From relatively humble origins on the Disney Channel, Hannah Montana has rocketed into a megabrand, a fictional construct turned cash cow. In the meta Montana universe, Hannah is a blond-tressed chart-topper who sings songs targeted to preteen girls about parties and boys; she's the alter ego of an otherwise ordinary California brunette named Miley Stewart, who opts to keep her superstardom under wraps so that she may enjoy, as her television theme song goes, "the best of both worlds" – rock star perks and
pre-calculus. Both characters are portrayed by Miley Cyrus, an apple-cheeked actress, singer, and spawn of the formerly mulleted "Achy Breaky" Billy Ray Cyrus, who also plays Miley's father on the TV show. Miley Cyrus has sold out arenas both as herself (she has a lovely, country-inflected singing voice) and as the fictional Montana, which sparked a 3-D concert film released in theatres last year. It's work enough for neophytes to sort out who's who – in Montana land and the mortal plane – and I won't pretend to understand the phenomenon; it surely boils down to some combination of commercial savvy; Cyrus' sweet, uncomplicated charisma; and a tween market hungering for a happy compromise between relatability and wish fulfillment. In any case, for this, the first nonconcert feature outing for the Montana juggernaut, there was never any doubt that the audience would come. More surprising is the fact that some attention (if not an exhaustive amount) has been put into the thing: Hannah Montana: The Movie
is not the nakedly consumerist vehicle cynics like me have come to expect. In fact, it's a broad-stroked, agreeable-enough lark about Miley putting Hannah aside to reconnect with her Tennessee roots – and make eyes at that farm-fresh horse wrangler from her childhood. Cornpone caricatures abound (witness "Hoedown Throwdown," in which Miley sunnily urges us to "pop it, lock it, polka dot it"), but so do worthy messages about responsibility – to family, community, even Mother Earth.