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Harmless and Fun
A review of The Lizzie McGuire Movie
by Robert A. Fulkerson

I knew nothing about Lizzie McGuire until I sat through the preview for this movie about twenty times while waiting to watch other movies. I was about to say other, better, movies, but after seeing this movie, I can honestly say that this fared better than about half of the movies it was in front of.

Director: Jim Fall

Stars: Hilary Duff, Adam Lamberg, Jake Thomas, Alex Borstein

Rating: PG

Release: 05-02-2003

Time: 90 minutes

Buy Movie at Amazon.com That's not to say it's a great movie, but it sure seemed to be a good experience for the audience I sat with, especially the younger audience it's intended for. I caught the movie on a Wednesday afternoon while school was still in session, so I didn't have the experience of sitting in with the intended 'tween audience that Lizzie McGuire is marketed at. Rather, I sat with an assorted older crowd, much like myself, and a couple of moms who brought small children.

Not having seen the show before watching the movie, I thought I'd feel a little lost as to figuring out who the characters were and what their relationships were. Apparently, though, I was thinking of something far more complex like the mythology preceding the X-Files movie.

Lizzie (Hilary Duff) and her friend Gordo (Adam Lamberg) are innocuous and predictable in their portrayals of middle school kids who are just on the outside of being part of the in crowd. They do adequate jobs of giving you the sense that despite probably wanting to be part of the in-crowd, they're okay with just being dorky middle school kids.

Lizzie, Gordo and some of her classmates take a summer class trip to Rome. While galavanting around Rome with Gordo, Lizzie is stopped by an Italian pop star named Paolo (Yani Gellman), who tells her that she looks like his ex-singing partner, Isabella. Due to contract issues, he tells her, he and Isabella need to present an award and sing at a music show in Rome, but no one knows that he and Isabella have split. He proposes to Lizzie that she should take Isabella's place and sing, dance and present with him at the awards show.

What follows is a predictable, light-hearted piece of fluff about choosing between going after your dreams and following your heart. I think. It's pretty fluffy. But fluffy in a nice, pleasant way. All of the young actors bring an easy sense of identification to vague stereotypes of The Popular Girl (Kate Sanders, played by Ashlie Brillault), Weird Cool Jock Dumb Boy (Ethan Craft, played by Clayton Snyder), Freaky Obsessive HyperIntelligent Brother (Matt McGuire, played by Jake Thomas), and Freaky Obsessive HyperIntelligent Brother's Female Friend (Melina, played by Carly Schroeder). The adults are even broader strokes of the stereotype brush, the most entertaining being Miss Ungermeyer (Alex Borstein), the school principal in charge of supervising the trip. She backtalks the children in the same way they sass each other when they think no one's looking, and while it's entertaining it does start to grate on you after awhile.

Of all the characters, Lamberg's Gordo is the most flushed out. In true awkward teenage boy fashion, he offers himself up as Lizzie's White Knight, sacrificing his own trip by taking the fall for his best friend Lizzie, who has been sneaking out of the hotel to meet Paolo. Gordo is, admittedly, a stupid name for a character, but Lamberg actually imbues him with a believability that makes you stop and remember either being that awkward teenage boy or knowing that awkward teenage boy.

In a world where Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera have set a new standard for what young, teenage girls "should" look, dress and act like, it's refreshing to see a movie where Lizzie is fully clothed for the entire 93 minutes of the movie, there's no sexual innuendo and the most risque things that Lizzie and Gordo do are to sneak out of the hotel on occasion and share a maybe-it-is-and-maybe-it-isn't innocent kiss which is quickly drenched in awkwardness and ambivalence, just like you remember it from your first kiss.

You're not going to gain any new insights into teenage girls or boys from the movie, but you'll probably enjoy yourself more with the hokieness of it than you would at "Anger Management" or "Malibu's Most Wanted", two other movies targetted at about the same age group. You'll probably learn more about the kids who actually spend their own money to go see these movies -- and which ones they choose to see -- than you will about the characters in the movie itself.