Despite my better efforts, there are some huge gaps in my film-watching repertoire. Gaps which, since 90% of my friends are just as film-nerdy as I, I am constantly given sh*t for. Which I super deserve. So now, to shut all of them up, I’ve decided to get to work on catching up on these gaps.
This week, I watch 2003’s “The Lizzie McGuire Movie” and 2000’s “Memento”. I don’t even know anymore, you guys.
THE LIZZIE MCGUIRE MOVIE
Hey, you guys remember when I was reviewing cinematic classics like “The Graduate” or “The Breakfast Club”? I miss those days. Hell, I may have to re-write that opening paragraph because this movie is not what I’d call a “gap” that I needed to fill. If I’d gone my whole life without ever watching the goddamn “Lizzie McGuire” movie, I don’t think I would have suffered significantly.
The film, directed by Jim Fall, served as an epilogue/series finale for the long running Disney Channel Original Series “Lizzie McGuire”. A series which, I should make clear, I have never watched an episode of in my life. Of course, that doesn’t matter. This is a theatrically released movie, and as such you shouldn’t need to watch all 65 episodes of the show to enjoy it. The film follows recent high school graduate Lizzie McGuire as she goes on a post– wait, what? MIDDLE school graduate? NO. There is NO F*CKING WAY she is supposed to be 13 in this movie!! Bull… sh*t. Ok, sorry, the plot follows MIDDLE school graduate Lizzie McGuire as she goes on a graduation trip to Rome (we’ll get to that) along with her class. While there, she meets an Italian teen pop star and discovers that she is a perfect double for said pop star’s singing partner. Lizzie decides to help him by pretending to be her and wacky hijinks ensue.
Let’s talk characters. Disappointingly, for a movie based on a show, I found all the characters annoyingly one note. Lizzie’s little brother Matt (Jake Thomas) is the standard “annoying little brother” archetype, her best friend Gordo (Adam Lamberg) is the “best friend who has a crush on her” and so on and so forth. It’s sad, because I would’ve thought that after two seasons, these characters would have some built-in depth going into this movie. The newly added characters aren’t too much better. Italian pop star Paolo (Yani Gellman) is more a plot point than a character, and his final act humiliation doesn’t feel nearly deserved enough. If he was more hate-able it would be one thing, but he just seems like kind of a jerk, not the ultimate mega-douchebag I think they were going for. The most clearly defined character is high school principal Ms. Ungermeyer, but that’s mostly due to Alex Borstein’s performance. If you don’t recognize that name, think Lois Griffin.
But our main character is supposed to be Ms. Lizzie McGuire herself, as played by Hilary Duff, so what did I think of her? She was, like, fine… I guess. What do you want from me? Lizzie is the blankest of blank slates, designed so that every tween-through-teen girl can see themselves in her. There’s space for a character, but we don’t get one. Lizzie frequently imagines (or hallucinates, it’s really never clear) a cartoon version of herself. Now, this could be used to show a character who’s distractible and creative, but the movie never goes into any of that. Lizzie is “teen girl # 1344321” as far as originality is concerned.
On to the plot. We open on a ridiculously long lip-syncing scene that is actually foreshadowing because why not? After that, we then have some of the worst exposition I’ve ever heard and we discover that Lizzie and company are going on a two week trip to Rome. What?! I went to an expensive, arty middle school and my only post-graduation trip was kayaking on a river that nearly killed me. How the f*ck did they score a trip to goddamn Rome?? Whatever. They go to Rome and Lizzie gets confused for pop star Isabella by Isabella’s partner, Paolo. Paolo tells Lizzie that he needs Lizzie to pretend to be Isabella for a bunch of contrived and confusing reasons. He’s using her for his own villainous means, by the way. I’m sorry, but if that’s a “spoiler”, then you’re probably younger than this film’s target demographic.
