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The Films of Peter Chelsom

Hear My Song

Funny Bones

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Shall We Dance

Hannah Montana: The Movie (July 16/14)

Based, of course, on the hit Disney series, Hannah Montana: The Movie follows Miley Cyrus' Miley Stewart as she travels back to her hometown to get some perspective on her life and dual identity. It's immediately apparent that Hannah Montana: The Movie marks a radical departure from its small-screen inspiration, as filmmaker Peter Chelsom has infused the proceedings with an unexpectedly cinematic feel that couldn't be farther from the low-rent, low-budget look of the television show. By that same token, however, Chelsom, along with scripter Dan Berendsen, has essentially drained the film of any qualities designed to remind the viewer of the series - as Hannah Montana: The Movie, for the most part, boasts the feel of a generic coming-of-age teen drama (which, it goes without saying, is far from what the program's showrunners were going for). It's a vibe that's perpetuated by Miley's tentative romance with a hunky local (Lucas Till's Travis Brody), while the inclusion of several silly subplots results in an absence of momentum that's nothing short of disastrous. (It's hard, for example, to work up much interest in Miley's relationship with her tough-talking grandmother.) The movie is, finally, unlikely to appeal to either fans of Hannah Montana nor viewers looking for a solid coming-of-age romance, with the film's failure cemented by the wrong-headed decision to relegate Hannah Montana regulars like Emily Osment and Jason Earles to the sidelines.

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Hector and the Search for Happiness (October 17/14)

Hector and the Search for Happiness follows Simon Pegg's title character as he embarks on a quest to discover what makes people happy, with this trek, which takes him to far-off locales like Asia and Africa, eventually causing a strain on his relationship to Rosamund Pike's Clara. There's ultimately little doubt that Hector and the Search for Happiness fares best in its opening stretch, as director Peter Chelsom does a superb job of establishing the steady, ordered landscape occupied by the protagonist - with the watchable atmosphere heightened and perpetuated by Pegg's tremendously (and typically) affable performance. It's only as Hector departs on his journey that the film begins to lose its grip on the viewer; despite Chelsom's best efforts, there's simply nothing terribly interesting or compelling about the central character's travels - with certain stretches here nothing short of interminable. (Hector's tedious trip to Africa, for example, is rife with hackneyed twists and turns.) Chelsom's penchant for wild tonal shifts doesn't help matters, certainly, nor does an overlong running time that's compounded by an almost endless third act. (It's worth noting, too, that the emotional impact of certain late-in-the-game developments are dulled considerably by the padded-out atmosphere.) Hector and the Search for Happiness' good intentions are, in the end, unable to compensate for a story that runs out of steam virtually from the outset, with the movie's underwhelming vibe especially disappointing given the strong performances and promising setup.

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© David Nusair