Has there ever been a more critic-proof film than Hannah Montana: The Movie? Montana is targeted with laser precision at an audience barely old enough to read, let alone pay attention to what laptop-toting wretches have to say about its aesthetic shortcomings. For the time being, Miley Cyrus and her Hannah Montana alter ego are firmly in control of the blandly attractive, freshly scrubbed, Disney-approved song-and-dance promotional juggernaut. The ’tweens are coming. Resistance is futile.
Cyrus plays Hannah as a world-famous pop star hiding behind her secret identity as an average high-school kid. When Cyrus makes headlines for getting into a knock-down fight with Tyra Banks over a pair of shoes and is totally late to her BFF’s bitchin’ sweet 16 party, her loving father (Billy Ray Cyrus) decides his pop princess is getting above her raising, and he sentences her to two weeks of “Hannah detox” in her sleepy Tennessee hometown. Ah, but trouble is afoot, as an evil developer wants to destroy Cyrus’ small-town Eden by building a mall, and a nefarious British sleaze merchant sets out to expose her secret. Can a climactic benefit concert save the day?
In a sadly/gloriously representative scene, Cyrus must simultaneously be Hannah at a fancy-pants dinner with the mayor in her honor and shed her blonde Hannah wig to go on a date with a cute boy at a restaurant down the street. Manic farce ensues even before a mischievous ferret on the loose enters the equation. Broad doesn’t begin to describe the film’s Mama’s Family-like comic touch, or the tonal clash between sitcom shenanigans and kid-friendly soap opera. Chipmunk-cheeked ’tween sensation Cyrus, like the film she anchors, is enthusiastic, unpretentious, and aggressively inoffensive, as are the blandly upbeat songs she warbles. Town & Country director Peter Chelsom isn’t making a movie so much as delivering product and protecting a lucrative Disney brand. On that level, he succeeds. Everything else is pretty much irrelevant, as the only folks Montana is interested in pleasing are prepubescent girls and Disney stockholders.