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Sunday, January 16, 2011

‘Hannah Montana’ ends with a whimper, but Cyrus goes out in style

If you’re hoping for some sort of profound conclusion for the Disney Channel’s “Hannah Montana” franchise, you’ve been watching the wrong show. In the final episode, showing at 6 p.m. Sunday, Miley Cyrus wraps up the secret-identity saga true to form: mugging, hamming it up and trying on funny glasses.

Instead of saying goodbye with a bear hug, “Hannah Montana” gives us the equivalent of an amiable arm punch.

That’s only appropriate, though. “Hannah Montana” is what it is — or rather, was what it was. Lighthearted and completely illogical, it could have been a cartoon for all its depth. Nobody watching the Disney Channel wants to cry.

Miley Stewart’s final conundrum is this: Should she keep her promise to her best friend, Lilly (the undersung Emily Osment), and room with her at Stanford? Or should she jump at a sudden offer to co-star with Tom Cruise in a Steven Spielberg movie?

(An aside: Tom Cruise is the most tempting actor they could come up with for a teen? Really?)

The last episode is predictable and safe, with a message about the importance of friendship. Yawn. What’s been far more surprising is that Miley Cyrus has finished out her Disney career with something close to grace. Despite all expectations, Cyrus hasn’t turned out to be a bad role model.

She’s not squeaky clean, to be sure. In real life, Cyrus has delighted in wearing sleazy clothes, making out with boys, taking suggestive pictures of herself and partying. But I’d be more worried about an 18-year-old who didn’t do that.

“Hannah Montana” has been on TV for four years, and once Disney realized what a hit it was, it cashed in any way it could. Cyrus has been touring, recording eight albums, starring in movies and pushing dolls, wigs, inflatable pool accessories, karaoke machines and more.

But here’s what Cyrus hasn’t done:

♦ Entered rehab.

♦ Been hospitalized for “exhaustion.”

♦ Been arrested.

♦ Shaved her head.

♦ Attacked the paparazzi.

♦ Acted shocked at the existence of a sex tape.

♦ Sued her parents.

From what we’ve learned about child actors, that, my friends, is nothing short of a miracle.

Cyrus has been acting since she was 9 years old, under considerable pressure. Her father owes his job to her (his main contribution to the finale is a fart joke), her mother has been linked to rocker Bret Michaels (divorce is imminent), and every week Cyrus can watch a parody of herself on “Saturday Night Live.”

Cyrus has more than earned a nervous breakdown.

But she chose to film a fourth season of “Hannah Montana,” doing right by Disney and her fans. What other child actor would have made it this far without a mug shot?

For comparison’s sake, think about the fact that Taylor Momsen of “Gossip Girl” was also considered for the role of Hannah Montana. Have you seen her lately? In real life, Momsen wears raccoon makeup and tattered lingerie with her band the Pretty Reckless to perform her most popular song, “Make Me Wanna Die.”

Cyrus just looks better and better.

Don’t expect much of a departure, given her future projects. She’s already wrapped the movie “LOL,” about a high school student dealing with peer pressure. Now she’s filming “So Undercover” (original title: “I’m Like Sooo Undercover”), about a private eye who goes undercover in a college sorority.

Hey, not every actor wants to stretch himself.

Earlier this season, Hannah Montana came out of the closet, took off her wig and told the world that she was Miley Stewart. Miley Cyrus deserves the same courtesy. It’s time we release her from the hypocrisy of Disney stardom.

Go ahead, Miley — act your age. Elope to Vegas, take that stripper role or retire if you’ve had enough. You’ve delighted little girls for years, and sold landfills of merchandise.

Take a cue from Miley Stewart, and just be you.


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