The Lizzie McGuire Movie Review
By Shawn McKenzie 05/02/2003
I have to admit that I have never seen a single episode of “Lizzie McGuire.” Until about a month ago, I thought the show was on Nickelodeon (it’s actually on the Disney Channel, in case you didn’t know yourself.) Part of the reason I may not have caught the show is because it seems that the Disney Channel’s entire programming lineup is geared towards preteen girls. That may be a big factor in your decision on whether or not to check of the big screen version, The Lizzie McGuire Movie.
After accidentally embarrassing herself in front of everyone at her middle school graduation ceremony, Lizzie McGuire (Hilary Duff) is glad to know that she will be getting away from it all during a two-week class trip to Rome with her best friend, David “Gordo” Gordon (Adam Lamberg.) Since the school has split up the students between the trip to Rome and a water park, she thinks she has seen the last of some of the classmates she doesn’t get along with. Unfortunately, it looks like the clueless jerk Ethan Craft (Clayton Snyder) and the snooty Kate Sanders (Ashlie Brillault) will be joining her, much to her disappointment. It is at the beginning of the trip that they meet their future high school principal Miss Ungermeyer (Alex Borstein), who is acting as their chaperone in Rome. She seems to be a little stern and regimented, but Lizzie still hopes she will have some great adventures while she is there. She starts to get just that when she meets Italian pop star Paolo (Yani Gellman.) Paolo is awestruck with Lizzie, because he thinks that Lizzie looks exactly like his musical partner, Isabella (also played by Duff), except that Lizzie is a blonde and Isabella is a dark-haired brunette. Paolo tells Lizzie that Isabella has run off and abandoned the duo. He also tells her that if they don’t show up at a video awards ceremony, they will be sued. He convinces Lizzie to act like Isabella and appear with him. She spends the two weeks with Paolo, visiting romantic sites and preparing for the show. Lizzie is able to do this by pretending to be sick. Gordo, who secretly has a crush on her, helps her out by covering for her. Paolo’s bodyguard Sergei (Brendan Kelly) also helps cover for the couple as they rehearse their act, which unexpectedly involves Lizzie singing on stage, something she isn’t sure she can do. Meanwhile, back in America, Lizzie’s bratty little brother, Matt (Jake Thomas), convinces their parents, Sam (Robert Carradine), and Jo (Hallie Todd), to fly to Rome, under the guise that he misses her. He really wants to get the exclusive story on Lizzie’s deception so he can profit off it by selling it to the Italian tabloids, something that was suggested to him by his equally manipulative friend Melina Bianco (Carly Schroeder.) As Lizzie successfully avoids Miss Ungermeyer, she begins to fall in love with Paolo, much to the distain of Gordo.
I personally did not like this movie, but as I said, it wasn’t geared towards me, a 28-year-old movie/TV geek. I saw it at a screening with a bunch of little girls and their parents, and I saw smiles all around. To me, the movie looked very familiar. As a long-time TV geek, I have seen dozens of “very special episodes” of TV sitcoms where they go on vacation. Most of them seem to go to Rome (or France), where one of the characters falls in love with a local resident (unless they go to Hawaii and are caught up in an adventure involving jewel thieves.) I’ve seen it in “Family Ties,” “The Facts of Life,” “Saved By the Bell,” “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch,” and so many more. If it isn’t in the form of a two-episode arc, it is in the form of a TV movie (where, for the first time, the show goes without a laugh-track, a device hated by all TV critics, including me.) This movie is the first time we will have to shell out money to see what could have easily been played as a “very special episode” of the TV show. It is rated PG, but I don’t know why, since there is nothing in the movie that couldn’t be seen on the Disney Channel.
Other than the unoriginal story, a couple of other things bothered me. I know that Duff really is only 15-years-old, but she looks like she is ready to graduate from high school, not middle school. My fellow critic Reggie McDaniel was shocked himself when he realized that the ceremony at the beginning of the movie was her graduation of middle school. She just doesn’t look like an awkward teenager (I think her contemporary, What a Girl Wants’ Amanda Bynes, can pull off the awkward physical comedy much better.) The other thing that bothered me was the animated version of Lizzie, inserted at various times to represent her thoughts. Since I hadn’t seen the TV show, I didn’t know about the character. I thought it was just meant to appear during the opening credits sequence at first, but when it kept popping up throughout the movie, it got annoying.
There was one bright spot in the movie. Borstein stole every scene she was in with her over-the-top Miss Ungermeyer. She deserves to headline a comedy of her own. She has always been a hilarious cast member of FOX’s “Mad TV,” and I think it is time for her break into movies.
I hope the little girls won’t kill me for this harsh review of The Lizzie McGuire Movie, because I think they will really like it. That might be partially because they didn’t grow up seeing this movie over and over already on TV (with the exception of the “Sabrina” TV movie and a few direct-to-video Olsen twins movies.) In fact, I’m giving it a higher rating than normal on the fact that I think they will enjoy it. The only thing that scares me now is…will I have to shell out eight bucks to see The 8 Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter Movie next?
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