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Reviewer pits 'What a Girl Wants' against 'Lizzie McGuire'

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

By Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

"What a Girl Wants" and "The Lizzie McGuire Movie" aren't exactly crosstown (or cross-cinema) rivals. While young filmgoers may prefer Amanda Bynes to Hilary Duff, or vice versa, they can easily see both comedies, which have much in common: teen stars emerging from popular TV shows, European backdrops and moments cute and klutzy.

Released a month apart, just how do they stack up?


"What a Girl Wants": Daphne Reynolds is a 17-year-old who graduates from high school and sneaks away to London to meet the father who doesn't know she exists. Dad is Lord Dashwood, an uppercrust British politician with a conniving fiancee.

"The Lizzie McGuire Movie": Lizzie McGuire is a 15-year-old who graduates from junior high and takes off for Rome on a class trip. She is mistaken for a dark-haired pop star named Isabella and falls for her doppelganger's singing partner, Paolo.

Edge goes to: "What a Girl Wants."


"What a Girl Wants": Nickelodeon viewers know Amanda Bynes, who recently turned 17, from "All That" (which earned her a CableAce Award nomination) and "The Amanda Show." She stars on The WB's "What I Like About You" and has appeared on "Figure It Out" and "Rug- rats," as the voice of Taffy. Bynes also played opposite Frankie Muniz in "Big Fat Liar."

"The Lizzie McGuire Movie": Disney Channel viewers know Hilary Duff, who will be 16 in September, from "Lizzie McGuire." Last year, she starred in "Cadet Kelly," Disney Channel's highest-rated original movie. She also played opposite Frankie Muniz in "Agent Cody Banks."

Edge goes to: It's a draw. Bynes is the better actress, but Duff's got the movie momentum, which could include a "Lizzie" movie sequel.


"What a Girl Wants": Oliver James makes his movie debut as aspiring musician and hotel desk clerk Ian, who falls for Daphne. He's handsome, talented, tools around on a motorcycle and is smart enough to ask the American, "Why fit in when you were born to stand out?" He also has a couple of tunes on the soundtrack.

"The Lizzie McGuire Movie": Yani Gellman (Disney Channel's "Tru Confessions," "The Matthew Shepard Story," "Jason X") plays pop star and Italian lothario Paolo. He's handsome, talented, tools around town on a motorcycle, but may really be spoiled and shrewd.

Edge goes to: James from "What a Girl Wants."


"What a Girl Wants": Daphne's parents, a bohemian New York City singer and high-profile British politician, are played by Kelly Preston and Colin Firth. Supporting cast includes Jonathan Pryce as a duplicitous political adviser.

"The Lizzie McGuire Movie": Robert Carradine is Lizzie's hapless dad -- shown working on a garden gnome -- and Hallie Todd is her overprotective mother. Adult with the most screen time is Alex Borstein as Miss Ungermeyer, class chaperone.

Edge goes to: "What a Girl Wants." It's Colin Firth, for heaven's sake, and it's easier (for adults) to watch than the labored "Lizzie."


"What a Girl Wants": This was loosely inspired by the 1958 romantic comedy "The Reluctant Debutante" starring Sandra Dee. Also calls to mind "Cinderella."

"The Lizzie McGuire Movie": Hallie Todd hits the nail on the head: "This movie reminds me of a 'Gidget' movie -- a sweet, young girl gets mixed up in crazy situations that always have a happy ending." In fact, there was a 1963 "Gidget Goes to Rome" movie starring Cindy Carol, James Darren and Cesare Danova as an Italian charmer also named Paolo.

Edge goes to: Since so few people remember "The Reluctant Debutante," edge goes to "Lizzie," especially since perky predecessor Gidget is in reruns on TV Land.


"What a Girl Wants": When Daphne accidentally finds herself on a fashion-show runway, she does the catwalk strut -- until she trips and tumbles. Later, in a bit of fashion sabotage, Daphne is given an unflattering, fussy dress to wear to a formal party, but she transforms the icy blue gown into a one-shoulder dazzler. She also gets a ball gown for her coming-out party and models kicky outfits while shopping with her dad.

"The Lizzie McGuire Movie": Masquerading as Isabella, Lizzie shops for a designer dress. She goes to a diva specializing in outrageous outfits, including a hat fashioned out of a magazine, a dress accessorized with an illuminated rope and a Marie Antoinette-style wig.

Edge goes to: "What a Girl Wants."


"What a Girl Wants": Edgier, with songs by The Clash ("London Calling") and The Donnas ("Who Invited You") plus the fun oldie "Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo" and a couple of songs from male romantic lead Oliver James.

"The Lizzie McGuire Movie": Dean Martin's song "On an Evening in Rome" is trotted out, but this soundtrack skews young, with Hilary Duff contributing "Why Not" and Vitamin C giving "Volare" an updated spin.

Edge goes to: "What a Girl Wants."


"What a Girl Wants": Lookalikes for Prince Charles; his sons, William and Harry; and his Queen Mum pop up.

"The Lizzie McGuire Movie": Hilary Duff does Patty Duke one better. Instead of playing identical cousins, she portrays identical strangers, one blonde, one brunette. Genetic odds, anyone?

Edge goes to: "Lizzie McGuire."


"What a Girl Wants": Opened in second place with $12 million, behind No. 1 picture "Phone Booth."

"The Lizzie McGuire Movie": Opened in second place with $17 million, behind No. 1 picture "X2: X-Men United."

Edge: "Lizzie McGuire."


"What a Girl Wants": "It's cute, lightweight, predictable fun for tweens and teens and their carpooling parents looking for a little comic escape from the real world. As a bonus, you get a lesson about how important it is to know and be yourself. ... It scores points for using The Clash song 'London Calling' and capitalizing on the fresh-scrubbed charm of Nickelodeon's Bynes."

"The Lizzie McGuire Movie": "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. ... Duff also needs a little work on the rare dramatic moments."

Edge: "What a Girl Wants."

Barbara Vancheri can be reached at bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632.

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