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With: Hilary Duff, Adam Lamberg, Hallie Todd, Yani Gellman, Robert Carradine, Jake Thomas, Ashlie Brillault, Clayton Snyder, Brendan Kelly, Carly Schroeder, Alex Borstein
Written by: Ed Decter, Susan Estelle Jansen, John J. Strauss
Directed by: Jim Fall
MPAA Rating: PG for mild thematic elements
Running Time: 94
Date: 04/26/2003

The Lizzie McGuire Movie (2003)

2 Stars (out of 4)

The Liz Kid

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

It's safe to say that anyone as pretty as Lizzie McGuire (Hilary Duff) would be the most popular girl in school, so the creators of The Lizzie McGuire Movie -- as well as the "Lizzie McGuire" TV series -- have made her a klutz. That way the rest of us "normal" people can identify with her. I guess.

And, of course, that clumsiness conveniently goes away whenever she really needs it to, such as when she suddenly finds herself performing at the International Music Video Awards in Rome.

Still, despite this and other unintentional ironies, The Lizzie McGuire Movie is pleasantly stupid, as opposed to offensively stupid, like, say, Malibu's Most Wanted. It's no The Princess Diaries, but young teens and 'tweens should get a kick out of it.

Upon graduating from junior high, Lizzie and her best friend Gordo (Adam Lamberg) embark on a student trip to Rome, where they will see every important monument over the course of two weeks. They're herded around by the iron-butt Miss Ungermeyer (Alex Borstein), who barks through a portable sound system and waves an American flag so that her ducklings don't get lost.

It's not long before Lizzie meets Paolo (Yani Gellman), one half of a famous pop duo, with Shaun Cassidy hair. (Some kind of circle is now complete.) Apparently, Lizzie looks just like the group's other half, Isabella. It's not clear whether Paolo and Isabella are known commodities in America, or why, if they're Italian, they sing in English.

Paolo charms Lizzie off her feet and convinces her to stand in for Isabella at the aforementioned awards. It seems Isabella is off sulking on some island because she only lip-syncs while Paolo actually sings. Now Paolo wants to break up the group and go solo, but doing so before the awards would breach his contract. ("What about my career," he whines.)

To hang with Paolo, Lizzie must play sick and try to pull one over on Miss Ungermeyer, who can smell a lie like a fart in a car (to quote a line from Pump Up the Volume). And everything expectedly comes to a head at the awards show, even though very little of it makes any sense.

For example, Duff obviously lip-syncs her big number in a movie that decries the practice of lip-synching. And why does Isabella (also played by Duff with a horrible Italian accent) leave the stage so that Lizzie can shine all by herself? What do the Paolo/Isabella fans think of this unscheduled switcheroo?

Director Jim Fall may seem like an odd choice for the job. In 1999, his debut film, Trick -- about an aspiring playwright who tries to have a one-night stand with a gay stripper -- opened San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. Nonetheless, he photographs Rome in a casually homogonous way, just like every other live-action Disney film. But he still gets a kind of warm, carefree summer vacation buzz in there, and you may not mind so much.

And Borstein, an old college pal of mine and a former star of "Mad-TV" -- where she was best known for her "Ms. Swan" character -- provides the movie's other highlight. She nails the thankless role of the uncool chaperone by dripping it with attitude, bluster and stabbing cynicism. And, believe me, that's something The Lizzie McGuire Movie desperately needs.

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