Hannah Montana The Movie
You've probably heard of Hannah Montana—and if you have a child under the age of 14, you may even have heard a bit too much. The smash Disney channel sitcom stars Miley Cyrus as Miley Stewart, a fun-loving American teen whose secret alter ego, Hannah Montana, just happens to be a global pop star. With the series in its third wildly successful season, Disney decided it was time to take Miley/Hannah to the big screen in a full-length feature. Hannah Montana The Movie is the tween-pleasing result.
In the film's opening scenes, we learn that Hannah's soaring popularity—and the ensuing perks—is threatening to take over Miley's more grounded life. Vita (Vanessa Williams), Hannah's dangerously proficient publicist, nurtures the diva side of the Miley/Hannah equation, much to the consternation of the young star's widower father, Robby Ray (Miley's real-life dad, country singer Billy Ray Cyrus), brother Jackson (Jason Earles), and jilted best friend Lilly (Emily Osment).
When Hannah's Hollywood hijinks climax at a Beverly Hills boutique in a much-publicized catfight over a pair of shoes with Tyra Banks, Robby Ray decides some "Hannah Detox" is in order. He diverts his daughter's New York-bound jet and forces a return to the family homestead in Crowley Corners, Tennessee. There, an initially resentful Miley gradually rediscovers her roots, thanks to her horse, her grandmother, her guitar, and a hunky cowboy named Travis (Lucas Till).
Eventually, Miley finds such contentment away from the spotlight that Hannah's future becomes uncertain. Miley is contemplating saying goodbye to her pop star life, until the impending urbanization of idyllic Crowley Corners by a smarmy developer (Barry Bostwick) forces her hand. A "Save the Town" fundraiser is arranged, and Hannah Montana is brought in as the headliner. Complications ensue when the logistics of keeping the "Hannah Secret" threaten to destroy both new and old relationships, and the Stewart family must decide what price they are willing to pay to continue hiding Hannah's identity.
British director Peter Chelsom (Serendipity, Shall We Dance?) was not initially familiar with the Hannah Montana franchise when he was charged with the challenge of transposing the sitcom for theatrical release while preserving its light-hearted charm. Wisely, Chelsom chose not to use any of the TV show's Hollywood sets, shooting the entire film on location in Tennessee and California; the cinematic outdoor settings look beautiful and help the movie feel worthy of the big screen. Casting decisions, for the most part, helped the cause; while cameos like Tyra Banks, Taylor Swift, and Rascal Flatts give the film star power, the acting chops of character actor Margo Martindale (in the matriarchal role of Miley's Grandma Ruby) and the magnetic charisma of young star Lucas Till (previously seen most memorably as Jack Cash in Walk the Line) add some much needed nuance and depth.
Writer Dan Berensden decided to move away from the ensemble feel of the sitcom and focus primarily on Miley and Robby Ray's journey. His decision creates space for the younger Cyrus to shine (while her lack of film experience sometimes shows, her star power is undeniable) and the older Cyrus to flourish in some extra screen time as both a concerned dad and a would-be suitor to beautiful farmhand Lorelai (played lightly but ably by The Office's Melora Hardin.)