This week, singer and actress Hilary Duff turns 30. Duff currently stars on the TV Land rom-com series “Younger”, which just finished its fourth season (and has already been picked up for a fifth). But she’s still best known for her role on the phenomenon Disney Channel series “Lizzie McGuire”, which launched her career to superstardom.
HBO recently acquired the rights to early 2000s Disney movies, including Lizzie’s trip to the big screen (and Rome): “The Lizzie McGuire Movie”. It was the first film I ever saw in a theater. I went with my parents on opening day, May 2, 2003. I stood up the entire time with my eyes glued to the screen, and my love of going to the movies was born.
I’ve watched bits and pieces of the “Lizzie” movie again on TV and online over the years – primarily the final section. But it’s been a long time since I actually watched the film in its entirety. So, in conjunction with Duff’s milestone birthday, I re-watched “The Lizzie McGuire Movie” to see if the first film I ever saw in a theater still holds up 14 and a half years later. Here are my takeaways:
Cartoon Lizzie is Actually in it a lot
When I saw it for the first time, I thought that the animated Lizzie wasn’t in the film much. But in this latest viewing, I realized she has a strong presence throughout.
Only a Two-Week Trip?
It seemed like much longer – but Lizzie and her junior high friends (and enemies) were only supposed to be away from home for 14 days.
There are a ton of montages set to music
– Lizzie and Gordo on the plane to Italy, immediately followed by the bus trip to the hotel
– Lizzie and Paolo on the Vespa
– The memorable fashion scene, in which Lizzie tries on a number of outlandish outfits
– Lizzie and Paolo in a small car on the way to seeing some fireworks
– Dance practice in the rehearsal hall for the awards show performance
Paolo’s Plan is Pretty Complex
Paolo’s ongoing explanations to Lizzie and his plans for how to pull-off the awards show performance are fairly substantial. He tells Lizzie that Isabella’s mad at him and the record company, who’s threatening to sue her. Isabella also lip-syncs (he doesn’t), and he wants to go solo and do more serious music.
But the biggest stretch is during the fashion scene. He tells the designers that Isabella now excels in the English language, and her new blonde hair is directly from the sun and being on an island with him. [If that isn’t a major stretch I don’t know what is, but all those people believe him.]
But He’s Such Bad Luck
– Lizzie meets-up with Paolo at the Trevi Fountain on the second day. She sees that he was just with three kids. “I had them all wish for you to come.” You’re NEVER supposed to say what you wished for out loud!
– Under a waterfall, Paolo promises Lizzie that he wont put her in an embarrassing situation. Lie.
– Paolo and bodyguard Sergei have to cover for Lizzie in the hotel lobby, with Paolo attempting to close an umbrella with Giorgio, who screams: “It’s bad luck to have [an umbrella] open when there’s no rain!”
Kate’s Actually Nice Most of the Time
Once Kate finds out what Lizzie’s been up to, she thinks it’s really cool and decides not to tell chaperone and high school principal Miss Ungermeyer. Kate comforts Lizzie once she learns that Miss U sent Gordo home for covering for her. And Kate tells Lizzie to stay and perform on the awards show, otherwise “Everything Gordo did will be for nothing.”
Yes, There Are Coincidences…
Paolo meeting Lizzie is an obvious one, but also:
– The school group tour bus comes in close contact with Lizzie and Paolo on the vespa (and bodyguard Serge) TWICE, though only Gordo notices. He quickly stalls by making small talk with Miss U and Kate.
– Matt convinces his parents that he misses his sister so much that they’ll fly ALL the way to Rome to see her (without even knowing she was “sick”) and they happen to arrive JUST in time for the awards show
– Isabella is at the airport and Gordo sees her just before he’s supposed to get on the plane
– Paolo tells Lizzie “You shine like the light from the sun.” just minutes before Isabella repeats this to Lizzie, sealing the deal that Paolo is up to no good.
And There’s Some Obvious Foreshadowing…
Lizzie’s line to Gordo the night after meeting Paolo: “Just as long as we don’t do anything that would get us tossed on a plane home by Miss Ungermeyer.” Well, guess what [almost] happens to Gordo?
But This Movie Was So Ahead of Its Time
I recently wrote this as a Tweet, referring to both the show and the movie. One prominent example in the film is when Matt records Lizzie’s graduation (where she fell down) and he sends it to the folks at ABC:
Lizzie: “Was your Junior High graduation on ‘Good Morning America’?”
Sam: “What kind of creep would send Diane Sawyer a video to embarrass you like that?”
The hotel manager also tells Miss Ungermeyer that he saw the video on CNN.
And a random fan gets Lizzie’s Isabella autograph on his arm tattooed. He shows it to her on the awards show red carpet. That wasn’t necessarily a trend back in ’03.
Still The Best Exchange:
Miss Ungermeyer: “have you even made a dent in your reading list?”
Ethan: “I finished it.”
Miss U: “You read 11 books?”
Ethan: “I mean I read the list.”
Side Note: Who assigns 11 books for Summer Reading?
Disney did a nice job with two Lindsay Lohans in the same shot in ’98’s “The Parent Trap”, and the few moments when both Lizzie and Isabella are in the same shot still look very good.
The Finale has some audio/visual issues… BUT WHO CARES?!
There is a clear amount of green screen with shots of the coliseum audience. And you can tell that someone besides Duff hits a few of the high notes in “What Dreams Are Made Of”. But it honestly doesn’t matter. This song continues to be an anthem, and many tweens, teens, twenty and thirty somethings AND adults still know all the words to it.
I recently uncovered a fascinating 2003 Entertainment Weekly article chronicling how just days after the release of “The Lizzie McGuire Movie”, Duff and Disney parted ways. Even with multi-million-dollar offers for “Lizzie” film sequels and a TV show sequel on ABC focusing on Lizzie in high school, Duff and her family’s disagreements with the studio ended their relationship.
It ended-up being a smart move – Duff went on to star in a number of successful movies (including “Cheaper by the Dozen”, its sequel and “A Cinderella Story”), and she scored a number of chart-topping hits: “Why Not?”, “Come Clean”, “So Yesterday”, “Fly”, “Santa Claus Lane” and “Wake Up”.
Duff took a break from music to star in a few indies. She then became an author, got married, had a son – Luca – and is now back in the TV world. Duff has accomplished so much, and her work will still be admired into the next several generations… in particular: Lizzie McGuire.
I started watching the show not long after it began in ’01. Yes, I was only 3, but I knew that Lizzie was someone I wanted to be best friends with: kind, thoughtful, relatable and extremely genuine. She showed that you could pursue and accomplish your big dreams (especially through that showcase song), with a message that has been embraced ever since.