No mullet for Miley

Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour

“Here, wanna try some lip-syncing?”

“Here, wanna try some lip-syncing?”

Rated 3.0

Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour was originally slated to play only a limited run in digital 3-D. But after winning its opening weekend by raking in over $29 million—a genuinely phenomenal take for a movie playing on only 683 screens—the Disney brass have decided to keep it around for a while. And no wonder—Hannah Montana could well be on her way to being a question on Jeopardy that nobody gets (“Who are Menudo and the Bay City Rollers, Alex?”), and you can’t blame them for wanting to strike while the iron is hot.

For the benefit of readers who don’t have pre-teen daughters, Hannah Montana is the title character of a TV series that debuted on the Disney Channel in March 2006. Hannah is the alter ego of Miley Stewart, played by 15-year-old Miley Cyrus (daughter of Billy Ray, he of the “Achy Breaky Heart,” who also plays Miley’s father on the series). By day, Miley is a normal, everyday school kid with all the usual concerns: boys, school, pimples, friends, etc. But what no one but her family and best friends knows is that by night, Miley dons a long, straight, platinum-blonde wig and becomes Hannah, the sensational pop star adored by millions.

The cleverness of the Hannah Montana marketing concept is breathtaking. It’s a girly version of the superhero with the secret identity, smartly blended with an updated version of the Disney princess. And it assures its impressionable audience that it’s no big deal to be a superstar and a normal kid at the same time—that any problems to come along will be funny, no big deal and easily resolved in 24 minutes, plus commercials. (Judy Garland and Britney Spears, among others, might have an alternate take on that last point.)

Disney has extended the Hannah Montana marketing to include clothing, jewelry, dolls and a concert tour—the one featured in director Bruce Hendricks’ movie. And you’ll notice that young Cyrus shares equal (though second) billing with her screen character. So it is with the concert; the first half is Hannah, the second is Miley, with the costume and makeup change covered by a short set from the Jonas Brothers, another trio of budding Disney teen stars.

The movie is short and (in every sense of the word) sweet, clocking in at a scant 74 minutes—a length calculated, no doubt, not to tax the attention spans of Hannah’s youngest fans (at the screening I attended, the average age was about 8). Nor will it strain the patience of their parents. Hendricks leavens the parade of medium-catchy bubblegum tunes with glimpses of backstage and rehearsal footage, including a scene of the skittish star being reassured that a mishap during the show, when she was nearly dropped by one of her boy backup dancers, will not be repeated.

That’s the only moment of anything like tension in the film, which otherwise flaunts the wholesome charm of Miley Cyrus. She even seems to have some talent to go along with her youthful vivacity, as demonstrated by her rendition of “I Miss You,” an acoustical ballad about her late grandfather. In any case, the young star’s singing and dancing are breezily at ease on concert director Kenny Ortega’s ramps-and-runways stage (her acting on the series is, shall we say, less consummately professional). She’s pleasant to watch and seems like good company with a level head. (Let’s hope she profits by the example of Britney, and that she has heard the warning words of Disney’s first child star, Bobby Driscoll: “I was carried on a satin cushion and then dropped in a garbage can.”)

The movie’s 3-D effects, captured by a battery of aerial and ringside cameras, are kept fairly low-key. Cyrus, her perky backup groups and the Jonas Brothers can’t resist poking at the cameras whenever they come near, and there’s one amazing shot of the drummer tossing one of his sticks directly into the lens of an overhead camera, then catching it on its way back down. Otherwise, it’s pretty straightforward stuff, with the 3-D and surround audio working to reinforce the illusion of being at a live concert—not a great concert, but a pretty good one, and great seats.