Lizzie McGuire did not enjoy her junior high graduation. Interrupting the ceremony by accidentally pulling down a large curtain helps to make the occasion more memorable, but not especially pleasant. The fact that her abysmally annoying brother, Matt, submitted a recording of the fiasco to major news outlets didn’t help either, but that’s another story for another movie. Lizzie’s trying hard to put all this disagreeableness behind her. You see, her best friend, Gordo, and select members of their soon-to-be freshman class are heading to Rome for two weeks. Rome! Even uptight chaperon Miss Ungermeyer says the Eternal City is chock full of fascinating cultural and historical artifacts. Gordo says it’s a City of Adventure rife with opportunities for excitement. But to Lizzie Rome is simply as good a place as any to wipe her junior high slate clean.
What Lizze isn’t prepared for is that Rome will very soon become her City of Love. She also doesn’t have a clue that she’s the spitting image of Isabella (the female half of famous Italian pop duo Paolo & Isabella) and that their resemblance will change her life. Isabella recently become estranged from Paolo, a situation exacerbated by the fact that the pair is supposed to perform at an upcoming award show. So when the dark and handsome singer stumbles upon Lizzie as she tours the city, he thinks he’s found the solution to his problem: have Lizzie step in for Isabella. Naturally the star-struck Lizzie is completely swept off her feet. Seems Lizzie’s in for more than just a fresh start.
positive elements: Like the Disney Channel TV series that inspired it, The Lizze McGuire Movie not only tells a cute story, but positively instructs young viewers while doing so. It focuses mainly on the perils of carelessly choosing the object of one’s affection and dealing with one’s sense of inferiority. Upon meeting Paolo, Lizzie becomes instantly enamoured with him. She talks about him constantly, she thinks about him constantly and (because Miss Ungermeyer has strict rules about not separating from the school group) she lies about being sick to spend time with him. All her scheming and obsession, however, eventually come to naught when she realizes that Paolo isn’t all he’s cracked up to be, despite his good looks, silver tongue, fortune and fame. Indeed, Paolo is carefully contrasted with the loyal, gracious, kind and sacrificial Gordo who consistently looks out for Lizzie even when she neglects their relationship. The point? Faithful friendship is better than flighty romance, especially romance in which one compromises morality.
Lizzie’s struggles with her self-worth end up exuding positive lessons as well. “Lizzie is a cool girl, but she is not always popular,” says actress Hilary Duff. “She is kind of awkward and she doesn’t really know who she is. I think people relate to her because maybe they are going through some of that, too.” Well said, Miss Duff. People certainly do relate and that’s why it’s doubly encouraging to see a terror-stricken Lizzie face her fear of public ridicule in order to sing with Paolo in front of thousands. Not only does she refuse to succumb to her insecurities, she succeeds swimmingly during the performance. Impressionable youngsters need to hear—often—that they can overcome their anxieties and be successful in the process. Lizzie delivers that message just fine.
Other laudable moments touch on positively dealing with bullies, cultivating healthy and affectionate relationships between parents and children, seeking to help those who are needy, facing punishment when you’ve done wrong, cultivating humility and repressing selfishness. [Spoiler Warning] Both Lizzie and Gordo are punished for their deceit—Lizzie for lying to spend time with Paolo and Gordo for fibbing to cover up Lizzie’s dishonesty. In the process, a message gets sent that doing wrong things for even right reasons doesn’t excuse one from culpability.
spiritual content: Rejecting Miss Ungermeyer’s assertion that “you’ve got to make your own luck in this world,” Lizzie throws a coin into a 17th century fountain, wishing that her high school career would go smoothly.
sexual content: Although not as noticeable as in other recent PG films (Clockstoppers, What a Girl Wants), immodest, midriff-baring clothes make appearances on Lizzie and other female characters. An American female ogles handsome Italian lads, wishing that one would ask her out. Lizzie and Paolo hold hands. [Spoiler Warning] Lizzie and Gordo’s friendship takes a more serious turn when they briefly kiss at the end of the movie.
violent content: The ungainly Lizzie has a tendency to fall. A lot. While singing to herself in the bathroom, she slips on a rug, tears her shower curtain down and crashes into the tub. She grabs a curtain in an effort to save herself from falling during her graduation but merely succeeds in ripping it off the wall. She trips and sprawls flat while walking down the red carpet with Paolo. A rude classmate smacks another in the head. In order to get into a concert, Miss Ungermeyer pushes a couple of security guards. Large objects sporadically fall on Lizzie’s cartoon alter ego.
crude or profane language: No profanities, but there are around half-a-dozen unfortunate misuses of God’s name. Putdowns such as “trailer trash,” “brown-noser,” “spineless little jellyfish” and “dorkerella” surface, most of them coming from Miss Ungermeyer.
drug and alcohol content: None.
other negative elements: An airport janitor mumbles about having to “mop up some puke.” Miss Ungermeyer asks a doctor if he can treat her boil. When Paolo’s bodyguard tries to stare down Miss Ungermeyer, she smacks her rear and asks, “You want a piece of the Ungermeyer?”
conclusion: If Agent Cody Banks is the ultimate in wish fulfillment for tween boys, then The Lizzie McGuire Movie is its counterpart solution for the other half of the almost-teen population. Part love story, part rollicking European adventure, part benign girl-power treatise, Lizzie has all the ingredients needed to woo 14-year-olds (and their slightly younger siblings). “The tween audience has developed from barely a concept three years ago to a group that delivers in ratings and box office,” says Stan Rogow, producer of the Lizzie television show and movie. Thankfully, the fact that Hilary Duff and Co. follow in the thematic footsteps of What a Girl Wants should help attending families feel more comfortable about filling Hollywood’s coffers. Positive takes on friendship, loyalty, parental love, honesty and the need to overcome fear get lots of screen time. The downsides differ only slightly from those seen on TV: occasionally immodest dress, plot points that skew a bit too mature for those “younger siblings,” loose uses of God’s name and a few harsh putdowns. Lizzie’s not perfect. But she offers mountains of light-hearted fun heavily infused with positive messages young audiences desperately need to hear.