another awkward misstep in a subplot where a weasley British tabloid hack (Peter Gunn) realises the errors of his ways after trying to expose the Hannah/Miley connection. It feels like a deliberate middle finger from Cyrus, biting at the hand that feeds her fame and bank balance.
However, these nitpicks are unlikely to bother the pre-teen demographic, who'll be swept along by a charming, physically exuberant performance from the lead, a mischievous ferret and a brilliant, literally barnstorming hip-hop/country number called 'Hoedown Throwdown' ("Pop it, lock it, polka dot it"). A commercial product it may be, but there's a lot to like in this well-crafted Disney confection, which presents a positive role model who learns the value of family, friendship and the perils of losing that to fame and popularity.
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