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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.
          I just wish they had had her move away or something for good. Six episodes and movie are just too many to explain away with something temporary like that. They should have had a touching "she's moving" episode and sent her off in style; it's a slap in the face to the actress, the character and the fans to be so unconcerned about her absence throughout so many important episodes and events. Lizzie and Gordo are planning their future in high school without any thoughts about her. What will she do when she comes back and sees they've gone through this whole crush soap opera thing (see below)?
          I understand that there are things I don't know about behind the scenes that must have demanded her departure from the series, but is a "goodbye Miranda" episode too much to ask? She is a major part of the show, and she deserves it--if only for the sake of show quality and continuity. The whole tone and dynamic is different without her, and it feels so strange to have her be gone without being GONE. I for one would feel better having some closure.

Lizzie's Self-Esteem

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?
          Lizzie's experiences in Rome teach her to trust herself, however, or at least that's what they tell you at the end. She's learned that she can sing and dance and wow a whole crowd alone (an experience that her identical non-cousin somehow knew she could handle?), and from this, it is observed of her at the end of the movie, she's gained poise and that very confidence that she so required. It is this confidence that allows her to finally seal the deal with Gordo at the end of the movie (OH NO I SPOILED IT!)
          This aspect of the movie is especially interesting coming right after "Bye, Bye, Hillridge Junior High" (as I like to imagine it does), since one plotline in that episode was Lizzie's being frightened by the notices that the high schoolers have made warning the incoming frosh not to go in the upperclassmen's areas of the school, look them in the eyes, etc. That problem is not really resolved in that episode (though Lizzie's dad does comfort her and Gordo promises to be around to help her at any and all times in the foreseeable future). However, one is assured, given Lizzie's personal growth in Rome, that she will do "just fine" in high school.

Gordo's Infatuation

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.
          I was sickened when, in the episode "Dear Lizzie", when Gordo writes an anonymous letter to Lizzie's new advice column saying he's a guy who "thinks he may like his best friend as more than just a friend." However, I found Gordo's crush on Lizzie almost bearable in the movie--either because I've had time to get used to it or because it was handled with greater restraint. Not that there was ambiguity as to whether he liked her that way or not--there wasn't--but at least he never came out and talked about it. The crush was set up entirely in looks and reactions and awkwardness. For those who didn't get it from that, Ethan was there to accuse Gordo of being jealous of Lizzie's Italian boy. That was acceptable, because it would have happened even if the crush thing had been portrayed with as much painful explicitness as it is in the show. So there was some refreshing subtlety there.
          I don't understand how they're trying to reconcile this with the show storyline, though. There are definite continuity issues. For example, why did Gordo deny having a crush on Lizzie when he came right out and admitted it--albeit anonymously--in "Dear Lizzie"? In the movie, it didn't seem like he knew he loved Lizzie but didn't want Ethan to know; it was more like he was refusing to admit it to himself. But, he's already admitted it to himself and even put it into words--twice--so what's the problem?
          Also, in "Bye Bye, Hillridge Junior High", Lizzie seemed to express that she felt the same way towards Gordo. She was deeply moved by the lame sentiment he expressed in her yearbook ("You rock. Don't ever change. But only, I really mean it." Jeez.), and in the final school picture she spontaneously kissed him on the cheek. It was left in sort of a cliffhanger, which was nice--do they end up together? Do they not? You decide!
          But in the movie, it as if all this has never happened. They're not dating, Gordo still has an unspoken crush on her and she seems never to have considered him as boyfriend material. Maybe Lizzie's cheek-kiss did not herald in an era of Lizzie and Gordo romance, but it should have at least forced them to at least talk about the issue. And even if Gordo did interpret that as a friendly kiss and even if Lizzie didn't contradict him, you'd think the fact that she has considered him in a romantic way even once would change her behavior in the movie.

          Oh well.

Kate's Reformation

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.
          Kate's reformation in the movie is fairly complete, however. She manages to be unexpectedly nice without it seeming too abrupt and uncharacteristic, and she doesn't lose her snarkiness, which is nice. Yay for the movie.
          One feels that Kate's transformation will be more permanent this time because, at the end of the movie, she is complemented on her actions by Ethan; she finds that being an OK person allows her to relax and have fun with this paragon of cuteness, and she further shows her good-person colors by breaking her carb diet in order to enjoy spaghetti and meatballs with him (OH NO I SPOILED IT AGAIN!) While she and Ethan may not be headed for romance, there seems to be some definite chemisty between them as friends. And maybe--JUST MAYBE!--a new, sweeter, less shallow (but still lovably rude!) Kate can learn to appreciate that.

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.
          Ethan was also very purely nice and fairly funny, so I was inclined to like him a great deal. Ethan has not had much of an arc of his own in the show, but the girls are always trying to get to know him and get him to like them and to want to date them. This arc was resolved neatly with Lizzie's (a) crush on an Italian boy and (b) ending up with Gordo, proving she is over Ethan and allowing him to develop a personality and character of his own (beyond crush-object). For the first time, we really get to know and like him, because we aren't so busy trying to get to know and like him. Isn't that always the way!

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

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.
          Still! It seems utterly lame of them to release new episodes now. Now that I've seen how the series ends, I don't want to see new episodes that take place before the final events of the series. That's not to say that I don't see the value in watching re-runs or episodes you've never seen, even if you know how the season or series ends. But somehow this is worse, because they're "new" episodes, yet they're not. They have no logical place in the series arc. Which begs the question: Why didn't Disney just release them before the movie came out?
          I don't know why Disney does the things it does. If only I were in charge.

          Ah well. Tune in next time, and maybe I'll tell you about my notebook.


- Laura