FULL DISCLOSURE: A 6 pack of brewskies enhanced this viewing experience.

IN A WORLD where nothing is more important than What a Girl Wants, one girl will go all the way to Italy to find love – and stardom!

Lizzie McGuire (Hilary Duff) is your average 16 year old, adorable but clumsy, fun but not particularly popular… When we catch up with her she’s just screwed up the junior high school graduation, and she’s more than happy to leave the country. With a group of her peers and a pain-in-the-ass chaperon (Mad TV’s Alex Borstein), Lizzie is going to spend two weeks in the “Eternal City” of Rome. She makes a pact with her best friend Gordo (Adam Lamberg) that they will find adventure during this trip: “This is our chance to start over. I mean, do anything that we want to do.” She wants adventure, and adventure she shall get! Turns out that Lizzie looks exactly like Isabella (Duff again), Italy’s biggest pop star. Thus she’s enraptured by Paolo (Yani Gellman), Isabella’s ex-boyfriend and singing partner. So it’s “Goodbye, Lizzie McGuire. Hello, fabulous!” Our young American protagonist will get to ride through beautiful Rome on the back of a scooter, go on a totally awesome shopping spree and perform in front of thousands of people at the International Music Video Awards!

IN A WORLD where the Olsen twins are multimillionaires, one girl will do anything to become the next teenage cash cow. That girl is Hilary Duff. Before reaching her sweet sixteen, she travelled with the Cechetti Ballet, played in various mini-series and movies and got the title role in the Disney Channel #1 show “Lizzie McGuire”, and now she’s about to release an album. “The Lizzie McGuire Movie” is basically a stepping stone between her TV gig and a potential music career, letting her do both goofy kids stuff and showcase her singing skills… But reducing the film to a marketing tool is cynical and unfair. It’s actually a mighty entertaining, surprisingly well crafted flick!

Director Jim Fall’s use of the 2:35:1 frame is exquisite, the cinematography is as sunny and gorgeous as it gets, Lizzie’s cartoon doppelganger is an inspired narrative gimmick, the musical montages recall the carefree lyricism of early Godard, then you get a genuinely unexpected third act twist that elevates everything that came before into something more ambiguous and complex. This leads to a delightful homage to Singin’ in the Rain’s climactic “lip-synching” scene, which is followed by a near-perfect ending that recalls Billy Wilder’s virtuoso final shots.

Some of the humor is dumb, the supporting characters are underdeveloped and the songs aren’t great profound stuff, but as “driving-around-in-the-car-with-the-top-down, putting-on-your-lip-gloss, loving-life” moviemaking, it’s all good, and when the film reaches for something greater we’re all the more thankful. “This is what dreams are made of.”

THE LIZZIE McGUIRE MOVIE is available from Disney DVD, with such Bonus Features as a Behind-the-scenes tour of the movie hosted by Hilary, Deleted Scenes, Hilary’s hot new music video “Why Not” and an exclusive sneak peek at the making of her new solo album!!!