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'Lizzie McGuire Movie, The'

'Lizzie' is dizzy but cute

Friday, May 02, 2003

By Scott Mervis, Post-Gazette Weekend Editor

Puppies in the shop window. Babies in bonnets. Monkeys on roller skates. Yeah, yeah, they're cute.

But have you seen Hilary Duff?

 
 
'The Lizzie McGuire Movie'

RATING: Rated PG for mild thematic elements.

STARRING: Hilary Duff, Adam Lamberg, Yani Gellman

DIRECTOR: Jim Fall

WEB SITE: disney.go.com/lizzie

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If you have cable and kids in the house, the answer is yes. Duff is the fresh-faced star of the Disney show that goes big screen in "The Lizzie McGuire Movie."

Lizzie is an eighth-grader who could pass for a senior. Even though Duff looks like this decade's answer to Olivia Newton-John, Lizzie doesn't stand out in junior high, except for falling down a lot and being a bit dizzy in front of groups.

At her school graduation, she's called upon to deliver the address when the class president doesn't show up. She was only the secretary, she pleads in one of the movie's funnier lines, "All I did was handle petty cash!" Her speech turns up on "Good Morning America" for all the wrong reasons.

Lizzie's shot at redemption comes by accident on a school trip to Rome, where she's mistaken for one-half of the teen-pop duo Paolo and Isabella. Lizzie is swept off her feet by Paolo, a young Romeo who devises a plan for Lizzie to stand in for Isabella at the IMVAs -- the International Music Video Awards. It seems Paolo (Yani Gellman) is on the outs with Isabella, whom he claims has been lip-syncing all along.

Lizzie's crush is bad news for Gordo (Adam Lamberg), her shaggy sidekick and clearly the people's choice for Lizzie's affections. Gordo treasures Lizzie's friendship enough to help her fake sick and sneak under the radar of Miss Ungermeyer (Alex Borstein).

Ungermeyer, who isn't even on the show, turns out to be the comic foil of the movie. Borstein, from "MAD TV," is a Janeane Garofalo type who rules the school loaded with a headset mike and deadly sarcasm.

Duff -- did we mention she's cute? -- has a likable, non-threatening screen presence. She has competition, though, from her own impersonator in the form of a cartoon Lizzie who flashes on the screen to let you know what she's thinking. While cute, too, it does detract from Duff's own opportunity to play her character. Duff also needs a little work on the rare dramatic moments, like when she learns Gordo's in trouble.

As for the story line, "Lizzie" fans will probably be able to get past the absurdity of it. That a pop star like Paolo would cruise around largely unrecognized with one bodyguard and have absolutely no handlers to prep him for TV appearances is just nutty.

It's a rather drawn-out and only mildly humorous trip -- with tabloid reporters, concerned parents and classmates and sneaky little brothers -- to the climax, but at least it comes with a decent twist, not to mention Duff's good voice.

The one thing there's no suspense about is this: There will be plenty of screen Romeos in Hilary Duff's future.


Scott Mervis can be reached at smervis@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2576.

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