Hannah Montana: The Movie (2009)
by Sawyer J. Lahr
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Hannah Montana:The Movie is the most honest, least pretentious and artistically snub film I’ve seen this year next to Sunshine Cleaning. Sixteen-year-old Miley Stewart (Miley “Destiny” Cyrus), Hannah Montana’s alter ego, disappears in the crowd of her own fans as she tries to get into a stadium with her best friend Lilly Truscott (Emily Osment), but they are refused.
Miley is a pop star who can’t get into to her own concert. Hannah Montanna was created to allow Miley a “normal” life, but her character becomes her. Her father (Billy Ray Cyrus) and family rescue her from shallow materialism, returning her home to Franklin, Tennessee to get a reality check.
Disney joins together musical talent and teen acting in one character, Hannah Montana, the same combination that popularized the stars of High School Musical. Hillary Duff of Lizzy Maguire did not have the voice or personality to be a Disney pop star, but she excelled as a clumsy mediocre teenage outsider with a platonic boyfriend, sick of High School and desperate for independence. Miley is at her best when singing pop country songs like LeAnn Rimes, a style more suited to the Miley than Hannah. The more personal lyrics she’s inspired to write in the film reach a level barely contained by the story. She sings not only as Miley Stewart and Hannah Montana, but as the actress Miley Cyrus.
Hannah Montana: The Movie is fresh material to me, having not seen the show. Miley Stewart is a cross between the adventure of Zenon: Girl of the Twenty First Century and a pop rocker with the stage presence of Britney Spears at her 2000 Oops!… I Did It Again World Tour. Miley, like Spears and Aguilera, suffers from the good-girl complex. She posed for controversial photographs by the great Annie Leibowitz and is dating a twenty-year-old former playgirl model, all the while, trying to be a positive role model to little girls. Miley stays grounded by being unashamed of her adolescent love life and not taking the media personally.
There are moments and lines that might sound cheesy to some cynical adults, but are uplifting for pre-teen girls and sentimental to the now grown children of the Disney Channel. Miley reminds us that a sixteen-year-olds should not have to know who they are or what they want to be in life. In typical Disney fashion, a lesson is learned: Don’t forget your origins or undervalue the climb to success because a difficult journey is worth the view at the top.
Country fans, look out for Rascal Flatts as Miley’s extended family/friends, a cameo performance by nineteen-year-old country music sensation Taylor Swift, and a tear-jerker daddy duet with Billy Ray Cyrus.
Sawyer J. Lahr is Chief Editor of the forthcoming online publication, Go Over the Rainbow. He also writes a monthly film column for Mindful Metropolis, a conscious living magazine in Chicago, IL.
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