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Cinema Signal: Pushy romanticism in a wished-for star-making vehicle.

Hannah Montana:
The Movie
Two-Disc Edition + Digital Copy) (2009)
(Discounted DVDs from Amazon)
. "The Last Song"

As a vehicle to extend the Miley Cyrus $$$billion$$$ dollar phenomenon of pre-teen fandom in the Disney universe into a young adult starlet of seventeen, no production value was denied for this romantic drama. It serves to tell us what we have here in the way of pre-adult acting talent, and it ain't this year's discovery!

The elongated melodramatic line serves only to make manifest the ingenue's limitations. Anyone above the age of 19, say, who tuned into the "Hannah Montana" TV series might have expected as much. To be fair, though, a certain feisty awkwardness was more than adequate in the tween TV series context. But a few calendar years brings no sign of thespian maturity. (She's mastered the pout!). Awkward, it would seem, is a signpost of her future career in movies, though her followers aren't likely to give that a thought.

The best thing she does in this movie are the songs. Her renditions of "I Hope You Find It" and "When I Look At You" are solid and professional.

Playing to a natural glumness that passes for Deep Feelings, she takes the part of rebellious Ronnie Miller in this adaptation of Nicholas Sparks' ("Nights in Rodanthe") book by him and debuting screenwriter Jeff Van Wie about a first heartbreak brought about by a nasty rebellious attitude and sour rejection of all in her path. Julie Anne Robinson comes from the TV world to direct.

Total alienation is her style when she and younger brother Jonah (Bobby Coleman, a 13-year old drama catalyst from "Martian Child") are driven by mom Kim (Kelly Preston) to spend the summer with dad, Steve, at his beach house on Tybee Island, Georgia. Early on, Ronnie overhears dad, once a concert pianist, working on a musical composition at the piano. This tells us that her own talent as a classical pianist, proven by a scholarship she earned at Julliard School of Music, has a genetic connection. What doesn't play well in the context is that she has sworn to give up the piano because of her anger with dad, presumably for breaking up his marriage to mom.

The strength of Sparks' story comes from the hurdles and complications set up to effect a series of breakdowns in Ronnie's armor of coldness. Steve's second work of devotion is a stained glass window for the church that burned down--a tragedy for which he's blamed in the gossip of the town.

Own it today! (Click on item link)
  • Set Tour with Bobby Coleman
  • Miley Cyrus Music Video "When I Look At You"
  • The Making of the Music Video with Myley Cyrus
  • Audio Commentary
    Two-disc Blu-ray+DVD Combo
  • All above plus:
  • Alternate Opening Sequence
  • Deleted Scenes
    "Time Of Our Lives: The Soundtrack

  • For the darling boy who is also at the center of her transition, we have super handsome heartthrob Will Blakelee (Liam Hemsworth, "Knowing") to inadvertently bump into her on the beach during a volleyball match. A blond god from a super-rich family who could easily have any girl in town has, judging by his repeated attentions, set his eyes and future on our reticent princess.

    Of course, he has girls vying for him, and they're not shy about poisoning her growing regard for blond boy when it becomes evident in public after a bonding date. And, it's here where the casting produces the canniest part of the proceedings. Careful not to outshine the star of the piece, there isn't one competitive vixen or crowd of jealous sycophants who are of a physical type to raise the question regarding his pick, "Why her?"

    Wanting to have the Cyrus co-star the kind of "catch" any teen or tween can go into a frenzy for (Taylor Lautner was considered), the most delicate balancing act of the romance with Miley is to make his attraction to her credible. You just can't take chances in the intended chemistry department.

    But, however wise the calculation, it doesn't work. Well, not for me, anyway. Plus, all the ironies and cliches! (not the least of which is the tragic ending to give meaning to it all). For the fan base, which is huge, there's much that will score big here. Just don't tell me that translates into not needing more acting lessons.

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                                          ~~  Jules Brenner  

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