Who's In It: Miley Cyrus, Greg Kinnear, Liam Hemsworth, Kelly Preston
The Basics: Moody teen pianist Miley--dressed in gothy black, with evidence that she's taken a baseball bat to the family piano, so angry is she over her parents' divorce--spends the summer with her estranged father. While glowering all over his beachfront property she discovers a nest of endangered sea turtle eggs and, subsequently, a tall blond aquarium volunteer/volleyball stud/mechanic/richer-than-rich boy with whom she experiences first love. Tailored for its star by go-to cry-master Nicholas Sparks, you know that the other shoe of Plus-Size Tragedy is going to drop before the final credits, allowing Miley the chance to shed tears on command.
What's The Deal: This film is kind of a brilliant move on the part of the Cyrus Corporation. It's chaste enough--she likes the boy "more than a lot," just not "birth control a lot"--so that very young Miley fans can see it, hear a few mild examples of adult language, watch their heroine get passionately kissed, vicariously enjoy first love as well as a bit of uncomplicated grief that gets resolved quickly with her music and leave with the satisfaction of having seen their first "grownup" movie. And because it's really just a TV movie made huge, it's going to work well as a multiple viewing DVD too. Everybody wins--that is, unless you're just a regular adult who liked The Notebook and thinks anything by Nicholas Sparks is going to provide you with some cheap weeps. You will not be among the winners. Because this thing is a bore.
Best Shoehorned Subplot (Some Spoilers Here, But Whatever): The one with the burned down church that everyone in the town thinks was arson done by Miley's dad who really just happened to fall asleep while playing the church piano (huh?) because of this "medicine" he was taking and in reality it was the fault of someone else who just happens to be connected to everyone AND THEN Miley's boyfriend knows the truth but keeps it quiet. This subplot is important because it provides the opportunity for major upset and crying and stained glass-creating restitution. That it also provides a personal integrity sinkhole among major characters the movie just decides not to address is part of the overall message that cuteness means never having to say you're sorry.
How Annoying Is It? The first 30 minutes are pretty tough to watch as Cyrus stomps and pouts and sneers and delivers her lines through clenched teeth with a petulant monotone that suggests she needed more overall structure growing up. But this is just acting, after all, and once the movie-reconciliation begins she loosens up and turns in a non-embarrassing performance. She doesn't sing until the closing credits, though. If you think that's on the menu then sorry, kids.
Best Supporting Animal: I liked the sneaky raccoon the best. I especially like the part where he confronts Miley in the night and makes her scream and run by standing up and waving his raccoon arms around. In that moment it's the kind of Disney film you sort of wish you were watching instead.