The Disney cash cow known as the “Hannah Montana” franchise continues to thrive with the new film “Hannah Montana: The Movie” which took in an impressive $32.3 million during the Easter weekend.
But a huge payday doesn’t exactly point to a film worthy of seeing (“Fast and Furious” is a perfect example of that), and “Hannah” brings nothing to the table that will interest anyone but her rabid fan base.
A spin-off of the popular Disney TV series, “Hannah Montana: The Movie” begins with teen superstar Hannah Montana (Miley Cyrus) caught up in her growing popularity.
Although the young singer tries to stay grounded - going to school as just regular teenager Miley Stewart and keeping her pop star status a secret to all but her family and best friend - her diva-like behavior reaches a boiling point when she gets into a shoe fight with Tyra Banks.
This prompts her father (played by Cyrus’ real life dad Billy Ray Cyrus) to take Miley back to her hometown of Crowley Corners, Tenn., and get some perspective on what matters most in her life.
At first Miley is reluctant, wanting to return to the life of her alter-ego Hannah, but the more time she spends in Tennessee and the closer she gets to a family farmhand named Travis (Lucas Till), the more she starts to question whether she wants to continue to be a pop superstar.
I admit that this film is clearly designed for young girls, so it’s not trying to appeal to me. However, it doesn’t mean a film can’t be entertaining and smart enough to play to a crowd outside of its audience (see “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” and its sequel). Unfortunately, “Hannah Montana” maintains a simplistic and rather familiar plot that fails to deliver to anyone over the age of 12.
To her credit Miley Cyrus has a decent enough screen presence that suggests she could have a future in films if she is given the right material. Father Billy Ray isn’t terrible either, but bit roles featuring Vanessa Williams and Barry Bostwick fail to click.
My biggest problem with the film is the whole Hannah/Miley alter ego thing. Look, I realize young girls like to play dress up and that there is a certain suspension of disbelief when watching a movie, but I had a hard time believing that Miley could successfully keep her stardom a secret. There are several characters in the film - including a tabloid writer, the farmhand and a love interest for dad - who go through the entire film clueless and unable to connect the two, making them three of the dumbest people in the history of film.
If the writers would have just trusted its audience and smartened up details like this, I really think “Hannah Montana” had some slight potential to be more than just a lovefest for its fans. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case - meaning there will be a lot of parents who will lose two hours of their lives that they can never get back.
DVD dandy of the week
This week’s dandy is “The Wrestler” (A) - director Darren Aronofsky’s acclaimed independent film featuring Mickey Rourke in one of the best performances of 2008.
Rourke plays Randy “The Ram” Robinson, an aging professional wrestler still holding on to a fading career, wrestling on the independent circuit.
His career is threatened when he learns his health is declining, forcing him to try to put the pieces of his life outside the ring back together.
Randy takes a full-time job at a grocery store, attempts to reconcile with his daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) and strikes up a potential romance with an aging exotic dancer (Marissa Tomei), who is coming to terms with her own fading career.
But eventually Randy begins to realize his life only makes sense when he is in the ring, and he sets out to make one final comeback.
Writer Robert D. Siegel has crafted an impressive character study that is also very knowledgeable about the seedy underbelly of independent wrestling, while Aronofsky wisely doesn’t try to glitz up this rather gloomy material.
Tomei continues her impressive run of successful film roles, but the real story of “The Wrestler” is Rourke, who should have won the Academy Award for his performance.
Take nothing away from Sean Penn, who won Best Actor for his role in “Milk,” but it’s unfathomable to imagine “The Wrestler” without Rourke - which almost happened before Nicolas Cage bowed out. It’s one of those rare cinematic experiences where an actor and a role come together in perfect harmony.
“The Wrester” is rated R for violence, nudity, language and some drug use and will be available on DVD on Tuesday.
— Want to keep up with sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton’s thoughts on the latest releases? Micheal is now available on twitter. Visit http://twitter.com/mcompton428 to get his latest updates on everything about movies.