Film Reviews: Wednesday, May 1, 2003
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Roman Holiday

The charms of Hilary Duff and Lizzie McGuire don’t travel well.

By KRISTIAN LIN

With the release of The Lizzie McGuire Movie this week, the battle is officially on for the title of America’s movie ’tween queen, as Hollywood continues to appeal to the crowd of girls between ages 9 and 14 or thereabouts, who want to see movies about similarly driven (and dressed), slightly older girls. Hilary Duff and the big-screen version of her tv show on the Disney Channel are positioned to challenge Amanda Bynes and last month’s What a Girl Wants. Unfortunately, this badly plotted comedy will only give you a new appreciation of the latter film, flawed as it is.

Duff plays Lizzie McGuire, an ordinary junior high schooler who goes on a trip to Rome with some of her fellow students the summer before she starts high school. When she gets to Italy, she tosses her coin in the Trevi Fountain and immediately meets Paolo (Yani Gellman), one of the country’s biggest pop music stars. Lizzie turns out to bear a marked resemblance to Isabella, Paolo’s former girlfriend and singing partner. No sooner has he met Lizzie and taken her on a tour of Rome on his motor scooter than he’s asking her to impersonate Isabella — who refuses to appear on stage with him any more — to help him fulfill a contractual obligation and present an award.

Lizzie’s supposed to be swept away by Paolo and the sudden rush of being mistaken for a celebrity. The trouble is, there’s no chemistry between the two leads. Gellman really looks the part of an Italian pop star, but the spell is broken as soon as he starts speaking. You have to wonder why the filmmakers went to the trouble of shooting on location in Rome only to undercut the movie’s reality by casting a bunch of American actors with amateurish accents as the locals. Director Jim Fall never settles into a groove, instead experimenting with animated sequences and such. The script throws some funny lines to the trip’s bossy chaperone (Alex Borstein) and Lizzie’s annoying little brother (Jake Thomas). Duff, with her heart-shaped face and bright smile, is shown off to much better advantage here than in Agent Cody Banks. Still, her appeal can’t compensate for the flimsy material.

Amanda Bynes and Hilary Duff probably have two more years to compete for the ’tween audience, but even though they’re the ones who are headlining their own movies, they’re not the class of the field when it comes to Hollywood actresses under 20. The frighteningly assured 15-year-old Evan Rachel Wood and the understated 18-year-old Agnes Bruckner (from the upcoming Blue Car) have more acting chops to go with their star personalities, and seasoned 19-year-old pros like Jena Malone and Scarlett Johansson look to be solid performers in the future. It’s important to remember that these actresses, like their young fans who will never go near a camera, all have a very long way to go, and they’ll continue to persevere after The Lizzie McGuire Movie has receded from memory.


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