Directed by: Jim Fall
Starring: Hilary Duff, Yani Gellman, Adam Lamberg, Ashlie Brillaut, Alex Borstein
The Lizzie McGuire Movie is a brainless, frothy-fairy tale for young girls (though parents won't feel tortured if they have to see it, too). The film is not going to do anybody any harm and will probably do the Italian Tourist Board a lot of good.
In this movie version of the Disney TV series Lizzie McGuire, Hilary Duff plays a pratfall-prone eighth-grader whose typical adolescent insecurities are revealed by a funny cartoon persona of herself. Two savvy media experts joined me at the screening, Jessamyn Weis (age 14) and Karla Weis (age 12), students at Asheville Middle School.
To celebrate graduation from eighth grade, Lizzie McGuire and her classmates (the same kids from the TV series) go on a field trip to Rome. There's her faithful, platonic, boy-buddy Gordo (Adam Lamberg), and her snobby, super-confident nemesis, the always-pulled-together Kate (Ashlie Brulliaut). Chaperoning the kids is their future high-school principal, Ms. Ungermeyer (Alex Borstein, TV's Mad TV), an obnoxious, boorish tyrant who keeps trying to be funny but who is soooo not.
Like millions of other tourists, Lizzie throws coins into the famous Tivoli Fountain (toss one coin to return, two to fall in love). Suddenly, appearing before her in the crowd is the cutest -- I mean the cutest -- 17-year-old boy in the world. He just happens to be the tall, dark, sensitive, sweet, suave, super-chaste Italian rock star Paolo (Yani Gellman, TV'sGuinevere Jones).
"He is cute, but he turned out not to be a good guy," chastises Karla.
Inspired by the insipid and somewhat dangerous tagline of the movie, "The Only Risk in Taking an Adventure Is Not Taking It at All," Lizzie sneaks away from her classmates and joins Paolo on a whirlwind motorcycle tour of the Eternal City.
"Automatically going off on a motorcycle with a guy she didn't know -- that wouldn't happen in real life," Karla reminds us.
"It's a movie," says older sister Jessamyn. "Italy and all -- it's fun to imagine what could happen."
It turns out that Lizzie is a dead ringer for Paolo's tempestuous partner, Isabella, who has refused to join him on a global TV awards show. Would Lizzie help out poor Paolo and become his singing partner for a night? Sure, why not? What else do American eighth-graders do while in Rome? Like Eliza Doolitte under the eyes of Professor Higgins, Lizzie allows Paolo to turn her into a rock star, getting her hair and eyebrows done, trying on all kinds of goofy costumes ("I liked the igloo one best," professes Karla) and practicing sexy dance routines in an empty theater. Horror of horrors, though, Lizzie will actually have to sing the song, with her own voice -- no lip syncing! -- in front of thousands of screaming fans.
While Lizzie is sneaking away on her adventures, her pal Gordo turns out to be a better friend than she deserves, her nemesis turns out to be a friend after all and, in a scene that should make older women proud, Lizzie and Isabella put away their jealousies and team up to take a sweet revenge on Paolo.
"It was awesome when the girls gang up on Paolo and he sings -- and then he sounds horrible!" says Jessamyn with unrepentant glee.
Karla is sure her seventh-grade friends wouldn't like the movie, though she adds, "little girls in the fourth and fifth grade might."
And even though Jessamyn says the movie "was better than I expected," she doesn't recommend that her friends actually go to the theater to see it.
"If you have nothing to do this would be a good movie to rent," she elaborates.
You heard it from the experts.