Thoughts on the Role of The Lizzie McGuire Movie As It Regards to the Story Arc of the Series as a Whole
Let me start off by saying I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of The Lizzie McGuire Movie. (But, let's face it, I had pretty low expectations for it. I mean, I know I got all excited about it and told everyone I was going to dress up as a character and see the first showing, and I know I did put on my most Miranda-ish outfit and went with my colleague Alison in her most Lizzie-ish outfit and we did go to the first showing at our local theatre on the first day it came out, but I didn't really expect to be any good. Making a movie out of a show is a tricky business, and--knowing it was going to be about Lizzie impersonating a rock star in Rome--I was prepared for it to be totally assinine. And yes, it was about Lizzie impersonating a rock star in Rome, but it was okay!) I think what saved it is that the writing was of a higher calibre than the writing on the show was. They either had different writers, or they put more time and effort into constructing and editing it than usual, or both. I mean, there was subtlety! Sort of. Well, I mean, there wasn't as much appalling lack of subtlety as is usually found in the Lizzie McGuire universe.
So, as a movie, the film may not have had the most solid of plots, but as a long episode of the show it was surprisingly good. It even had moments that were almost genuinely funny!
And while the storyline was unrealistic, it was at least coherent, and I have no problem with the movie being less realistic than the show. Though, truth be told, the show isn't that realistic a lot of the time. The movie was unrealistic in a different way; the show tends to have normal general plots with crazy details (like Lizzie & co. performing Mission Impossible moves in a plot to steal Kate's yearbook data cd), the movie had a crazy plot with generally reasonable details (Lizzie playing sick in order to sneak out with a rock star and learn how to impersonate another rock star at an awards show).
Some of the elements of the movie--e.g., the plot--had little if nothing to do with the rest of Lizzie McGuire. The setting was different from usual since Lizzie and several other students from the school were on a trip to Rome (the trip had something to do with the high school they were going to, but it wasn't made really clear what the specifics were).
As in life, people they met and things they did on the trip didn't have much to do with their lives at home and wouldn't make much of a difference, except in the case of personal qualities gained or interpersonal relationships forged among other people on the same trip. These aspects, then, are the most interesting to people who have a stake in the characters' futures--aka, the fans. Even though the show is over and Disney is contractually limited from making any more episodes of the show (apparently no original Disney series can last for more than 65 episodes; I made my peace with this long ago, but rest assured I was incensed when I found out), we as fans still want to gather as much information as possible about what is likely to happen to our protagonists in the fictional future that is set up for them.
That is why I have decided, instead of a traditional review, to give special consideration to these aspects of the movie in this article. They were the ones I paid the most attention to and the ones I think are more interesting to consider. Please do not read further unless you have seen the movie or plan not to, as it may give away SPOILERS.
A Quick Note About the Timeline
Even though more new episodes were released later, I'm working off of "Bye, Bye, Hillridge Junior High" as a final episode, and I will refer to it as such. The "new" episodes that were released after that were both filmed and must have taken place beforehand, as they were still in middle school. "Bye, Bye (&c. &c.)" is the episode where Lizzie and Gordo spend their final days in junior high, which is leads nicely right into the movie, which opens with graduation and continues the summer before high school. In that episode, Miranda is also said to be in Mexico City with her parents, which jibes nicely with the explanation given in the movie. Which brings me to my first major point...
Miranda's Vanishing Act
Miranda, Lizzie's best girl friend and a major character on the show, was not in the movie, just as she was not in the last few episodes of the show. On the show, they have explained her absence in a different way each episode; sometimes she's sick, sometimes she's vacationing with her parents. The movie choosed the latter route, as Lizzie mentions that she is in Mexico City.
One of the major issues addressed by the movie is Lizzie's confidence. Both in the movie and in the show Lizzie is troubled by bouts of extreme klutziness, which, coupled with verbal torment from the "popular girl", Kate Sanders, serve to give her reason to doubt herself. This lack of confidence is the one obstacle that will forever keep her from the coolness she seeks. And in a way, isn't it the very pursuit of cool that makes it so elusive?
So, as we know from the show, Gordo is in love with Lizzie. Oh, Gordo, Gordo, Gordo. Why? We thought you were smart! Also, what is up with your hair? ....Oh well.
Kate is perhaps the person that is most changed by her experience in Rome. Her storyline, in the show, involved her gradual reformation from evil bitch to less evil bitch. She apparently used to be friends with Lizzie before becoming "popular" in middle school, whereupon she began to take every opportunity to distance herself from her "dorky" past by making fun of those who occupied it (namely, Lizzie, Miranda and Gordo). Occasionally, she and Lizzie would be forced to work together, and she would show her softer side (notable episodes: "Lizzie and Kate's Big Adventure"; "The Rise and Fall of Kate"; "Party Over Here"). For the most part, though, any lesson she learned or closeness she felt to Lizzie was forgotten in time for the next episode.
Ethan is... Ethan
My colleague informed me, as we were discussing the movie prior to seeing it, that she had heard that Ethan was to show a smarter side in the movie. While this turned out not to be strictly true--he was as academically and practically vapid as ever--Ethan showed in the film that he was interpersonally fairly wise. Without overthinking any of his actions, Ethan was able several times to say or do "just the right thing" emotionally for his classmates. He clued Gordo into his crush on Lizzie (which he had apparently forgotten about or decided to repress for awhile), and of course he had a big role in, if not reforming Kate, at least making sure her reformation was postively reinforced.
Matt and Malina
Matt seemed more cowed than ever by Malina, who is also becoming increasingly insane. She is no longer pleased with small-time pranks; she now wants to put her and Matt's blackmail and con artist skills to use for cash. I think that shows personal growth on her part. Matt is just willing to do whatever she says. This spells trouble in their future. I approve.
The parents don't have much of an arc. The only real plot they had was that Lizzie's mom was sad that she was growing up too fast, and had some trouble letting her go (to Rome and in general). This was not really resolved, but is it ever?
Another Note About the Timeline
If my sources are correct there are still a small number of episodes of the show yet to be released, but that these episodes take place before the life-changing events of the final episode and the movie. We will not get to see how things Turn Out between Lizzie and Gordo, nor will we see a return of Miranda, or how Lizzie fares in high school, or any of that. I don't really mind this; the movie was fairly climactic and provided a suitable ending for the series, and even though it would be nice to see how the kids do at (presumably) Hillridge High, I realize that this is a middle school show and that they're not allowed to make more episodes and that the actors are kids (except the parents and the teachers, and Gordo) and probably deserve to do something else with their lives now.
Ah well. Tune in next time, and maybe I'll tell you about my notebook.