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Hannah Montana: The Movie

(2009) * G
103 min. Buena Vista Pictures Distribution. Director: Peter Chelsom. Cast: Miley Cyrus, Billy Ray Cyrus, Emily Osment, Jason Earles, Mitchel Tate Musso.

/content/films/3519/2.jpgOn the one hand, Hannah Montana: The Movie is a G-rated, colorful, light-hearted fantasy packed with gags, romance, and nine song performances. This spin-off of a Disney Channel series even gets a legit director in Brit Peter Chelsom (The Full Monty). So for the Wal-Mart crowd, this formulaic movie pairing music star Miley Cyrus and her music-star-dad Billy Ray Cyrus gets the job done. But stare at the surface for a minute and you'll see a crassly commercial enterprise that's supposedly about embracing authenticity. Even slightly scratching the surface is an even worse idea. Given Miley Cyrus' tabloid reputation, the thought of the reeky Cyrus-family skeletons this sunny franchise is covering up should be enough to make any adult shudder.

Hannah Montana: The Movie begins at one of the big arena concerts showcasing pop star Hannah Montana (Miley Cyrus). Just before she takes the stage, her dad Robby Ray (Billy Ray Cyrus) reminds her, "Don't forget it's your turn to do the dishes tonight...Don't give me no lip. You're the one that wanted best of both worlds." The "best of both worlds" is the theme of the TV series, the huge concert tour it launched, and this big-screen culmination, which promises to make the girl "pick just one." One world is, of course, the "outrageous, glamorous life" of a Hollywood-based pop superstar in a blond wig; the other belongs to Hannah's secret (real) identity, brunette Miley Stewart from Crowley Corners, Tennessee. Guess which world Hannah's publicist Vita (Vanessa Williams) favors? The TV gang's all here for the movie: Miley's brother Jackson (Earles) is off to Tennessee University, and her best friend Lilly Truscott (Emily Osment), is celebrating her sweet sixteen, which Hannah's celebrity accidentally ruins (there for the party: double act Mitchel Musso and Moises Arias).

Sensing his daughter is poised for a meltdown (after a hideous catfight with Tyra Banks over a pair of shoes), Robby Ray shanghais his daughter home to Crowley Corners for her the birthday of her Grandma Ruby (Margo Martindale) and two weeks of what Miley's dad calls "Hannah detox." A wistful reunion with horse Blue Jeans is also the occasion to reconnect with a childhood friend who grew up to be a dreamy cowboy: Travis Brody (Lucas Till). Meanwhile, Robby Ray strikes up his own complicated relationship with a local gal named Lorelai (Melora Hardin of The Office). Two complications press the point of Miley/Hannah's epochal decision of choosing a world: rural Crowley Corners is under the threat of urbanification by a nasty developer (Barry Bostwick, Grease's original Danny Zuko) and—uh oh!—suspicious British tabloid reporter Oswald Granger (Peter Gunn) has tracked Hannah all the way to her hometown in search of her secret.

The story makes way for seven Hannah/Miley songs: "The Best of Both Worlds: The 2009 Movie Mix," "Let's Get Crazy," dance-instruction tune "Hip-Hop Hoedown" ("Pop it, lock it, polka-dot it/Countrify then hip-hop it/Put your hawk in the sky/And move side to side/Jump to the left, stick it, glide"), "Rockstar," "The Climb," "You'll Always Find Your Way Back Home," daughter-dad duet "Butterfly Fly Away" (plus five others scattered through the soundtrack). Billy Ray performs "Back to Tennessee" (from his synergystically timed CD release), Taylor Swift shows up to sing "Crazier," and Rascal Flatts play down-home family friends who sing "Bless the Broken Road" around the house. For the film's target audience of pre-teen girls, the loud acting and goofy slapstick (including a scene played for laughs in which a character dressed up like the Crocodile Hunter gets mauled by an, poor taste?) will go down easy: too easy. /content/films/3519/3.jpg

Chelsom and screenwriter Dan Berendsen make clever use of a revolving door as the symbol of Miley/Hannah's life of dizzy disguise, but the film's deeply confused resolution to its climactic question is a major mistake that chooses cold, hard cash over art and responsibility to the movie's young audience. The right choice would have complicated the potential extension of the franchise, but not irreparably; the way this movie ends is so wrong that it doesn't deserve a pass as frothy entertainment. Why? Because it's actively sending a bad message to kids. The world teaches the hero a lesson and then pats her on the back and tells her, "It's okay: you can go ahead and do what you know is wrong." Not only is this ending immoral, but it's stupid: the girl's decision plagues her to a life that is demonstrably soul-sucking when there's a clear alternative that would make everyone happy. Of course, Hannah Montana: The Movie would much rather no one take it this seriously, but what does that say about the movie's commitment to its own story and characters?

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Aspect ratios: 1.85:1

Number of discs: 3

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1

Street date: 8/18/2009

Distributor: Buena Vista Home Entertainment

Hannah Montana: The Movie on Blu-ray blows away its DVD counterpart with a sharp, dimensional hi-def image. Color, contrast and black level are all solid, and the source, of course, is clean as a whistle. All told, this is a vibrant picture with no digital artifacts to get in the way. For a film with this much music, sound is arguably more important, and Disney steps up with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround mix that lavishes special attention on the musical passages.

The Deluxe Edition combo package includes a Blu-ray disc, a DVD, and a Digital Copy, as well as a busy selection of bonus features. First up is an audio commentary with director Peter Chelsom, in which the noted British filmmaker plays very, very nice in chatting up the film and his collaborators.

The Hoedown Throwdown Home Experience can be had simply by selecting "Everybody Now" (14:39, HD), in which choreographer Jamal Sims, Miley Cyrus, Lucas Till, Jason Earles, Chelsom, and Tyra Banks talk about the film's signature dance. "Everybody Now" incorporates "Learn the Moves" (9:47, HD), which also has its own separate menu access, and in which Sims, Moises Arias and Mitchel Musso teach the dance. So if you just want to learn the dance and not hear people talk about it, "Learn the Moves" is for you.

Four "Deleted Scenes" (10:36, HD) come with introductions by Chelsom, and the disc includes seven "Music Videos" (26:44 with "Play All," SD & HD): "The Climb" (SD), "Back to Tennessee" (SD), "You'll Always Find Your Way Back Home" (HD), "Let's Get Crazy" (HD), "The Climb" (HD), "Bless the Broken Road" (HD), and "Crazier" (HD).

In "Find Your Way Back Home" (15:06, HD), Miley Cyrus, mom Tish, and Billy Ray Cyrus tour and talk up hometown Franklin, Tennessee, then Emily Osment shows us around Los Angeles.

"I Should Have Gone to Film School - With Jason Earles" (15:18, HD) is a "filmmaking 101 tour" in which Earles traipses around the set to interview crew and cast about their jobs. Earles interviews producer Alfred Gough, Billy Ray Cyrus, Osment, Miley Cyrus, Till, Chelsom, 1st assistant director James Alan Hensz, 2nd assistant director Heather Grierson, set production assistants Ian C. Campbell and Travis Allen Archer, costume designer Christopher Lawrence, key makeup artist Anne Maree Hurley, Billy Ray Cyrus stand-in Scott Adcock, sound mixer Glen Trew, Sims, best boy electric Dale Balani, best boy grip Darryl Wilson, stunt coordinator Steve Hart, and property master Steven H. George.

"Fun With Hannah & The Gang" (3:53, HD) is a blooper reel.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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