Only a week ago I listened to two older teenage girls lamenting the taste of 12 year-olds. “They’ve never even heard of S Club 7,” says one, “or the Spice Girls!” “Ohmygod” says the other with disgust. “They probably, like, only listen to Hannah Montana!” And if you’ve neither seen nor heard of the Disney Channel phenomenon, you now have the chance to catch up with the concept and the girl herself on the big screen –it’s a seductively charming outing, bound to please young fans and win a few grown-up hearts as well.
In a complicated case of life- impersonating-art-imitating-life, Hanna Montana (Miley Cyrus) is both fictitious and real world pop star. But she has a secret: she is (in the story world at least) just Miley Stewart the gal next door, dealing with thorny teen friendships and a down-to-earth Dad (just to confuse you more he is played by real-life dad, Billy Ray Cyrus). All it takes to make the switch from Miley to Hannah is a blond wig and a big fat make-up case. But Miley’s problem is that alter-ego Hannah – who comes with free fashion, stretch limos and adoring fans – gets in the way of meaningful relationships. After a spate of bad celebrity behaviour, Miley is tricked into spending a couple of weeks back home in Tennessee, where a combination of Grandma’s wholesome advice and the swooning good looks of childhood sweetheart Travis (Lucas Till) force Miley to look deep into her sixteen year old soul. What she finds there is mostly expressed in the simple, sugared lyrics of a series of pop hits that seamlessly find their way into the story– including “Best Of Both Worlds” and “You’ll Always Find a Way Back Home” . To liven up proceedings, while Miley struggles to work out who she really is, grubby tabloid journalist (Peter Gunn) is on her tale, closing in on the Jekyll & Hyde secret.
There’s no denying Miley Cyrus’s screen charm and talented on-stage performance, and the film makes the most of it with sequences ranging from toe-tapping, hip-hop hoe-downs to teary duets with her multi-platinum singer-songwriter father. The Miley/Hannah persona is perhaps the perfect combination of old and new versions of the American Dream – country girl riding out into the misty wilderness by day, and teen pop phenomenon by night. As she sings to the screaming crowd: “Mix it all together and you know that it’s the best of both worlds.” Sit back, smile and say cheese.