The Disney Channel's biggest hit in years is this fluffy bit of wish fufillment starring Miley Cyrus (daughter of singer Billy Ray, who also stars) as Miley Stewart, a teenager who moves out to California from Tennessee to become a pop star. By day, she's an average student who lives a normal life with friends and homework. At night, she's Hannah Montana, a pop star who sells out huge concerts and looks oddly like a younger version of Hilary Duff.
The episodes are often centered around Miley and her friends - Oliver Oken (Mitchel Musso) and Lilly Truscott (Emily Osment) - getting into adventures or Miley - at least initially - trying to keep her pop star identity a secret. "Hannah Montana: The Movie", on the other hand, seems like an extended/expanded version of the core concept of the series, although it certainly feels different. Not surprisingly, the film stars Miley Cyrus as Hannah, the pop star by night/normal girl by day.
Early in the movie, Hannah misses her brother's college departure and accidentally shows up her friend Lilly (Emily Osment) at Lilly's own 16th birthday (I don't quite understand it, as I would think that having Hannah Montana show up at your birthday party would make Lilly cool and not humiliated, but oh well.)
Hannah/Miley's father, (Billy Ray Cyrus) watches his daughter's behavior and becomes concerned, believing that the life she's leading has become too much of a burden. He decides to give her a "Hannah detox", taking a detour from a planned trip to NYC - instead, they head off to the country in order for the country girl to gain a little perspective and appreciation for the country life again.
Not surprisingly, there's trouble afoot, with an evil developer looking to build a mall in the middle of the little Southern town and a tabloid journalist looking to get to the bottom of Hannah/Miley's secret identity. There's also a romantic interest in Travis (Lucas Till), a local who remembers Miley from when they grew up together in the small town.
I suppose tweens in the target audience will be thrilled by the goofy humor, physical comedy (although the comedy is not as slapsticky as in the series, which is refreshing) and light drama. Admittedly, the picture is largely inoffensive (although - not to spoil anything - there is a message the film offers towards the end that I think is meant to be well-meaning in a way, but otherwise is rather questionable) and manages to be mild-mannered without seemingly overly corny or sappy (or too bland.) While I'm certainly not within the target audience and don't quite understand the whole phenomenon, Cyrus does admittedly display some charm in her big-screen debut. The film's Tennessee locations also look gorgeous, as well.
Still, there's some concerns - there's some stretches in the middle that lack focus and drag a bit. While I never really felt as if the film wore out its welcome, it does strain a bit to fill 102 minutes. Furthermore, the villain developer stretches disbelief because well - it's unlikely that someone would want to invest in commercial real estate these days. In all seriousness, while Cyrus offers a fine performance, some of the other characters - such as a publicist (Vanessa Williams) and a romantic interest for Hannah's father (played, oddly enough, by Melora Hardin, from "The Office") - could have been left out. There's also the odd moments of the whole "Hannah" concept, at times - people who know Miley and Hannah separately do (somehow) not recognize that the two look an awful lot alike.
I guess the real surprise of the movie is how different it feels from the TV show, which is largely light, wacky comedy. While the movie certainly isn't epic drama either, it does at least have a little more feeling, a little more weight and doesn't feel as cotton candy-ish as the TV series. Technically great filmmaking? No. On the other hand, it's better than it could have been.
VIDEO: "Hannah Montana: The Movie" is presented by Disney in 1.85:1 (1080p/AVC) This is certainly another excellent presentation of a recent theatrical release from the studio. The small-town locations look marvelous, and the picture has a natural, three-dimensional feel throughout. Sharpness and detail (with only a few minor exceptions) impress, as the picture shows superb detail and often looks silky smooth, as well.
No concerns of note were seen, as the picture remained free of edge enhancement, pixelation or print flaws. The film's vibrant, warm color palette looked fantastic, as colors appeared well-saturated and never smeary or otherwise problematic. Flesh tones appeared natural, while black level remained solid.
SOUND: The film is presented in DTS-HD 7.1. The results are - as expected - pretty standard stuff, with the surrounds only brought to the party to provide some minor ambience and reinforcement of the music. The remainder of the audio is spread reasonably well across the front soundstage. Audio quality was fine, with crisp, well-recorded music and dialogue.
EXTRAS: An audio commentary with director Peter Chelsom is offered. We also get four deleted scenes (w/director's commentary) and seven music videos, including one for "The Climb" and other videos from Rascal Flatts, Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift and Billy Ray Cyrus. "I Wish I'd Gone to Film School" is a 15-minute documentary that gives a decent overview of the production and various tasks, while a few minutes of bloopers get a couple of minor chuckles. "Find Your Way Back Home" is an enjoyable 15-minute piece where Cyrus and co-star Emily Osment show viewers around their hometowns. "The Hoedown Throwdown Home Experience" is a look at the rather oddball hip-hop/country dance number seen in the film.
Finally, we also get a digital copy of the film, DVD copy of the film and BD-Live functionality for those with BD-Live enabled Blu-Ray players.
Final Thoughts I guess I was expecting more of the TV show, and while the core concept is essentially the same thing, the movie manages to be a more appealing balance of toned-down comedy and light drama. The Blu-Ray offers outstanding video quality, fine audio quality and a few nice extras.
The Film B-