Who DIDN’T want to be Hannah Montana?
Growing up, Hannah Montana (2006 – 2011) was my EVERYTHING. I watched the show religiously, had posters hanging on my walls, and played those soundtracks on repeat. I even performed concerts to her songs in my living room. So you can imagine how hard my jaw hit the floor when I discovered that the 10th anniversary of Hannah Montana: The Movie (2009) fell on a Wednesday. The perfect Wayback! This is a huge deal you guys. I love this movie and am so fucking excited to talk about it. By the way, if you still aren’t convinced of how obsessed I was (still am), I saw this movie on opening day and happily sprained my neck from having to sit in the front row. The things I do for Miley Cyrus.
Based on the hit Disney Channel series of the same name, Hannah Montana: The Movie sees Miley Stewart struggling to maintain a regular life, as the fame surrounding her alter-ego Hannah Montana is bigger than ever. After Hannah ruins her best friend’s 16th birthday, her father Robby Ray unexpectedly flies the family to their hometown in Tennessee to see if an ordinary teenage girl still exists underneath the blonde wig.
Let me start by saying how relieved 13-year-old me was that Hannah Montana was given the big screen treatment instead of becoming a TV movie like most Disney Channel series do. A bigger budget allowed for a grander production which is only fitting, given that the movie showcases how larger than life the craze surrounding Hannah Montana has become. In a case of life imitating art, the level of fame that Hannah experiences is exactly what Miley Cyrus was going through with the hype surrounding the show. I mean, this was a MOMENT in pop culture for any kid who grew up in the 2000s. Do you have any idea how thrilling it is to have a “the movie” of your favourite show, book, or toy? I remember when the trailer first came out and I got chills. Still kinda do if we’re being honest.
Though there are other teen or Disney movies that explore more serious themes, what makes Hannah Montana: The Movie work is that it’s a logical extension of the show. It succeeds by elaborating on the show’s premise and digging deeper into the intensity of the celebrity world that the lighthearted sitcom ever could. Both in tone and design, the movie really FEELS like a movie rather than just another episode of the sitcom. I appreciate that the movie took what fans were familiar with, and elevated it into a story with higher stakes that couldn’t be wrapped up in 30 minutes. What IF Miley forgot what it meant to be true to herself and got swept up in her pop star persona? Though as a whole the movie can be cheesy and childish at times, which I can’t be mad at because that’s the target audience, the main story is a great one that’s handled very well. It gives the characters a challenging situation to grow and learn from while still never losing sight of what made fans fall in love with the show in the first place.
Also, let’s talk about fan service for a second because girl, Hannah Montana: The Movie really did THAT. It hits all the high notes and gives fans exactly what they want: fabulous Hannah performances, a tender moment between Miley and her dad, outrageous physical comedy from Jackson, and Lilly being a great friend. Even Miley, who obviously gets a lot more emotional material to work with, still manages to bring a sitcom-y flair to her comedic scenes early in the movie. Then later, she really gets into it, especially with that revolving door scene. That guttural reaction, a choked up sob and those utterly believable tears? Miley didn’t come to play with this one. A truly faithful adaptation, Hannah Montana: The Movie is well written because the cast of characters we know and love are still exactly who they are, just elevated in a more theatrical way.
Speaking of characters, did anyone else think it was weird how Oliver and Rico are in this movie for less than two minutes and then disappear without mention? It always kind of annoyed me but it wasn’t until this viewing that I realized I was okay with it. Their scene at Lilly’s birthday perfectly sums up their characters and they aren’t really needed in Tennessee. It’s Miley’s story after all, not theirs. Besides, this movie has plenty of new and entertaining characters to pick up the slack.
You guys: Can you believe the group of famous faces that Disney got to star / cameo in this movie? Vanessa Williams, Tyra Banks, Margo Martindale, Rascal Flatts, Melora Hardin, and even Taylor fucking Swift? I love that all of these people understood the impact of Hannah Montana and were like, “you want me to have a small part in the movie version of this global phenomenon? Hell yeah I’ll be in it!” Never underestimate the power of a Disney paycheque.
The two new characters who truly shine though are undoubtedly Miley’s grandmother Ruby, and love interest Travis Brody, played by Martindale and Lucas Till respectively. I adore Margo Martindale. I think she’s so cute and cheery, and I get a little flutter of joy when she pops up in things. Her role as Grandma Ruby is no exception, as she plays the loving, wise, no-nonsense grandma everyone wants and deserves. Oh my God, when her wall of celebrity plates comes crashing down? The horrific humour of it all still makes me cringe. Okay, so Travis Brody…Lucas Till is charming as hell, a talented young actor, and in my eyes, created a character that was absolutely perfect to handle both sides of Miley’s crazy life. So was anyone else bothered for years that the show never mentioned not even once in passing what happened between them? I was very much Team Travis you guys. I think Travis is a wonderful addition to the world of Hannah Montana and Till’s performance is so magnetic, that if they ever do a reunion special (PLEASE GOD), I strongly advocate for Travis’s inclusion. Plus, he gives us the movie’s central message which, my love for the franchise aside, is so beautiful that I keep it with me to this day:
There’s so much to love about this movie (the stunning Tennessee landscape still makes me want to visit) but the soundtrack and musical performances are simply phenomenal. I mean, let’s call a spade a spade: THIS. IS. A. SOUNDTRACK. OF. BOPS! The remix of “Best of Both Worlds,” “You’ll Always Find Your Way Back Home,” “Hoedown Throwdown,” and “THE CLIMB?!” It’s actually rude that none of these songs got nominated for an Oscar, especially when you look at the nominees from 2009. The songs really are great and what makes them even better are the fun performances that accompany them. Especially the “Hoedown Throwdown.” Not if, but when my life becomes a movie musical, I want everyone to just automatically pick up on the dance movies of the song I’m singing like everyone at the hoedown does. The antithesis of this joyful performance is undoubtedly the finale where Miley sings “The Climb” as herself. Remember the heart-pounding suspense of not knowing if Miley was really going to reveal her secret to the whole town? The gasp when she snatched her own wig? The beauty of watching her sing this gorgeous song and the relief that the town would keep her secret so she could continue to live her dream? Even from the beginning, Hannah Montana: The Movie had its audience in the palm of their hands.
At one point, Vanessa William’s character Vita says, “you’re not going to destroy their dreams are you? Because that’s what Hannah’s all about.” YASS Vita, come through with the facts! Hannah Montana is all about the joy, excitement, and passion of following your dreams, a sentiment the movie conveys perfectly. Hannah Montana: The Movie is a fun, musical adventure that is near and dear to my heart, as I’m sure it is to millions of others who grew up watching the show. In all honesty, despite the few childish moments, this is a solid movie that pleasantly entertains from start to finish. Jam-packed with famous faces, sensational songs, and meaningful messages, Hannah Montana: The Movie is a wonderful companion to one of of the most beloved Disney shows of all time. Finally, let me leave you with this: Did you know that Natalia Dyer of Stranger Things (2016 – present) has a small part in this movie? The power of Hannah Montana!
Were / are you a fan of Hannah Montana?
Let me know in the comments or on social media!