Hannah Montana: The Movie. Dir. Peter Chelsom. Walt Disney Pictures. 2009.

Hannah Montana: The Movie is about Miley Stewart, a secret pop sensation known as Hannah Montana, getting caught up in the perks of her famous life. Her fed-up father, Robby Ray, forces Miley to visit her family on her hometown farm in Crowley Corners, Tennessee. Robby Ray threatens to take away Hannah Montana forever if Miley doesn’t start to see what is really important, he gives Miley two weeks to remember who she used to be. During Miley’s two weeks there she has to hang up her Hannah wig and accommodate to the farm life. While there, she reconnects with her old friend, Travis, who now works as her family’s ranch hand. As Miley tries to get back to her roots she helps the town raise money to save their land. Coincidently, the only one who can raise enough money is Miley’s friend Hannah Montana. With a rude interruption from her Hannah detox, Miley is forced to face her battle of balance between her two lives.

Hannah Montana: The movie has all of the makings of an entertaining family movie. The film keeps the audience laughing with comedic scenes that typically start with some kind of animal creating an embarrassing moment; such as, the mayor taking off his pants at a formal dinner. In between the laughs the film delivers a few general messages of the importance of family and staying true to who you are. Miley’s relationship with the farm animals helps aim those messages towards teenagers, the film’s target audience. Along with Miley’s battle with herself she helps the town reach a common goal that is tracked by a billboard with a cartoon cow filling up a bucket of milk.  There you have it, the perfect formula for a family movie. While this formula isn’t anything ground breaking, this film’s use of animals to create the formula makes the film run more smoothly and the messages feel less forced than most family movies. 

Animal Presence

Comic Relief

Like I mentioned before, this movie is meant to be an entertaining family movie. Miley is going through something as serious as an identity crisis at the young age of sixteen. The audience needs some breaks throughout to stay entertained. The use of animal comedy throughout takes the pressure off of Miley’s story and to alleviate tension from some of Miley’s big upsets. The film plays off of embarrassing humour and typically used animals to create an awkward or embarrassing moment for a character. When Miley first enters her grandma’s house, Miley’s home for the next two weeks, she is welcomed by her whole family singing an old country song. When the song is passed to her she gets upset in front of her whole family creating a bit of an awkward moment. Enter the family dog. As Robby Ray is flirting with someone the dog almost trips him which leads to Robby falling on top of his mom’s prized collection of Elvis plates in front of the whole party. This embarrassing humour is used again to ease the audience into Miley’s lowest point in the movie. Miley is expected to be somewhere at the same time Hannah is expected at a fancy dinner. To try not to disappoint anyone she tries to go back and forth between the events and consequently her two identities. To keep the audience entertained, the fancy dinner Hannah attends is riddled with comedy. Comically large lobsters were served to everyone at dinner, but no one was able to eat the lobster properly. Bits and pieces were flying all over the dining room. Some fell into an elderly woman’s hair another flew into a big bowl of soup being served. While people are struggling with their lobster, Harlo, a pet ferret of one of the guests, gets loose creating havoc. As Jackson, Miley’s brother, is talking about college the ferret is running up his pants making Jackson screech. The ferret continues on his journey under the table until it finds its way up the mayor’s leg while giving an important speech. The mayor takes his pants off in front of everybody letting the ferret loose on the table. By the end of this scene the ferret has caused a fire and the revelation that two of the guests are wearing wigs. All of this chaos was a comical lead up to Miley’s lowest point in the movie. Instead of avoiding disappointing anybody, she disappoints everyone including a very adorable young fan. Without the light hearted scenes, Miley’s story might have been too heavy for a family movie.

With every typical family movie there is a bad guy. In this film it’s a nosy paparazzo trying to get an embarrassing career ending scoop on Hannah Montana. Of course, everyone loves a good laugh at the villain. While trying to approach an old shed, the paparazzo is knocked over by some birds. He goes tumbling down a rather large hill right into some mud. Because what film would be complete without the villain falling in mud.

Like I said before, most comedic scenes were for the purpose of distracting from Miley’s story or making fun of the hated character, but sometimes it was just some good ole comedy with the sole intention of making the audience laugh. Miley’s brother, Jackson, is working at a zoo while everybody is home. At this zoo, the animals don’t really seem to like Jackson. While he is trying to give a tour to a group of young kids, he gets in a fight with an ostrich and then gets into a tussle with the alligator. These light-hearted scenes didn’t add any kind of important plot points to the movie, but made the movie more enjoyable.  

