Rated G, 92 minutes
Miley still packs a punch as squeaky clean "Hannah Montana"
I must confess that I wasn't exactly eager to see "The Hannah Montana Movie." I'm not a fan of the Disney TV show nor do I really fit into its target demographic - girls ages 10-17, and star Miley Cyrus seems a bit, well, overexposed in so many ways. But one thing is for sure, the movie is a harmless, engaging and squeaky clean piece of fluffery that should please its target demographic. Cyrus herself is the right mixture of peppy and energetic, even when you know where the predictable, threadbare plot is going.
Those familiar with the TV show know that Cyrus plays Miley Stewart, who's secretly the young blond-wigged tween superstar Hannah Montana. She's really a normal girl who gets into trouble like everyone else, to the consternation of her single dad Robby Ray (played by Miley's real-life Dad, country singer Billy Ray Cyrus). Her best pal and cohort in crime is Lily (Emily Osment, Haley Joel's younger sis), along with older, clumsy brother Jackson (Jason Earles), and the well-meaning but mischief-laden Rico (Moises Aras), all from the TV show.
Her career seems to get in the way of everything, and her Dad takes her back to her roots and hometown Crowley Corners in Tennessee as sort of a "Hannah Detox" and remind her of who she really is. Of course, there's a boy for her to fall in love with, ranch hand Travis (Lucas Till), not to mention her no-nonsense Grandmother (the ever-lovable character actress Margo Martindale) and her slick agent (Vanessa Williams), who wants her to come back to L.A. to be Miley. Granny has run into problems when a developer (Barry Bostwick) wants to modernize the town, and it's up to Hannah/Miley to save the day while falling in love and keeping her identity a secret.
"The Hannah Montana Movie" is really just a retread of the show expanded to a little over 90 minutes with a few fun, padded musical numbers, but those who love the show will also love the movie. At a recent screening, the young girls in the audience were more than enthusiastic - clapping and cheering when Cyrus came on screen. She definitely has her following, and while Cyrus has made it clear she won't do anymore of these, box-office receipts (and lots of begging from Disney) could persuade her otherwise.
"Hannah Montana" knows its audience well and knows that young girls will the biggest part of it. They'll bounce along with all the songs, from the opening number "Best of Both Worlds" (very familiar to those who saw her concert movie last year) to the heartwarming "Butterfly Fly Away" performed near the end of the film. Taylor Swift makes a cameo appearance (and also adds a song - "Crazier") in the film, as does Rascal Flatts, and in addition to a crazy cameo by Tyra Banks. The energetic "Hoedown Showdown" is the movie's showstopper, combining both country and R&B in a very fun number.
The plot? Predictable as always. Love angle? Gooey as always. Cyrus herself? Engaging as always, and zany too especially when trying to be two separate people in two places at the same time. Whatever you think of Cyrus or Hanna Montana (right now, a cash cow for Disney), you have to give her credit - her movie is clean, goofy fun and suitable for everyone. And be thankful, there are lots of worse things young girls could be doing (like seeing the very adult "Observe & Report") this weekend. Definitely recommended for its target audience and should be a big, big hit.