(C+) "We have a couple of rules here tonight," shouts Miley Ray Cyrus to an intimate crowd of several thousand screaming tweens. "I don't want to look around and see anyone sitting in their seats."
The 15-year-old Miley, otherwise known as TV rock princess Hannah Montana, never gets around to rule No. 2. Perhaps she is respecting the willful attention deficit of her grade-school audience, many of whom are presumably attending their very first arena concert. For the past two years, Miley has been ignoring all the old rules that say guys get to be rock superstars and girls get to worship at their feet.
With the phenomenal success of the Disney Channel series Hannah Montana, girls who are years shy of a driver's permit have a power-and-fame role model of their very own.
When the female audience members squeal in collective ecstasy in the 3-D performance souvenir, Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert, they are squealing in celebration of themselves. This is a very different kind of noise than the peasant-widow's wail that convulsed Shea Stadium when the Beatles swooped into New York, sending the girls into weepy hormonal overdrive.
Those of us nurtured on the Beatles have a special gold standard for rock songs; it's hard to watch this assertively upbeat but melodically negligible concert film without waiting for the one that's worth $7,233.
This is how much concert ticket scalpers have been commanding from indulgent parents, who may figure that if Hannah is going to prevent their little darlings from sitting down for two hours, then at very least the empty seats should be premium.
The songs that Miley delivers are fizzy, forgettable paeans to the joys of being "an ordinary girl in an extraordinary world": staying positive, allowing yourself mistakes, letting the boys know who's in control. "It's a crazy life, but I'm just fine," she chirps in a strong, resilient alto, running the length of a yawning stage or vamping with a dance chorus to bumpy-grindy choreography by Kenny Ortega.
Ortega, who has survived divas from Madonna to Bette Midler, has essentially reinvented the '60s TV variety show for the High School Musical generation. (Who knew that those hoary June Taylor routines from The Jackie Gleason Show would some day have a new lease on life?) The daughter of a hunky country singer (who appears to pay tribute), the Irish-pretty Miley exudes a goofball vitality and sunny work ethic that ultimately win you over, despite the prefab slickness of her vehicle.
The 3-D camera throws drumsticks and confetti in our faces, but the technical effects seem superfluous to the star's bona fide energy.
Director Bruce Hendricks intercuts the concert footage with entertaining rehearsal and backstage shots, along with a screwy publicity stunt that pits daddies of Montana fans in a high-heeled race to win concert tickets for their kids. When the stakes have risen to seven grand a pop, that high-pitched arena roar you are hearing may well be the death rattle of the American empire.
Jan Stuart writes for Newsday.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun