The Lizzie McGuire Movie review by Mike Long

Welcome to another exciting episode of "I Can't Believe I Said That", the exciting forum in which I make statements that even I didn't see coming. And now, for tonight's episodes, in which I say, "The Lizzie McGuire Movie was much better than I'd expected." Man, I'm never going to live that one down.

Many forecasters were surprised when The Lizzie McGuire Movie became a box-office hit earlier this year. I was just surprised that anyone watched the show. Here's what I've been able to gather about "Lizzie McGuire" the few times that I've stopped on the show while channel-surfing. Lizzie (Hilary Duff) is your average teenage girl who is just trying to make it through junior high. She often confides in her best friends, Gordo (Adam Lamberg) and Miranda (Lalaine), while attempting to avoid her arch-nemesis Kate (Ashlie Brillault). At home, Lizzie is constantly fighting with her little brother Matt (Jake Thomas), much to the chagrin of her parents, Jo (Hallie Todd) and Sam (Robert Carradine, that's right, Louis from Revenge of the Nerds!). Lizzie's innermost thoughts are shared by an animated version of herself, who speaks directly to the audience. The show always seemed harmless, but never stood out as anything special.

Which made it all the more surprising that Disney decided to make a feature film based on the show. In The Lizzie McGuire Movie, Lizzie and Gordo have now graduated from junior high, and are looking forward to their future. (Miranda is nowhere in sight, save for a mention that she's in Mexico City. Is she playing in the World Cup?) After humiliating herself at her graduation ceremony, Lizzie gears up for a class trip to Rome, which will be chaperoned by her high school principal-to-be Miss Ungermeyer (Alex Borstein). And while only a handful of kids are going on the trip, Gordo and Kate are along for the ride. Lizzie is very excited about her trip, as she wants it to be an adventure -- and what an adventure it becomes. Once they arrive in Rome, a young man named Paolo (Yani Gellman), who is a famous pop-singer, approaches Lizzie and explains that she looks exactly like his singing partner, Isabella. He and Isabella have actually parted ways, so Paolo asks Lizzie to "stand in" for the songstress at an upcoming awards show. Lizzie is overwhelmed by this request, but she succumbs to Paolo's charm, much to the dismay of Gordo, who has always harbored a not-so-secret crush on Lizzie. But, how will a simple American girl pass for an Italian diva, and even more important, can Paolo be trusted?

The Lizzie McGuire Movie is the film equivalent of an irresistible pop song -- it's not the kind of thing that you'd normally listen to, but it's got a nice beat, and you find yourself humming along when it plays, and then you completely forget about it. The movie is harmless, innocuous fun and nothing more. If movies were judged solely on whether or not they've completed their primary mission, then The Lizzie McGuire Movie would get a 10, as it a perfect example of an adolescent female fantasy. (Which is ironic, as Duff also stars in the recently released Agent Cody Banks, which is the perfect adolescent male fantasy.) In the film, Lizzie (who is supposed a "normal" girl...but has the wardrobe of a movie star) goes to a foreign country, meets a handsome young man, and has a great adventure. I'm sure that the 12-year old girls couldn't get enough of this stuff.

But, someone at Disney realized that these 12-year old girls would be dragging adults to the theater, so the film has a little more to offer then the whole Lizzie plot. Most of this can most likely be attributed to co-writers Ed Decter and John J. Strauss, the writers behind such quirky romantic comedies as There's Something About Mary and Head Over Heels (and Decter also directed the D.J. Qualls oddity The New Guy). This pair certainly know there way around an odd joke and the film is surprisingly full of them, most coming from Miss Ungermeyer and the hotel's strange concierge Giorgio (Jody Racicot). Like the guy in "'Twas the Night Before Christmas", I found myself laughing in spite of myself. Now don't get me wrong, The Lizzie McGuire Movie isn't a great screwball comedy, but as far as movies aimed at "tweens" go, it's not that bad. The young cast is good, especially Adam Lamberg and Ashlie Brillault. Star Hillary Duff, who is "America's sweetheart" and "a teen sensation" according to the DVD box, is pretty good, but she relies far too much on "cutesy" facial expressions and never seems natural at all in front of the camera. On most levels, The Lizzie McGuire Movie is really nothing special (doesn't every sit-com wind up sending the cast to Europe at some point?), but there is enough quirky humor to make the film watchable, if not, slightly enjoyable.

The Lizzie McGuire Movie dances its way onto DVD courtesy of Buena Vista Home Entertainment. The DVD contains both the full-frame and widescreen versions of the film. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was screened. The DVD boasts an anamorphic transfer of the film, which has been letterboxed at 2.35:1. (Really? This movie?) The image is very sharp and clear, showing only traces of grain at times. But, the transfer may be too clear, for during the last shot, there is a visible horizontal line running across the center of the screen which marks where the optical effect has been placed. The colors are very good, as the sights and sounds of Rome are featured in a vast majority of the film. There are some trace elements of artifacting at times, but not nearly enough to be distracting. The film features a Dolby Digital 5.1 track (and strangely, no other audio choices). This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track offers a smattering of surround sound effects, most coming during the musical montages and the crowd scenes. The non-stop pop music keeps the subwoofer busy as well.

The Lizzie McGuire Movie DVD contains a handful of extras. There are 3 deleted scenes, which can be viewed with or without introductions by director Jim Fall. The DVD packaging touts one of these as an "alternate ending", but it's simply an extra scene tacked onto the theatrical ending which doesn't change a thing. "Hilary's Roman Adventure" is a 12-minute "making of" featurette which explores the film's production in Rome and contains behind-the-scenes footage and sounbytes from the cast and crew. "Roamin' Volare" is a 2-minute musical montage which appears to be identical to one which appears in the film. What gives? The disc includes the music video for the Hilary Duff song "Why Not", as well as a 2-minute segment which shows Hilary in the recording studio working on her solo album. For some reason, someone is determined to make this girl a star.

6 out of 10 Jackasses

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