Monday, April 20, 2009

Confessions of a Hannah Montana: The Movie Viewer

What took me to see Hannah Montana: The Movie? First of all, I was granted the privilege of seeing it with devoted Miley Cyrus fan and pop-culture expert Jane, my avid movie-going daughter. I also wanted to see it because I like to keep up with pop culture so I can compare notes with the girls in my 8th grade history class. It’s only fair, since they have been open to and very patient with viewings of Citizen Kane and The Third Man as part of our spring-term-long film history unit. Now it was my turn to see a favorite film of theirs. Sort of, uh, the best of both worlds. Fortunately, Jane allowed me to accompany her. (I couldn’t go alone. I needed the cover of taking a daughter. Nobody knew she had seen it already with her friend).

The story is simple. Miley Stewart (Cryus) leads a double life. With her chubby cheeks, puckered lips, and toothy smile crowding a small face, she’s the blonde-wigged pop star Hannah Montana; in secret, she leads a “normal” life as the daughter of country-western singer Robby Ray Stewart (Billy Ray Cyrus). But when Daddy Ray determines that Miley is getting kind of spoiled (fighting over a pair of shoes with Tyra Banks, appearing in a cameo as herself; and demanding a jet to fly her to a concert in NYC), he detours said jet to Tennessee, and Miley, as Hannah, gets off the plane expecting to see screaming teen fans, only to be greeted by the moo of a solitary cow. Yee, ha, and wee, doggies! Miley has been whisked back to her down-home country roots on her grandma’s farm where the good old boys including Rascal Flatts (as himself) pluck away at country tunes on the porch of a night and Taylor Swift (as herself) sings at the local dancehall.

At first, Miley rebels, but then she gets into it, especially when she starts falling for her old first grade crush, Travis (Lucas Till), now a tall, blond, handsome horse wrangler. Indeed, the atmosphere of this film is so family-values-down-home-white-Americana (even though, strangely, the mayor of Lily-white Town is African-American) that you almost expect one of the good old boys on the porch to start plucking out that ominous Deliverance tune.

Despite some very silly and embarrassing scenes, mostly in the beginning of the movie, (including the horrid shoe fight scene), the film develops into a rather entertaining, well-meaning experience that provides genuine laughs and some truly touching moments. Perhaps the film’s greatest drawback is the nagging and inordinate presence of Billy Ray Cyrus, sort of creepy in his cowboy hat, long greasy hair, and lower lip whiskers. Clearly riding on his sixteen-year-old daughter’s incredible fame, he doesn’t have the acting skills to warrant his presence. Miley can actually act, upon occasion, and you may not like her songs (though “Butterfly” and “The Climb” are notably touching), but she’s got a good voice. She emotes believable torment as she is torn between impersonating Hannah and just being Miley – a dilemma that leads to predictable but fun comedy when her personae must appear at two different places at the same time. How her hectic double life causes pain and confusion for a disillusioned fan and Miley's ardent boyfriend is visualized comically and metaphorically as she gets spun around by a revolving doorway, incriminating blonde wig in her hand.

Miley Cyrus and Hannah Montana bring a lot of joy to a lot of young people. As a girl in my 8th grade class proclaimed last Friday, “You know, Mr. --, Twilight is to Paula (a Robert Pattinson fanatic) as Hannah Montana is to me.” Remembering the fervent look in her eyes, as I watched very happy little girls guided out of the theater by their mothers and heard Jane singing the closing credits song, it seemed clear that a movie that provides this much happiness has got to be a good thing. I admit it. Miley won me over. She made me laugh and smile; she got me kind of choked up. I feel all glowy. I think I’m going to have to watch The Deer Hunter tonight.


FilmDr said...

Impressive. After watching the trailer for Hannah Montana, I figured that the movie must be the closest thing to Satan of the spring season. You are a stronger man than I am.

hokahey said...

When I saw Monsters vs. Aliens (reviewed briefly here), I nearly fell asleep and Jane hated it. Hannah Montana kept me entertained. Anyway, now I've done my duty and I can chat with the fans at school - as I do with the Twilight junkies. And I always find that making an allusion to movies like this in class is a sure-fired method of getting their attention.

Thanks for the comment.

FilmDr said...

I kind of liked Twilight, so perhaps I shouldn't talk.

hokahey said...

Yes, Twilight is another phenomenon I had to sample in order to have a LOT more to talk about with my students. The book was enjoyable but padded. Mostly dialogue, it could have easily been half as long - and some of my students agree. As for for the movie, I enjoyed it. When the Cullens strut slow-mo into the cafeteria, I could tell this would be a memorable, thrilling moment for all its devotees. I felt some of the thrill.