Hannah Montana: The Movie acted as my official introduction to the identity crisis that is Miley Cyrus and her pop-music-powered alter ego. I have two boys, after all. The farthest we've ventured down Disney's empowered-female food chain is Kim Possible (which, for the record, deserves its own live-action film adaptation in the vein of Tomb Raider, yet better). But now, at least, I understand the hoopla surrounding this spunky, cool, and charismatic young performer. Her overly produced musical anthems aren't my cup of tea, but I get why so many people line up to drink what she's serving.
Chances are those reading this review won't have to be told how aspiring singer Miley Stewart (Cyrus) created Hannah Montana so she could live a normal life off the stage. Or how her down-home, country-boy of a father (Billy Ray Cyrus) worries that his daughter is spending too much time in the self-centered, shallow celebrity pool and losing touch with her Tennessee roots. Article continues below
That's where the Montana movie takes us: back home to Crowley Corners, where Miley attends her grandmother's birthday, falls in love with a handsome cowboy (Lucas Till), and agrees to stage a concert that should raise enough money to prevent a developer (Barry Bostwick) from bulldozing her authentic, Southern, childhood town.
Exclusive access to both Miley and Hannah's worlds seems to be the lure of the Montana series, and director Peter Chelsom divides the film's time equally. Rabid fans craving Hollywood glitz will enjoy Hannah concert footage, a beachfront birthday party on the Santa Monica Pier, and Tyra Banks wrestling Miley for the perfect pair of shoes. I appreciated the wholesome atmosphere of the film's second half, where practical (but not less valuable) life lessons are imparted, and country stars like Taylor Swift and Rascal Flatts cameo. The silly slapstick crammed throughout both sections could be removed, though to be honest, my young preview audience responded in kind as a ferret disrupted a dinner party and a dishonest tabloid journalist (Oswald Granger) took a bath in a puddle of mud.
Cyrus, of course, is the bridge connecting these seemingly different existences, and it's impressive how comfortable the gifted 16-year-old appears either in a barn or on a stage. She shows a wide range of emotions, plays bubbly without being annoying, and appeals to her fan base without ever pandering. There's no doubt that when the actress chooses to retire Hannah Montana, Cyrus herself will survive and thrive.