When the idea for a feature film based on the series was discussed, returning Miley and her father to Tennessee seemed an ideal and natural extension of the characters’ storylines to the big screen.
“We wanted to open it up, get it outside and let it breathe,” says Gough about the “Hannah Montana” story. “As we developed the screenplay, we had a couple of rules up front. One was we were not going to use any of the sets on the television show. And secondly, we wanted it to be filmed in real places, actual locations: Nashville, Malibu, the Santa Monica Pier, Beverly Hills.”
Gough’s producing partner Millar adds: “Our goal as the producers was always to make a movie that would surprise people. I think people have an expectation based on the sitcom of a goofy, very broad comedy. But we wanted this movie to have incredible heart, vistas, landscapes, beautiful photography, great dance numbers, phenomenal music and a big scope. And this movie is all of that.”
Another change from the ensemble sitcom format was the film’s focus on Miley rather than on a group adventure or road movie with her series co-stars. Screenwriter Berendsen says: “One of the things that sets this movie apart from the show is that in a good part of the film Miley is on her own. This is about her character, it’s her adventure. It’s something she and her father have to go through together.”
As the film opens, Miley Stewart’s life is out of balance. Taken under the wing of a gung-ho and glamorous publicist, Vita (Vanessa Williams), Miley’s letting Hannah begin to dominate her life. When she keeps choosing Hannah over her commitments to family members—to say goodbye to Jackson as he leaves for college, to attend Lilly’s long-anticipated sweet-16 party or her grandmother’s birthday celebration—it is clear Miley’s beginning to forget why the Hannah Montana secret was created in the first place.
When Hannah Montana ends up in a paparazzi-captured fight with Tyra Banks over a pair of designer shoes, Miley’s father quietly takes control. Having attempted to reason with her to no avail, Robby Ray tricks Miley into thinking she’s going to New York as Hannah to perform when he’s really taking her from Los Angeles back home to Crowley Corners, Tennessee.
Miley’s double life becomes even more complicated when she returns to Crowley Corners. She discovers that a reporter (Peter Gunn) has somehow managed to track Hannah Montana to her hometown and is asking lots of questions of the locals. She also meets up with an old childhood friend, Travis Brody (Lucas Till), and soon finds herself in her first serious romance. When Miley tries to impress Travis by telling him about her friend Hannah Montana, she suddenly finds her alter ego enlisted in a concert fundraiser to help save her hometown’s pristine Crowley Meadows from developers. Once again, having taken on more than she can handle, Miley has to call on her best friend, Lilly, and ask her for help. When Lilly finally arrives in Crowley Corners pretending to be Hannah Montana, events really spin out of control.