Hannah Montana: The Movie just shouldn't be analyzed from an adult perspective - which, frankly, is irrelevant.
The big-screen version of the Disney TV series is not made for us - it's made for girls aged 6-14 and no one else - and so we must consider how they're going to respond to it.
Now, this will come as no surprise at all: They're gonna love it. And it makes sense, really.
If you were a 10-year-old girl, you would of course want to be small-town sweetheart Miley Stewart and/or her secret pop-star alter ego, Hannah Montana. Singer/songwriter/dancer/trendsetter Miley Cyrus makes both characters so likably harmless, so attractively accessible, it's hard not to be charmed.
Just you try to resist her endless supply of energy and moxie!
Even when she gets a little petulant and carried away with her celebrity lifestyle in Los Angeles — which prompts a return to Tennessee for some hometown reprogramming — she still has a magnetism about her.
Nevertheless, Hannah Montana: The Movie drags us all back to the fictional Crowley Corners to bang us over the head with the message that big cities are bad and small towns are good. And there's plenty of down-home singin' and cuttin' up to emphasize that point. (Amazingly, Taylor Swift and Rascal Flatts just happen to live there, too. What are the odds?!)
The predictable (though beautifully photographed) film from director Peter Chelsom (Serendipity, Shall We Dance?) finds Miley's dad, Robby Ray (Cyrus' real-life father, Billy Ray), taking her home against her will to reconnect with her roots. As in the Hannah Montana 3-D concert film from last year, Miley and Billy Ray Cyrus have an obvious, comfortable bond on camera; the moments they share seem sincere and provide some much-needed substance amid the perkiness and pratfalls.
Back home, Miley bonds with Grandma Ruby (longtime character actress Margo Martindale, who's done far more interesting work) and finds her first boyfriend, Travis (Lucas Till), a non-threatening farmhand she's known since childhood. Hoedowns and horseback riding ensue.
But the idyll can't last forever: A British tabloid reporter (Peter Gunn) has followed her there, trying to dig up some dirt on Hannah. (For some strange reason, neither he nor anyone else can figure out that Hannah is just Miley in a blond wig; the Clark Kent routine even fools the sensitive Travis, who seemed to have such insight into Miley's true nature.)
But the reporter's portly presence also brings an unwelcome tone of sitcommy physical humor. Miley gets hit in the head a lot (with a coconut, a volleyball, etc.), and the second she places some fresh eggs in the back pocket of her denim overalls, you know she's going to fall on her butt and smash them. But Gunn's obnoxious Oswald Granger bears the brunt of the pain, skidding on a scattered pile of walnuts or tumbling face-first into a puddle of mud.
Hannah Montana: The Movie didn't need all that, given the warmhearted family tone - the one element that may appeal to audiences beyond the tweens - and the catchiness of the pop tunes. Not only will you have Hoedown Throwdown stuck in your head as you leave the theater, you may end up trying to master the elaborate choreography right alongside your 10-year-old.
Resistance is futile.
Hannah Montana: The Movie, a Walt Disney Pictures release, is rated G. Running time: 106 minutes.
Two stars out of four