I don’t know how and I don’t know why, but somehow “The Lizzie McGuire Movie” wormed its way through my cynical and jaded heart. The film is corny, predictable, and manipulative to the point that you feel like there’s electrodes attached from the screen to your brain, but, by the end of this film, I’ll be damned if I didn’t feel genuine affection for it and Lizzie in particular. Here’s a charming and silly teenage girl’s wish fulfillment fantasy that introduces a beautiful young actress in the form of its star Hilary Duff. She’s a real beauty and “The Lizzie McGuire Movie” is my guilty pleasure pick for the millennium (I’ll have to replace “Meatballs” and “Xanadu” now).
Duff plays Lizzie, a dreamy, literally, middle-school grad who takes a class trip to Rome with her best friend Gordo and an evil witch principal named Miss Ungermeyer (Alex Borstein, having a lot of fun in the wicked teacher role). “Shut your pie holes!” she yells to the parents and the teens as they’re about to head to Rome, as the film clearly identifies Miss Ungermeyer as Lizzie’s main nemesis (“You want a piece of the Ungermeyer?”). Lizzie has an alter ego in the form of an “animated Lizzie” who represents the good and bad sides of Lizzie’s conscience.

Anyway, she arrives in Rome with Gordo and the others and it’s here that she bumps into a handsome Italian pop star named Paolo. Paolo’s singing partner has left him and, what do you know, Lizzie’s a dead ringer for the departed singer, Isabella. What to do? Paolo convinces Lizzie to assume the role of Isabella (I’m not sure if Duff or Lizzie lip-synch in the film or not) and perform with him at a big music awards show. Will Ungermeyer find out about Lizzie’s deception? Will Lizzie fall in love with the handsome Paolo or choose Gordo, the shy “best friend type” who really loves her? Will the real Isabella come back? Hey, do elephants like peanuts?
I’ve described a lot of the plot of “The Lizzie McGuire Movie” because I’ve never seen the popular TV show on which it’s based. Having seen the film, I can only assume that the TV show is just like the film: corny, light, predictable and gimmicky. And yet, I smiled a lot while watching “The Lizzie McGuire Movie” partly because of just how much fun this movie has with itself in the way it shows teenagers who are nearing the end of high school and yet still find themselves under the oppressive grip of adults. This film made me feel like I missed out on some experiences in high school; some sense of adventure lacking in my own teenage years. Practically all of the film’s charm comes from Duff who’s really quite fetching in the film with her dreamy eyes and winning smile. She’s not half the actress as say a Brittany Murphy, but she has real screen presence and I get the feeling that maybe like Molly Ringwald and Tatum O’Neal before her, she’ll make a lot of teenage boys weak-kneed.
Am I recommending this film? To its target audience, yes. I think they’ll respond very strongly to Lizzie McGuire’s adventures. Who else would see this film anyway unless, like me, they’re painfully nostalgic for memories from junior high school years past? This film made me feel good. See it to sneer and you’ll find a big target, but watch it to smile and you might be pleasantly surprised.

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