I discovered a lovely Hollywood studio phrase the other day: execution dependent. It means a script that won’t make money unless good people are involved. This week’s films are the opposite: films that sell regardless of whichever talentless hack is in charge; two films that will continue to make money for the machine for months, if not years, after this review is decomposing in some abandoned corner of the Internet.
First up, the phenomenon that is Hannah Montana. For an eternity (or three years depending on your point of view) Miley Cyrus has been chewing up the tv screen as the pop singer leading a double-life on the Disney Channel. After the success of High School Musical on the big screen (and a digital 3D concert of her own that screened in Wellington last year), Miley and Hannah have hit the big time and, even though it took me a while to come around, I can sort of see the appeal.
For those coming to this particular party late the premise is this: Miley Cyrus plays a kid called Miley who dreams of being a pop star but her dad (Achy Breaky Heart’s Billy Ray Cyrus) won’t let her unless she pretends to be someone else and keeps her home life as normal as possible. As the film begins, Miley has let her Hannah character go to her head — to the extent that she would prefer the New York Music Awards to her grandmother’s birthday in Tennessee — so Billy Ray diverts the private jet to sleepy little Crowley Corners to try and bring her to her senses. Meanwhile, a dastardly tabloid hack (Peter Gunn) is sniffing out the truth and a developer (Barry Bostwick) wants to turn Crowley Corners into a giant shopping mall.
Of course, this isn’t a very good film. It was never going to be. And I wish that kids today were being given better childhood movie memories than this. But — and this is a fair-minded “but” — Tennessee looks lovely and, while Hannah Montana (the performer) is insufferable, Miley Cyrus has some charm and (when she goes country) can actually sell a song. I wonder what it does for her self-esteem to know that Disney digitally straightens her teeth for the movie posters.
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is ostensibly another licence to print money but this third visit to the well might prove one too many. All the usual characters are back and they are facing the problems of middle-age. Denis Leary’s sabre-tooth tiger Diego’s legs have gone, Ray Romano’s mammoth Manny is concerned by impending fatherhood and John Leguizamo’s sloth Sid feels left out. In the spirit of Twitter, I’m tempted to try a one word review: laboured.
Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 8 July, 2009.
Notes on screening conditions: I can say this here (but wouldn’t dream of submitting it to the paper) but not only did I shed a little tear at a couple of points during the Hannah Montana movie but I went home and bought Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb” single on iTunes. Yes, Walt Disney is $1.79 richer and I have been indoctrinated. Ice Age was at Readings in the digital Cinema 5. As always, the digital looked great but the use of 3D was only OK.