Monday, April 27, 2009

Movie Review: Hannah Montana

If you have a child between the ages of 6 and 13, especially a girl, chances are you're going to see this movie.

Possibly, if you ARE a child between the ages of 6 and 13, you might like this movie. Parents, on the other hand, who may have been spoiled by high-quality family offerings from the likes of Pixar, Dreamworks and even Disney's corny-yet-amusing High School Musical series might not be so impressed.

To summarize, in case you have no children, or live under a large rock:
Miley Stewart (played by Miley Cyrus) leads a double life as an average, everyday, independently wealthy California teenager on one hand, and teen country-pop star Hannah Montana on the other. Apparently the only necessary disguise for someone who has thousands and thousands of worshipping fans who scrutinize her every pose in her photo shoots and music videos is a blond wig (hear that, Madonna?)

Miley is letting all the celebrity, money and attention go to her head, just like any other teen Disney star, but her father, Robby Ray (played by the Achy-Breaky Guy, her actual father), has had enough.

He takes her back to the family farm in Tennessee, the magical land where, apparently cheap acoustic six-string guitars can sound like either 12-string guitars or mandolin and guitar duets, depending on who plays them. There she gets back to her roots and learns what's important in life and all that other Disneyfied Small-Town Mythology stuff.

But not really. The thing is, nothing changes, nobody except for the "bad guy" (who is, of course, British) learns any important lessons, and, at the end, the whole plot could have been condensed into one of her television episodes. Hannah goes from being a superficial teen pop star to being a... superficial-in-a-slightly-different-way teen pop star.

Now, I don't expect everything my daughter watches to teach her some sort of important life lesson, especially when it comes from Disney. However, I'm not satisfied at how this whole thing is packaged.

One thing that bothered me was the "we're rich and so is everybody we know, even the poor people" thing. Contrast Hannah Montana: The Movie to last year's American Girl movie. Both aimed at roughly the same demographic, but one is about the trials and tribulations of a teen idol, the other is about a family coping with the Great Depression. Guess which character is more likeable?

Because even when Miley/Hannah treats her best friend like crap, there are no consequences. The next scene they're best buds again. Totally blew the chance to explore the whole value-of-friendship theme.

No, it's not necessary for entertainment to have some redeeming social value. But on the other hand, when your whole plot premise revolves around getting away from the Bright Lights of LA (tm) in order to get Back to Reality (tm) you could at least go as deep as, say Doc Hollywood or Cars.

Maybe I'm being a little harsh on the escapist fantasy, but I keep hoping that I'll be able to take my daughter to see a live-action movie with a little more substance one of these days. At the very least, there's another Harry Potter movie on the way...

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