One of the few times I played hooky in high school was to see The Lizzie McGuire Movie. For some reason, I had this elaborate plan where I had a fake note and a fake call from my mom to get me out of school for a “doctor’s appointment,” all so I could meet my high school crush Rachel McNevin (cough) at the promenade to watch the movie during a school day. She had done the easier thing and just not gone to school. We went into the theatre, both packing candy from the liquor store, and had our lives changed. That movie had EVERYTHING.
Now, I know I’m not unique in this situation. Just a few days later, my friends (who were seniors) got wasted and saw the movie, and had an equally spectacular time. Let me break it down for you why it’s a modern masterpiece…
Let me clarify one thing, the movie is not actually good. It doesn’t deserve an Oscar, and we all know it was meant to be a vehicle for Hilary Duff’s singing career. There may be a drinking game out there for how many times she’s FORCED to sing even though she’s so not a singer. I meeeeeeannn. But Disney didn’t have to hire Alex Borstein to play a campy dictator high school principal guiding the kids on a graduation trip, they didn’t have to make genuine efforts for the plot to make sense enough that we believe some bitch from the Midwest can fake being an Italian superstar… they could have shat out an oversized episode, but they didn’t. They made a perfect pop confection to be adored, laughed at, laughed with, and sung along to.
All one needs to know going in is that Lizzie McGuire is way too young to be in Italy barely supervised, and way too pretty to be the loser underdog who ruined middle school graduation. Also, the entire movie is White Girl Problems. A dreamy pre-Bieber Italian pop star named Paolo Valisari discovers lowly Lizzie on the street, and enlists her to help him out while his musical partner is MIA due to “creative differences.” You see, Lizzie looks like a blonde version of Paolo’s singing partner/ ex-girlfriend, Isabella Parigi. It’s remarkably uncanny. Our protagonist has to learn to sing and dance for some sort of weird Euro VMAs (held in an old coliseum???), go through a bunch of travel and fashion montages (this movie really loves montages), AND pretend she’s sick to cover her adventures up from previously mentioned principal. Thank god her longtime best friend is the world’s biggest monkey wrench and is willing to do anything to help Lizzie. Otherwise, she would have been SO busted.
So, throughout the whole film there’s this tension that another chick who looks like Lizzie exists and may or may not be effing Paolo over. It’s not enough of course that we get to MEET Isabella (HilDuff in a brunette wig and with a ghetto Italian accent), nor is it the biggest deal in the movie that she may not be the talentless hack that Paolo made her out to be, but of course in the third act she and Lizzie sing TOGETHER. In true Euro trash VMA style, there’s back-up dancers, laser lights, and Alex Borstein doing the robot. Disney did the third act right: twists, turns, surprises, and love interests galore. I know you think I’m giving away spoilers, but you have no clue what outfit either of them is wearing during this number, so trust me… you’ve got plenty of surprises waiting for you.
Remember when I said this was a vehicle for Hilary Duff’s music career? There is NOTHING better than watching a fourteen year old magically belt out a song she just learned, whilst matching pitch with her Italian diva doppelgänger. The movie also opens with her “goofily” crooning “The Tide is High” into her hairbrush (she’s just like us!), while her little brother secretly video tapes her. This throwaway #dickmove comes back in the third act… did I mention this movie has an airtight script? With lyrics like “Yesterday my life was duller/ now everything’s technicolor” you can trust that there is not a single wasted moment in this 94 minute gem.
To this day, I still honor Hilary Duff’s greatest achievement in cinema history. Literally ten years later I can still do the Paolo/ Lizzie duet with my friend Lauren (she was one of the drunkard seniors… we’re still pals) without needing to look up the lyrics. When I find my true love, we’ll be watching this movie annually, celebrating the anniversary of when we both realized we loved The Lizzie McGuire Movie over a glass of wine at some cute Silver Lake candlelit restaurant. We’ll even try in vain to watch Raise Your Voice, or Cadet Kelly on Netflix… but it won’t be the same. This, to me, is what dreams are made of.