Goodbye home! Hello Rome!
This surprise box office hit made a quick dash to video shelves. Don't let that fool you. The Lizzie McGuire Movie is a charmer and parents need not be afraid to let their kids see it.
Facts of the Case
After a mishap at her junior high graduation, Lizzie McGuire (Hilary Duff) and best friend Gordo find themselves on a post-graduation trip to Italy. While visiting landmarks, Lizzie is mistaken for Isabella, one half of the popular pop duo "Paolo and Isabella." Paolo tells Lizzie that Isabella has left and he needs a replacement for a big awards show presentation and performance. And Lizzie just happens to be a dead ringer for Isabella…
Will Lizzie become a pop superstar? Will she be able to deceive her tyrannical future high school principal Ms. Ungermeyer (Alex Borstein)? Is the sky blue? Do pigs oink? Is Homer Simpson that lazy, bald, and fat?
Joking aside, The Lizzie McGuire Movie may sound predictable and half-baked, but it is a surprisingly good film. In an era of so many horrible family films (did anyone out there even like Scooby-Doo?), it's refreshing to see a film that is wholesome, smart, and not condescending to its intended audience.
Hilary Duff may be the star, and she's in good form in this film. In fact, the film is well acted by all. But the real discovery is Alex Borstein. The name may not be familiar, but she was a regular on Mad TV and she provided the voice of Lois Griffin on Family Guy (also contributing to the writing on that show). Here, she takes the potentially thankless role of an authority figure and works wonders with it. Her dialogue and delivery provides the film's biggest laughs. Just when things bog down, she arrives on cue to perk it up. Hollywood casting agents take notice and find her some more film work.
The film's story works very well for a feature length expansion of a popular TV show. It is one of the few TV-to-film transplants that doesn't die on the operating table. The film retains what made the TV show so appealing. This film understands what preteen girls are going through and instead of making fun, it actually (shock) sympathizes with the target audience. If only more entertainment outlets could do this. If there's one criticism I have in regards to the story, it's that it takes a few too many side trips to the McGuire home and doesn't really develop what could come out of it.
Disney offers a choice of watching the film in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen or full frame. The menu gives a strong hint as to which version to watch (one guess, and it isn't full frame). Director Jim Fall has a strong sense of widescreen composition that is rarely seen these days, since most directors buck under pressure from Blockbuster and other widescreenphobes. The full frame version is completely worthless, as it destroys many of the loveliest and effective widescreen shots. I urge parents to ignore the full frame version and show your kids the widescreen version. It's never too early to implant the concept of original aspect ratio to our children.
The video itself is first rate, as a recent release should be. There is no evidence of scratches and specks, and there is very little, if any, grain in dark scenes. Colors are nice and bold, rare for a film of 2003.
A Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix is offered and is also tops of its kind. My only criticism is that in some scenes, the score is mixed so loudly that some dialogue is inaudible. But other than that, it's fine.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
There are some extras, but surely Disney is capable of better than this. There are two deleted scenes and an alternate ending. You have the option of watching these with or without introductions from director Fall. They're nice set pieces, but it's easy to see why they were cut from the final print. An extended scene, "Roamin' Volare," is just an excuse to showcase a potential hit single.
"In the Recording Studio with Hilary" is nothing more than a simple excuse to plug Duff's hit album Metamorphosis. A nice behind the scenes documentary would have been better.
"Hilary's Roman Adventure" purports to be a behind the scenes look at the making of the film. It only runs 10 minutes and it doesn't really give us any major insight into production.
The music video for Duff's hit single "Why Not?" is present, although this has already aired in constant rotation on the Disney Channel. Still, it's a pretty good song and Duff's music is refreshing in this age of Aguilera and Spears.
To parents: buy it!
To others: rent it. Don't let the "family film" label sway you. This is good, wholesome entertainment that works on all levels.
Not guilty, but Disney is given one year's probation for lack of any extras of depth.
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