After successfully avoiding all that is Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus for years, I gave in this afternoon and went to see Hannah Montana: The Movie because I can be talked into sitting through anything about a country girl-turned-city girl-turned-country girl. (I have issues.) The plot is simple: Miley Stewart (Cyrus) starts to enjoy the perks of being her pop star alter ego, Hannah Montana, a little too much — e.g. her publicist (Vanessa Williams) introduces her to the concept of celebrity freebies and she throws down with Tyra Banks over a pair of stilettos in a store. So her father, Robby Ray (Billy Ray Cyrus), forces her to spend two weeks in Tennessee with the family for Grandma Ruby’s birthday. No one but the family and Miley’s best friend/makeup and hair artist Lily know the secret of her dual identity, but a writer for a British magazine is under orders to find out what the world’s most popular teen is hiding and follows Hannah there. Also, Miley gets hit on the head a lot.
"Hannah Detox," as Robby Ray calls it, proceeds as you’d expect. At first, Miley just pretends to like being "home," but slowly, through the help of her grandma’s hot summer farmhand Travis (a perfectly cast Lucas Till) and her horse, Blue Jeans, she begins to remember what matters — like helping Travis rebuild her grandma’s chicken coop so he can sell the eggs. Robby Ray starts spending time with the farm foreman, Lorelei (The Office‘s Melora Hardin!). And Miley’s brother gets attacked by an alligator, but is fine. (What???) Things only get complicated when the man (Barry Bostwick) threatening to turn the town into a mall interrupts the fundraiser to save it just as Miley finishes getting the townsfolk groovin’ to "Hoedown Throwdown" (I’m not even kidding). He says they’ll never be able to raise the money, and Travis, remembering that Miley told him she saved Hannah Montana’s life in a surfing accident, says Miley can ask Hannah to perform a benefit concert.
Now, we all know how this will play out — like an episode of Three’s Company.But there’s at least one sweet surprise: When Travis meets Hannah, theonly thing he’s interested in knowing is whether or not she thinksMiley would go out with him. (Awww.) Travis and Miley set their firstdate for the same night Hannah is supposed to be the guest of honor atthe mayor’s dinner, organized by Lorelei. After much "comedy" involvinga ferret and Miley running back and forth between the two meals,Travis figures it out. Robby Ray ends his budding relationship withLorelei rather than reveal Miley’s secret to her. The good news, painbrings out the best in Miley’s songwriting, and she pens a sweet song,"Butterfly Fly Away," that she and Robby Ray sing. (I may have gottenchills. It was a nice moment!!)
Miley spends all night finishing Travis’ chicken coop, and uponseeing her handiwork, Travis hops up on his horse like a total hottieand rides to Hannah’s concert. She sees him from the stage and stopssinging. She can’t lie to the town anymore, she can’t ask her family(meaning Robby Ray) to sacrifice anything else. She takes off her wigand sings a song she wrote for the town, which magically, the highschool orchestra already knows. It’s the song "The Climb" (below),which, I’ll admit, I totally love. (It’s the melody of the chorus:"There’s always gonna be another mountain/I’m always gonna want to makeit move/Always gonna be an uphill battle/Sometimes I’m gonna have tolose.") The song is just so perfect for that moment in the movie andthough I didn’t applaud like the girls sitting behind me (for real), Iwas definitely feeling warm and fuzzy. A little girl tells Miley toplease put back on the wig and be Hannah — the town will keep hersecret. And she does. Because Hannah’s publicist has flown over theBritish writer’s two daughters, whose hearts would be broken if Hannah no longer existed, he agrees to keep quiet. Honestly, I thought the moral of the storywould be to be yourself — meaning Miley would perform as Miley. ButI guess the moral is that leading a double life is right if it’sthe only way you get to do what you want (be a pop star) and still livea normal life (half the time).
Things to look out for other than the shock that Billy Ray Cyrus is incredibly likable onscreen in this character (as opposed to when he was, say, hosting Nashville Star or plugging his new album on the ACM Awards recently): The boys from Rascal Flatts, who cameo either as themselves or as Miley Stewart relatives who just happen to do one helluva porch cover of RascalFlatts’ "Bless the Broken Road"; Taylor Swift, who cameos as, I guess, a local teen who steps up to the mic during the town fundraiser (if she’d been playing herself, they wouldn’t have needed to call in Hannah Montana, right?); and the end credits. Much of the cast dances to "Hoedown Throwdown" including Tyra Banks, Melora Hardin, and Vanessa Williams, and they’re all more than game. If you’re that open when you go see the movie, you’ll have an okay time.