Oh, man. This one was rough.
The main reason I picked Lizzie McGuire for this blog is that it was the show that bothered me the most when it was on the air during my actual middle school years. It didn’t have a versatile, talented comedic powerhouse at its center like That’s So Raven or a goofy, over-the-top take on the genre like Even Stevens or an interesting sci-fi premise like Phil of the Future. Everyone has their own opinion, of course, but to me Lizzie McGuire was the least interesting show of the Disney Channel lineup and generally the lowest-quality in terms of acting and writing.
Rewatching it for this blog I’ve been surprised by my feelings. Some of the artistic choices for the show are legitimately really creative. I learned that the look of the show was partially inspired by Run, Lola, Run, which is absolutely mind-boggling to me. The show features fast cuts, cutaway fantasy moments, cartoon interludes, and bizarre sound effects that warp the level of realism, so looking at that now it’s all stylistically more innovative than most kid’s sitcoms. Additionally, there’s occasional funny moments that work well and good acting work from some of the cast.
All that said, I still don’t think this is a good show. The offbeat, artistic visual style does nothing to complement a story about a character whose main defining trait seems to be that she’s unexceptional. It would work better for a show about a character who’s actually creative, alternative, or quirky in some way (like the way the show sort of tries to paint Miranda) but then I guess we’d have Clarissa Explains It All. Instead we’re stuck with this, where the visual work seems to carry it, with much less attention paid to characterization, acting, or writing. Still, my point is the show’s so far been surprising me with some mixed feelings on its quality.
And then we got to this episode! Which unequivocally sucks.
“When Moms Attack” begins with Lizzie packing a bag for what cartoon Lizzie explains is an “overnight science field trip” she’s been looking forward to for “like a year.” Apparently Lizzie is really pumped about the opportunity to be away from her dumb parents.
I’m not really sure why, as her parents aren’t that bad. So often this show seems to take a general idea about puberty – “you start finding your parents really annoying and embarrassing!” – and blows it out of proportion so that all of the characters seem overdramatic and oversensitive.
However, Lizzie’s conflict with her mom is gonna be a central theme today, so the writers decide to amp up the parental annoyance factor just for this episode. Lizzie’s mom is so incredibly dorky that at one point she slips into a Midwestern accent. She neurotically giggles, awkwardly interjects herself into a phone conversation with Gordo and Miranda, and actually says as obnoxiously as possible that she’s still a cool mom. It’s a completely different performance than any other episode. They had to have the actress change her performance to justify lazy writing!
At school, Lizzie waits with her biffles to leave for the trip and Kate comes over to antagonize her for no reason because that’s Kate’s entire purpose. She asks if Lizzie packed her stuffed pig Mr. Snuggles and says that Lizzie once left Mr. Snuggles at home during a sleepover and couldn’t sleep. This is a weird moment, because it raises the question of why Lizzie and Kate used to have sleepovers together. Did they used to be friends? (Spoiler: yes, we just still haven’t gotten to the pilot yet). It’s also strange because Kate isn’t revealing this embarrassing information to anyone but Lizzie and her close friends. This would be a good bit of bullying if she yelled it in front of the assembled students and Lizzie got embarrassed, but instead she walks over to where Lizzie, Gordo and Miranda are seated, away from everyone else, and brings it up. The only other person present is a sidekick Kate has for just this moment and never any other time. There’s some truly amazing acting work from the sidekick, who has no lines and so decides to make different faces on every single thing Kate says. She’s really chewing the scenery.
Anyway, I’ve said it before: Kate sucks as a bully. In this scene she says “Whatever” as a retort twice, which seems to be a placeholder the writers put in whenever they can’t think of a legitimately mean comeback in a Kate showdown. Sidenote: Kate is wearing an absurd full-camo outfit (her first of two in this episode!), but at least she dressed for camping, which no one else did.
Gordo films the whole sort-of-bullying and interviews his classmates because he has a camera this episode for some reason. He even interviews stupid Danny Kessler, who’s no Ethan Craft, and also Ethan Craft, who’s not quite Ethan Craft yet either. His character is currently a wannabe gangster. His only line in this episode is “Get that camera outta my grill, dog.”
Anyway, a chaperone dropped out and guess who they got to fill in, you already know, it’s Mrs. McGuire. She’s obnoxious and Lizzie is embarrassed. But hey, in this episode we finally get to see a teacher at this school! That’s a first. And he’s played by Craig Anton, aka Phil Diffy’s dad! Lloyd Diffy! I wish I were recapping Phil of the Future instead!
Ugh, from this point on I don’t even want to discuss the dumb episode because it keeps getting worse and worse.
At home it’s just Matt and Mr. McGuire. You know how I feel about Matt plotlines. Matt marches around banging his chest and chanting “Men! Men! Men! Men!” and it’s as horrible as it sounds, and then they realize they’ll have NO WAY OF EATING because Mrs. McGuire isn’t there to cook dinner! Matt keeps screaming “We’re gonna starve!” and at one point totally breaks character and starts smiling during this. Fuck Matt! The whole rest of the episode is them trying and failing to cook because men are dumb-dumbs who don’t belong in the kitchen. Spoiler: guess how it ends, that’s right, they order a pizza.
At the campsite, Mrs. McGuire remains embarrassing and dorky and Kate keeps mocking Lizzie for it. Cartoon Lizzie says about five times that her mom is murdering her social life and Lizzie makes this face a lot, which is a Hilary Duff specialty:
This goes on for a while and then the boys on the trip decide to attack the girls with water guns. The girls freak the fuck out like they’re being actually shot. Lizzie screams, “HOW COULD YOU DO THAT! GORDO! GORDO!” which I’m only pointing out because the dialogue is seriously Wiseau-level garbage on this show sometimes.
The girls want to get back at the boys, so they decide to put earthworms in their beds. Mrs. McGuire forbids them from doing that because she’s a big lame square, but then she justifies it by saying “Besides, boys like worms” which is a straight-up batshit use of gender norms. I don’t think anyone likes worms in their beds. However, Mrs. McGuire, for literally no reason, decides to enthusiastically endorse their next prank, TP-ing the boy’s entire tent. She even tags along and helps them do it. The girls flee right before the teacher comes in to bust them, but he sees Mrs. McGuire so she takes the rap for all the girls. Lizzie decides her mom is “the coolest mom in the world.”
That’s it, that’s basically the entire episode. It felt short because basically nothing happened. Everything that did happen was pretty obnoxious or poorly-done. There’s a lot of filler montages with alt-rock music (a favorite device of the show) to show the class camping and the stupid idiot McGuire men cooking. No one on the entire field trip has any lines but the three main characters and Mrs. McGuire, the teacher, and Kate, so there are big groups of extras always sitting around watching silently as everything happens. There are no funny moments. We had to see Matt’s dumb face and Kate’s horrendous acting a lot. Mrs. McGuire was so dorky it was painful to watch. It was just put together really badly from start to finish. This episode was terrible and I’m learning to trust my initial instincts on this stupid show.
However! There was a great moment in the bloopers where Hilary Duff actually throws earthworms on the actress who plays Kate!
Damn, girl! Show a fake-ass bully how it’s done!