Don't be alarmed or make any sudden moves. Just read this review calmly … quietly … and then once you're done (not before), close your browser and edge carefully away from the computer. Don't scream. Don't squeal. Don't chuckle. Because if you do, she might hear you.
Who? Miley Cyrus, of course. She's everywhere, didn't you know? And she's taking over the world.
Don't believe me? Just look around. Here she's at the Oscars, chatting on the red carpet. There she's on a magazine cover at the supermarket. That's her in a new movie. She's gracing the side of your daughter's lunchbox. And your other daughter's backpack. And your daughter's friend's toothbrush. It'll only be a matter of time before she slaps her beaming smile on this review. Oh, wait, never mind. She's up there already.
When Julius Caesar ruled the known world, the only things that bore images of his face were a few chunks of marble and some metal currency. And he had to conquer Gaul to earn the kind of coin Cyrus pockets for shooting a single sitcom episode.
She wasn't always queen, of course. We at Plugged In have followed Cyrus' career from its infancy—a career that began with this very show, Hannah Montana. Back then, there was no industry of Cyrus—just a charismatic teen fronting a goofy, almost-always-innocent Disney sitcom. We wrote, "In the midst of groan-inducing jokes, campy slapstick comedy and laughable overacting (all of which have become Disney-show staples and work wonderfully at the fourth-grade level), Hannah Montana offers token yet positive life lessons." That was back before Cyrus got tattoos, smoked salvia, bared her back for Vanity Fair, teased the world with a "poll dance" at the Teen Choice Awards and showed the Queen of England her cleavage.
So now when you turn on Hannah Montana, you see … a charismatic teen fronting a goofy, almost-always-innocent Disney sitcom.
Say what you want about the evolution of Miley Cyrus, her flagship program is still mostly on the up-and-up. Cyrus, as Miley Stewart, still sings to full houses as alter ego Hannah Montana. She still lives with her father (real-life pops Billy Ray Cyrus) and hangs out with brother Jackson and friends Lilly and (when he's around) Oliver. She still lives in Malibu, Calif., but (on the show, at least) holds true to her small-town Tennessee values.
She loves and honors her father, cares for her friends and almost always learns a thing or two when the week's 30-minute crisis has run its course. So enjoy it while you can. Because once Hannah's gone, Miss Cyrus may drop the facade and make her world domination official—and we'll all be buying our Cyrus-branded cappuccinos with Mileybucks.
"Kiss It All Goodbye"
Miley Stewart's secret is out, and with that comes the pressures of fame. Paparazzi publish embarrassing photos of her until she serves them lemonade. Her fan base is a harder sell, though. "How is my kid supposed to be honest when her hero is nothing but a liar?" one angry parent asks her. Miley retreats to her bedroom until Daddy and Dolly Parton coax her out to perform again, and she discovers that her "real" fans—the little girls in the audience—still love her.
If Hannah Montana was a normal Disney show and Miley Cyrus was baggage free, most of this would seem at least semisweet: The episode exhorts viewers to not let fear of rejection get the better of them, and its language never gets worse than "butt," "heck," "snotwagon" and "oh my lord." (We also see some flirtatious behavior and hear slightly crude jokes, along with a reference to panty lines.)
But Miley's real-life antics, unlike her fictional protagonist's, aren't so easy to excuse. It'd be easy to assume that she's sending a message to her fans: I care about you—but not so much for your parents (referred to as "stopped up adults who don't have enough fiber in their diets").
"Can You See the Real Me?"
Now that Hannah has reached her fourth and final season, her sitcom has donned the subtitle Forever and big changes are afoot. This year's episodes have focused on Miley's changing teen life, boyfriend problems and college plans—issues that finally forced the average girl next door to reveal her superstar secret on national TV. And since the totally shocked world wants to know all the details, Miley sets up an interview with newscaster Robin Roberts.
The resulting chat opens the door for an obligatory flashback show that revisits the pratfalls and goofiness of Hannah's past seasons. Along the way, Miley recounts old chuckle-worthy problems such as the struggle of having a "snotwagon" for a kid brother, being plagued with hick relatives and being mobbed as a star while ignored as a real girl. But in the end, Miley points to the joy of good friends, the positives of normal life and the benefits of an "amazing" dad.
The interjection "dang" and the putdown "snotwagon," along with a subtle reference to Dolly Parton's bustline are the only things that come close to earning a frown.
"Miley Says Goodbye? Part Two"
Miley says she wants to move back to Tennessee. But just as her father starts to embrace the idea, she begins worrying about leaving Lilly behind. Jackson, meanwhile, tries to adjust to living by himself in an apartment and discovers the place is, well, broken. The doors fall down, the cabinets fall off, the couches collapse, and even though Jackson hates living there, he can't bear to admit the move was a mistake.
Content issues are minimal. When Jackson's dinner table breaks apart, he turns his eyes to the heavens and hollers, "Stop mocking me!" When Miley thanks Jackson for a piece of good advice, she says that the acknowledgement "taste[s] like vomit." Miley sometimes treats her father a tad disrespectfully, telling him at one juncture to "think a little!" but it's done without rancor, and it doesn't seem to undercut Robbie's parental authority. Lilly references her "overactive sweat glands."
Miley wears a tank top. And if that's the worst I can say, I think I'll shut up.