Hannah Montana: Life's What You Make It

Hannah Montana: Life's What You Make It

(Disney)

First Appeared in The Music Box, October 2007, Volume 14, #10

Written by Matt Parish

Tue October 30, 2007, 06:40 AM CDT

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Hannah Montana…Hannah Montana…hmmm, now where have I heard that name before?

Oh yeah, EVERYWHERE….

Unless you have just returned from a two-year-long trip to outer space, you probably are aware of the phenomenon known throughout the land as Hannah Montana. Miley Cyrus, daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus, has been starring in the Disney Channel’s highly successful television program, and in turn, she quickly has become a major recording star who sold out her first concert tour of America. For those who were unable to get tickets to her upcoming shows, you can still hang with Miley and her friends by watching Hannah Montana: Life’s What You Make It, the third installment of episodes, including these second-season favorites: Achy Jakey Heart (Parts 1 & 2), I Am Hannah, Hear Me Croak, and I Want You to Want Me...to Go to Florida.

For the uninitiated, Miley Cyrus plays Miley Stewart, a transfer student from Tennessee who lives the life of a normal teen during the day. After an ingenious transformation of putting on a blonde wig — much like Clark Kent’s glasses — however, she becomes an international singing sensation whom no one but her family and close friends can recognize. This is a fun premise that works, largely because of the stellar cast of characters that surrounds Cyrus. Jason Earles hysterically plays her older brother Jackson, and Billy Ray Cyrus (of Achy Breaky Heart fame) doubles as her recently widowed father and — after a wonderful, stealth-mustachioed disguise is applied — as Hannah Montana’s manager. There is a lot here to which tweens can relate, and this explains why the show and the character have become so wildly popular. Stewart’s best friend Lilly is played by Emily Osment, and their superb chemistry is also another reason that young girls all over the country connect with these two wholesome role models and very funny BFFs.

There are age-appropriate life lessons that are encountered and conquered in each episode, and they are handled with equal amounts of humor and sensitivity. On Hannah Montana: Life’s What You Make It, Cyrus’ character has to deal with a variety of more grown-up issues that include a first crush, having confidence in oneself, and being able to achieve independence. All of these situations are hurdles that every teen must, at one point or another, address and overcome, but for Miley Stewart, these normal molehills are made mountainous by her secretive star status, which forces her to live part-time in the tumultuous world of pop stardom.

Despite the fluff that typically is associated with teen shows, there also are some dramatic and startlingly deep life lessons that can be taught and learned, but the writers need to talk to — not down to — their core audience. This is most evident during the poignant episode I Am Hannah, Hear Me Croak. Here, Miley Stewart must face a frightening examination of self-value, when an impending throat operation threatens to jeopardize her singing career. In a touching, Cinderella-like dream sequence, Stewart, who is unable to perform, is left to clean the house, while her father focuses his managerial attentions and familial affections on her brother Jackson’s new career as "Bucky Kentucky." Disparaged and dejected, she is visited by her deceased mother — who is wonderfully played by Brooke Shields. Comforted and reassured that a singing voice does not a person make, Stewart comes to understand that she not only was loved before achieving stardom, but also will be loved long after the final curtain drops. It is a truly tender moment, one to which any child who has lost a parent through death or divorce would be able to relate quite deeply.

Also included on Hannah Montana: Life’s What You Make It is a "Backstage Pass" feature that shows Cyrus and the other cast members talking about their favorite episodes and what it’s like to appear on this popular program. In addition, Billy Ray Cyrus contributed a music video for his new single Ready, Set, Don't Go. The song’s lyrics were used in the episode I Want You to Want Me...to Go to Florida. The underlying message revolved around a parent who comes to understand when to let go of a child, and Cyrus’ song actually gives the father-to-daughter heartbreaker Butterfly Kisses a run for its money in the tear-jerking department.

Miley Cyrus is a great entertainer who follows in the comic tradition of Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, Gilda Radner, and, more recently, ex-Nickelodeon star Amanda Bynes. Cyrus is not at all averse to making fun of herself or taking one — like a pie in the face — for the team. I have watched these episodes with my daughter, and we genuinely have laughed at all the silliness that ensued. There is a warm and friendly feeling to this family-oriented show, and Cyrus’ popularity is a reflection of the comfort that she so effortlessly develops between the viewer and the performer. starstarstar ½

Hannah Montana: Life's What You Make It is available
from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!

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Ratings

1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!

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Copyright © 2007 The Music Box