Hannah Montana (2009)

Rated: G
Length: 102 minutes
Grade: C+ABB=B
Budget: $35 million
Box Office: $197 million (80 U.S., 75 Intl., 42 DVD)

Written by: Dan Berendson (Cheetah Girls and a bunch of Teen-oriented TV, including Sabrina The Teenage Witch), based on characters created by Michael Poryes, Richard Correll, and Barry O’Brien
Directed by: Peter Chelsom (Shall We Dance, Serendipity, and The Mighty)
Starring: Miley Cyrus, Billy Ray Cyris, Lucas Till, Jason Earles, Emily Osment, Margo Martindale, Barry Bostwick, and Vanessa Williams.

In the double life of international pop star Hannah Montana and private teen from the country Miley Cyrus, Hannah is starting to take over, turning Miley into a self-absorbed diva. So her father kidnaps her back to her home town, where she rediscovers her roots as she fends off efforts to reveal her secret identity.

Entertainment Value: C+
This is a hard one to judge for me. I was bored out of my mind by the story here. However, I know that I’m just not a twelve year old girl. And since that is the primary target audience here, I have to defer slightly to the overwhelming box office success and grant that the target audience likely loves this. Adults, on the other hand, will feel comfortable sleeping through it.

Superficial Content: A
Drugs/Alcohol A, Sex/Nudity A, Violence A, Language A
Hannah and Tyra Banks fight over a pair of shoes. It’s G, and rightly so. That’s all I have to say.

Significant Content: B
Although I’m tempted to give it an A. It’s clearly a morality play, and one that neither deserves nor needs to be cleverly hidden. Fame, popularity, power, money, and materialism are all both bad and corrupting. Celebrity can make you into a horribly self-centered person, and it takes real dedication and the help of a network of people who knew you before you were famous to keep it from changing you into that person. Country and small town values are good, Hollywood is bad. People who love you will tell you the truth you need to hear. Performers often feel a conflict between being loved for their performance persona and being loved for who they really are. Friends and family are more valuable than anything else. Telling the truth solves a lot of problems. However, and here’s the reason I didn’t give it an A, if you’re cute and sing well, you can probably work everything out in the end. In other words, you can solve all your problems by your own abilities.

Artistic/Thought Value: B
There are plenty of things to talk about here with the kids, which makes me a bit torn on art value. It’s too obvious for me to give it high marks, but considering again the age of the target audience, this is quite good. The main theme of idolatry is one well worth talking about with them. Also, just as an aside, coming from a guy who grew up reading lots of comic books, I think it’s fascinating that Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana is basically a superhero secret identity played out for girls where the hero sings and is a star rather than fighting crime. Once you see this connection, it’s easier to forgive the ridiculous inability of anyone to figure out the dual-identity.

Discussion Questions:
~Miley at one point says, “You can’t take her away. Hanna means everything to me.” Why is this such an unhealthy thing for her to admit? What is a Christian perspective on this?
~Sarcasm is usually someone only saying about half of the rebellious or mean thing and sort of implying the rest. When Ruby calls Miley on her snide comments at the store, why does she back down and apologize?
~Compare Hannah Montana with typical secret identity types like Batman and Superman. What does it say about boys that they like a hero who stops villains? What does it say about girls that they want a hero who has massive fame and performance ability? Do you think this is a healthy gender role for them to fantasize over? Would Hannah Montana as a hero appealed to young girls fifty years ago?
~In the scene with Tyra, Miley fights over a pair of shoes. Even if you haven’t ever actually gotten into a fight over it, has there ever been something you wanted that you either lost or risked losing that made you angry at someone else? What does the Bible say about our need to be content without material possessions? What does the 10th Commandment say? (Deut 5:21, Ex 20:17)
~Again considering comic heroes, do these figures ever experience crises of conscience where they have to completely rethink whether they’ve been doing the right thing? Or are their moments of doubt a byproduct of knowing what’s good but just not being sure how to get there?
~To whom does Miley lie in this movie? How do those lies work out for her?
~To whom does Miley break promises in this movie? How does that work out?
~In the beginning, Miley is very disrespectful to her father. Is this primarily his fault or her fault? For whose benefit is the 5th Commandment given? (Deut 5:16, Ex 20:12)
~At one point, Miley unloads a cart of produce to make a mean journalist fall. Does this seem like a good thing, either from the standpoint of hurting people or destroying property?
~How much of Miley’s ability to solve the problems she has behaved herself into comes from her own singing ability or charm?
~In what ways does Miley seem like a Christian, and in what ways not?
~Is it possible to raise good kids in big cities? Is it harder than in small towns? Is it an admission of weakness for Christians to think they need to shelter their kids in order to raise them properly?
~In your own life, what aspects of Hollywood versus small country town are there? If you were to give up TV, texting, cell phone, Internet, and video games for awhile, would it likely make you a better person?
~Have you ever struggled with being grateful for the things that you have that lots of other people clearly don’t have? Where does this discontentment come from?
~Miley Cyrus has made millions of dollars by putting on the act of being both a pop star and an ordinary girl. Does it seem contradictory for her to make such a profit off of portraying herself as the private girl Miley Cyrus?
~One of the themes here is the conflict between individual and community needs. How important is it for a healthy person to have a community they belong to which they view as more important than themselves? To what degree is this a big problem in America?
Overall Grade: B
Clean. Boring. But good to discuss with kids.

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