Lizzie goes around pretending to be Isabella and no one notices, despite the fact that their voices and accents sound vastly different. Oh, before anyone thinks I detested this movie, which I didn’t, I wanted to say that I got a few laughs out of it. The jokes are passably written, and a few of them are pretty funny. At this point, Lizzie’s family decide to fly all the way to Rome to see Lizzie, because they can’t spend TWO F*CKING WEEKS away from their daughter. Yes, I know Matt manipulated them into it, but that doesn’t matter. They still spend countless thousands of dollars to travel around the world because god forbid Lizzie not be within direct line of sight of them for ten minutes. Gordo finds the real Isabella, who tells him that Paolo is (gasp) using Lizzie!! Lizzie and Isabella publicly humiliate Paolo and then they sing together. That night, Lizzie thanks Gordo for his help and kisses him, presumably paying off 2 seasons of will-they-or-won’t-they tension. End of movie/television show.
Overall thoughts/complaints: One; NONE OF THE HOTEL DOORS LOCK!!! People just barge into each other’s rooms willy-nilly like it’s no big deal. Really bothered me. Two; I found the characters, while one-note, pretty likable. Especially Gordo and Lizzie. They may not have had much to them, but they were endearing enough. Three; This movie’s score needs to shut the hell up. There is not a quiet moment in the entire movie. 30% of this thing is basically a music video and the remaining 70% has constant background music. It goes from distracting to annoying real quick. And four; Guys, this movie was fine. I know it seems like I hated it, but I found it harmless enough. It’s just the kind of movie that’s really easy to pick apart. But as movies go, I’ve seen far, far worse.
Two out of five stars.
And now it’s time for me to piss off all my fellow film nerds and all my fellow comic book fans at the same time with one sentence. Ready? Here goes: I don’t like the work of Chris Nolan. I don’t, I’m sorry. I think he makes technically great movies that I just don’t enjoy. I find his work overly self-serious and joyless. Joyless being the key word. I feel like Christopher Nolan was happy ONCE, and it scared the sh*t out of him and he resolved to never do that again. So, did “Memento” change my overall opinion about Nolan? No. Did I really like this movie? Yes. yes I did.
The film, directed by Chris Nolan, was based on the short story “Memento Mori” by Jonathan Nolan. It follows a man named Leonard (Guy Pearce) with a brain injury causing him short term memory loss as he tries to find the man who killed his wife. Aaaaaaand I’m not sayin’ any more about the plot. Because this is the kind of film I actually could ruin for you. But we’ll get to that later. Anyway, the story is told through two separate narratives, one in color and one in black and white. The two plotlines race towards each other until they meet up towards the end of the film in a pretty damn impressive moment.
The mystery is incredibly well-written and did hold my attention (for the most part) throughout. The twists and turns are easy to follow if you’re paying attention. Definitely deserved that screenplay Oscar, I can tell you that much. Also, this movie does have a small degree of the F-word Nolan fears so much. Not too much, but the tiniest slice of humor goes a long long way in a dark film like this. Leonard’s confused approach to his surroundings allow him to work really well as an audience surrogate. There is not a moment in the film where we don’t know as much or far more about his situation than he does. It’s a pretty interesting way of telling a story.
Guy Pearce does a fantastic job, pulling off lighter moments and darker ones seamlessly. And it’s a good thing he does a good job because this is the kind of movie that lives or dies on its star. Pearce’s internal monologue goes a long way to make his character likeable and the unique visual design he has makes him a memorable character in his own right. Good job, Guy, good goddamn job.
But I do have one major complaint about this movie, and it ties into what I said about being afraid to ruin it for you. If you know the ending to this movie already, there is no point in you ever watching it. If you have already seen it and are reading my review thinking “hey, I should watch that again” I don’t think you need to. Hell, I only had part of the ending kind of spoiled for me and I feel that my enjoyment of the movie suffered irreparably. But it me, this is a puzzle movie. The fun of it was figuring out what was going on, and without that sense of discovery I don’t feel the need to go back to it. Again, I had a fantastic time watching it in the moment, and I look back on that time fondly but I don’t need to return to a puzzle I’ve already solved. This is for much the same reason I don’t go and stare at completed Rubix Cubes. All-in-all, I feel it’s a very well made experience with little re-watchability. (Note: please don’t comment or message me if you totally watch “Memento” every single day and it is totes re-watchable to you. I don’t care. This is MY personal opinion. If you disagree, feel free to write your own review. It’s fun!) So I liked the movie a whole lot. YAAY! I finally can name a Chris Nolan movie I like, can I have my film nerd card back?
Four out of five stars.
That’s it for this week, next week I’ll look at some more movies. Hopefully no more disney channel original ones. I hope.