Miley’s story

            Animals in Hannah Montana: The Movie were also used to smoothly get the intended messages across. The film mostly uses Miley’s childhood horse, Blue Jeans, and the farm chickens and chicken coop to do so.

Blue Jeans

            Blue Jeans is used in the film to show that although Miley has drifted away from her roots she still has that sense of home within her. 

 Because Miley has become more like her diva Hannah self, she needs something really meaningful to remind her of who she used to be. What could get the job done better than her childhood horse? Nothing like a beloved horse to make someone ok with living on a farm for the next two weeks. While Miley, dressed as Hannah, is having a tantrum on the side of the road Blue Jeans literally pulls the Hannah wig off. Blue Jeans is already literally and symbolically taking the diva Hannah out of Miley. Once she realizes the horse is Blue Jeans, Miley’s whole attitude changes. She takes off her glamourous Hannah clothes and for the first time accepts her situation. Even though Miley is nowhere near the beginning of her journey back to herself she still has that original seed in her. In other words, no matter how far you stray from your roots they’ll always be in you.

Even though our roots never leave us it can be easy to stray far away. Blue Jeans displays just how far Miley has strayed. Before her initial attitude change, Miley doesn’t recognize Blue Jeans until her dad tells her. This is the first sign of how much Miley has grown apart from her old life. Her horse goes on to keep proving Miley is not who she used to be. Miley tries to ride Blue Jeans but immediately falls off and loses control of her own horse. Miley is in denial that she has changed and believes she can literally just get back on that horse; however, her childhood friend, Travis, who is now her family’s ranch hand has to catch Miley’s run away horse. This is foreshadowing Travis’s role in reigning Miley back to who she is. Travis then has  to give Miley a ride back on his horse while Blue Jeans carries the Hannah luggage. This again displays how little Miley is connected to her old life.

Luckily, Blue Jeans does not just help display the distant Miley at the beginning. He also officially marks the start of Miley’s transformation. The first time we see Miley riding her own horse is the start of her transition from diva Hannah to country Miley. This suggests that the film is trying to say no matter how far or distracted we get that little piece of home can bring us back.

Chickens and Chicken Coop

 The farm’s chickens and chicken coop displays Miley’s journey to returning to her old self.

 At the start of the movie, Miley believes she can fake her way through her two week Hannah detox. When she pretends to be more than happy to go collect eggs for breakfast the chickens give her a rude wakeup call. When the chickens comically defeat her it is obvious that Miley can not pretend to get back to her roots. The film uses this to send the message that in life you can not fake your way through a self-journey.

Throughout the movie, Miley helps her friend Travis rebuild the old chicken coop. This along with the chickens in it become a symbol for the repairs to Miley’s old self. Before Travis and Miley start to repair the coop it’s falling apart and has been neglected for years, sound familiar? Miley immediately comments on how hard it will be to rebuild to which Travis responds, “You gotta start somewhere.” Just like the coop, a self-journey can be a lot of work but sometimes it’s necessary. As Miley helps Travis rebuild the chicken coop he helps her get in touch with who she used to be and what she used to care about. The better the chicken coop looked, the more comfortable Miley was at home. After the happy montage of dancing with chickens and riding on horses is over, Miley hits her downfall when she ultimately disappoints everybody the night of the dinner. However, after her low point Miley returns to the chicken coop to finish what she started. This marks the completion of her transition. And yet another message the film is trying to get across: coming back to your roots and finding yourself is hard work but can be done.

Cartoon Cow on a Billboard

Another cute but small incorporations of animals was an adorable cartoon cow that tracked progress of the towns fundraising. The town is not able to pay the taxes on a very big piece of land that was given to them. To stop the big corporation vultures from building a shopping mall in the town they have to raise a significant amount of money. They kept track of the money collected by a billboard display with a cartoon cow filling up a bucket of milk. It was a cute way to incorporate the common goal in the film and a great way to show the success of the town’s fundraising.

The film wanted to acknowledge the importance of recognizing where you came from and staying true to who you are in such a busy world. The film’s use of animals to get the messages across was both affective and smooth. It’s hard for a family movie to get its message across in a non-cheesy way that teenagers will not roll their eyes at. The film’s use of animals to incorporate comedy throughout helped entertain all ages and alleviated tension from the film when necessary. The use of animals, like horses and chickens, got the message across to everybody in the family. The pairing of the two uses helped the film move along smoothly.

Hannah Montana: The Movie has all the great makings of a cute family film: comedy, take away messages, and a fun common goal amongst a community. The film’s use of animals created a smooth flow that family movies sometime struggle to achieve. It’s a fun movie to watch and the animals make it even more entertaining.