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Crazy Preteens Lash Out!

Movie title: Hannah Montana: The Movie (2009)
Spoilers ahead: No

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Try and imagine yourself as a ten-year-old girl on the bus ride home from school. The girls sitting next to you are doing the same thing you are, and that is texting others with countless back-and-forth messages in faithful shorthand fashion (“u r a dork.”) When the bus arrives at your stop, you get off and say “text u n a few” to the friends on your block. You head inside and throw your backpack on your bed, and before you begin watching iCarly and the rest of the after school favorites, you eat a Carnation Instant Chocolate Bar and then turn on the tube. Hannah Montana is on.

Your parents may or may not know it, but you know it. You know that all 7 to 13-year-old girls worldwide know—that Hannah Montana is the newest and biggest thing around. She's the new preteen-targeting icon, and she can actually sing. And she's not just a singer. She's a celebrity in every sense of the word. For those of you who have yet to experience the erratic squealing, the intense begging of your younger daughter or sister and her school bus mob of girlfriends who will not relent until they get to see her in concert, brace yourselves. Chances are, you'll encounter it soon enough.

Hannah Montana is the celebrity side of Miley Cyrus (Miley Stewart in the film), Billy Ray Cyrus' daughter. Miley is the average schoolgirl. Only a select few close to her know she's a big star in disguise. She's only Hannah when she goes to perform on stage; the rest of the time, she's just Miley. The buzz is all about being popular while going “under cover” with the fame to relate to your ordinary kid. I understand the appeal. Secrecy, even if it's only in character on TV, is cool. It inspires pretending, you could say.

But the buzz about Hannah Montana: The Movie is about how terrible it is. “It was awful,” I kept hearing. So, having invested the necessary two hours of my life to render a verdict on the matter, I can say that what Hannah Montana: The Movie lacks is quality as a movie for anyone over the age of 10. What it most certainly does not lack is appeal to the stop-at-nothing fans that so, so, so love this girl.

So I get done reviewing the film and give it the scantily passing grade of D+ (1 1/2 stars). Some of my fellow critics are amazed. With all the goofy chase scenes and everyone tripping over air itself and not having the toddler-level intelligence to recognize a girl with just a wig on, how could it not get a right-between-the-eyes F? The answer to that is, the movie is all about the fans, and in far too juvenile fashion, it gives them exactly what they want.

A hugely popular Hannah and her best friend Lola Luftnagle (Emily Osment) are living high with Hannah's shining stardom. Hannah begins to find that her career of limousines, living large, and laughing easy is getting in the way of the things she values most—her friends and family. So, she heads back to the place where it all started, to the family farm in Crowley Corners, Tennessee. There, she has a lot to learn about priorities and her roots.

As you get to meet the family and a wise grandmother, you get to hear Hannah sing and perform and even write songs. That guy who loves ferrets? Ignore him. Really, he's harmless. When she's not riding her horse named “Blue jean” or making a fool of herself as a hopeless L.A. city girl trying to do farm work, she's striking up conversations with a good-looking former schoolmate who has a crush on her. But things get more difficult when Miley and Hannah both have to be in the same place at once. As she finds it harder and harder to preserve her big secret in a small town, she soon has to make a decision. Will she be overwhelmed with stress as a secretive singing celeb, or will she be exposed as a superstar and not be able to live a normal life again?

Suddenly, the shoe shopping trips, the big cases of eyeliner and cosmetics, and the cool electronic platforms that raise her up onto a stage before thousands of screaming fans don't mean as much anymore. Miley and Hannah both have some thinking to do.

But what you might need to think about is how bad this movie can be if you watch it and are unlucky enough to be over the age of 13. So be prepared for some craziness, like that everyone in Hannah's world is chronically clumsy. There's as much tripping as there is talking. I move that the whole cast be checked for neurological disorders. The humor is so tawdry and kid-oriented that parents who brought their children may feel the sudden need to step outside and get a breath a fresh air before going back in. This is normal! If you experience dizziness, nausea, or vomiting, discontinue watching and contact your doctor immediately. It may not be in the running for the worst movie of the year, but it narrowly misses qualifying.

Despite it all, a positive, pro-family plot mixed with music, concerts, and the life story of Disney's brightest new superstar managed to come thru. It's not going to win any new converts to the Hannah cult, but let the initiated have what they want. There's no harm in that. Let them have their Hannah.

(JH)

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Grade: D+ (1 ½ stars)
Rated: G
Summation: Miley Stewart (Hannah Montana) heads back home to the farm to get a new perspective on the meaning of family.
Director: Peter Chelsom
Starring: Miley Cyrus “Hannah Montana / Miley Stewart,” Billy Ray Cyrus “Robby Ray Stewart,” Emily Osment “Lilly Truscott / Lola Luftnagle,” Jason Earles “Jackson Stewart,” Mitchel Musso “Oliver Oken / Mike Standley III,” Moises Arias “Rico,” Lucas Till “Travis Brody,” Vanessa Williams “Vita,” Margo Martindale “Ruby,”
Genre: Comedy / Drama / Family / Music

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