April 11, 2009 -- "Hannah Montana: The Movie" heaps on the country-flavored corn like nobody's business. But if you like her on TV, you'll feel the same about the movie.
The key to star Miley Cyrus' appeal is that she's equal parts pop star and spunky down-home girl.
The movie is both a musical and a predictable coming-of-age story. Miley wears cute clothes and flashes her toothy grin. Her dad knits his brow when her behavior edges into diva territory. As she's about to go on stage as Hannah, he reminds her that after all the applause has died down, she must go home as Miley and wash the dishes.
The message is admirably down-to-earth, though it seems a tad disingenuous, given her megawatt star status. Clearly, the filmmakers know that Hannah/Miley is a role model and are trying to set a good example. As far as messages go, Hannah's may be the most refreshing one that young girls will get from any pop-culture icon.
Still, it's hard to shake the notion that Hannah seems like a commodity/persona carefully constructed to work against the onslaught of superficial and inappropriate messages aimed at girls. And even if a message is simple, that doesn't mean the story must be one big cliché. From the Hee Haw-style slapstick to the family hootenannys at Grandma's house, everything seems calculatedly homespun and hackneyed.
Miley Cyrus plays Miley Stewart playing Hannah Montana. Her father, Robby Ray Stewart, is played by her real-life dad, Billy Ray Cyrus. The Stewarts hail from a verdant spot in Tennessee called Crowley Corners. When Miley, who has been living the high life in L.A,. returns to this small town, she doesn't even recognize her beloved old horse. Or Travis (Lucas Till), the cute boy who was her best friend as a toddler. Clean country living has made the blond, blue-eyed Travis into a strapping lad who could easily pass for an Abercrombie model. So, romance is soon a-brewing.
There's nothing subtle or unexpected about "Hannah Montana: The Movie." But its intended audience of prepubescent girls probably won't mind. Still, it's hard not to wish the same wholesome message could be conveyed with a bit more finesse and originality.