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"Lizzie McGuire" Box Set Volume 1 DVD Review

Buy Lizzie McGuire: Box Set Volume 1 from Amazon.com Lizzie McGuire: Volume One (2001)
Show & DVD Details

Regular Directors: Neal Israel, Mark Rosman, Brian Roberts, Savage Steve Holland, Steve De Jarnett

Regular Cast: Hilary Duff (Lizzie McGuire), Lalaine (Miranda Sanchez), Adam Lamberg (David "Gordo" Gordon), Jake Thomas (Matt McGuire), Hallie Todd (Jo McGuire), Robert Carradine (Sam McGuire)

Recurring Characters: Ashlie Brillault (Kate Sanders), Clayton Snyder (Ethan Craft), Kyle J. Downes (Larry Tudgeman), Christian Copelin (Lanny), Craig Anton (Mr. Pettus), Daniel Escobar (Mr. Escobar), Dot-Marie Jones (Coach Kelly), Arvie Lowe Jr. (Mr. Dig), Byron Fox (Danny Kessler), Chelsea J. Wilson (Parker), Davida Williams (Claire Miller)

Notable Guest Stars: Diana C. Weng (Mrs. Shen), Sean Hogan (Stan Jensen), David Carradine (Himself), Orlando Brown (Travis Elliot), Aaron Carter (Himself)

Running Time: 496 Minutes (22 episodes) / Rating: TV-G
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio) / Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: November 23, 2004
Volume 1 Airdates: January 12, 2001 - October 5, 2001
Four single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9); Suggested Retail Price: $49.99
Two white dual amaray keepcases in a cardboard box

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Page 1: Show Discussion, Disc 1, and Disc 2
Page 2: Disc 3, Video/Audio, Bonus Features, Menus & Packaging, and Closing Thoughts

A star () denotes my ten favorite episodes from this set.

Kate and Larry Tudgeman make an unlikely couple in "I Do, I Don't." The gang shows off their Halloween wear in "Night of the Day of the Dead." Miranda and Gordo in "Obsession."

Disc 3

12. Come Fly With Me (22:31) (Originally aired June 1, 2001)
Ethan Craft, the homeboy that Lizzie thinks is hot, gives a listen to the new Rat Pack CD that Lizzie got for Gordo and likes what he hears. As a result, Lizzie and Miranda change their stance and entirely embrace the culture they used to make fun of Gordo for liking.
To Gordo's dismay, his Rat Pack clothes and phrases catch on, becoming a fad around school and the theme for the next dance. Lizzie and Miranda are considered trendsetters; Kate and company seek their expertise in planning the dance. Always the individual, Gordo takes up model airplanes as his new hobby. At home, Matt's silent best friend Lanny is introduced, and the two of them try their hardest to set a world record.

13. Random Acts of Miranda (22:34) (Originally aired June 8, 2001)
Lizzie grapples with a journalist's ethical dilemma when she covers the school play for the newspaper. Miranda flops in the lead role and she gets mad at Lizzie for writing a very negative review of the performance. Seeking redemption, Miranda joins the glee club and performs Mulan's "Reflection" on stage. Matt and Lanny sell their stuff to raise money for a walkie talkie set.

14. Lizzie's Nightmare (22:31) (Originally aired June 22, 2001)
Lizzie is very excited about getting to sit with Ethan Craft for lunch. Unfortunately for her, Matt who has wandered onto the wrong bus, winds up in Lizzie's junior high, where he gains everyone's approval (including Ethan) and continues to cause trouble for her. Meanwhile, Mr. and Mrs. McGuire are distressed to learn that Matt didn't show up at his school.

15. Night of the Day of the Dead (22:31) (Originally aired October 5, 2001)
"Lizzie McGuire" does a Halloween episode, in the tradition of scary sitcom shows for the autumn holiday. For the school's Halloween Fright Night, Miranda brings in skeletons which represent her ancestors, part of her family's celebration of the Mexican Halloween, El Día De Los Muertos (The Day of the Dead). Are the skulls really wreaking havoc on the costume-wearing student body, or are the silly shenanigans simply an effort to teach Kate? Guess. Back at home, a too-old-to-be-trick-or-treating punk picks on Mr. and Mrs. McGuire.

16. Obsession (22:31) (Originally aired June 29, 2001)
After their food drive is a success, Lizzie and Miranda come up with an ambitious recycling project and Lizzie won't stop there. She keeps taking on more activities to help the less fortunate and save the Earth. She even declares herself a vegetarian, while Miranda is growing fed up. Meanwhile, Matt enjoys his newfound power as hall monitor a little too much and Gordo is losing sleep over competing against Larry Tudgeman in the Science Olympics.

Gordo, Matt, Lizzie, and Miranda want to come get some Aaron Carter. Stuck on you. Matt and Lizzie spend a day chained together. It's Mattman and the Incredible Oscar!

Disc 4

17. Lizzie Strikes Out (22:31) (Originally aired August 31, 2001)
Lizzie and Miranda are really looking forward to going bowling with Ethan Craft and company this Friday night. Gordo, on the other hand, tries to face his fear of bowling by reading "The Dude Strikes Out" by Jeff Lebowski and getting encouragement from Miranda. Meanwhile, a misunderstanding has Lizzie in a quandary over whether to go with her friends or go on a "daddy/daughter dinner date" with her father, who is making every effort to sound cool and spend time with her. Matt and Lanny work out to stand up against a bully. Though its setup is obvious, it's a pretty entertaining episode. It also introduces Mr. Dig (Arvie Lowe Jr., of Newsies), a thrill-seeking teacher.

18. Here Comes Aaron Carter (22:31) (Originally aired March 23, 2001)
Aaron Carter is coming to town to shoot a Christmas music video. Lizzie and the gang try to crash the set, with Matt tagging along because he can help. Lizzie hopes to get an interview for the school webzine, while Gordo brings his camera along to make a behind-the-scenes documentary. A hefty security guard becomes their obstacle to getting access to Aaron. Meanwhile, Mr. McGuire got set passes the night before.

19. Sibling Bonds (22:31) (Originally aired August 3, 2001)
Matt keeps bothering Lizzie with his magic tricks, resulting in a lot of sibling bickering. When Matt handcuffs himself to Lizzie and can't find the key, the two are stuck next to each other, much to their dismay. Mrs. McGuire finds the key but keeps it hidden until the kids can get along. Lizzie attends her charity drive attached to Matt, while Mr. McGuire enjoys some time home alone.

20. Gordo and the Girl (22:31) (Originally aired August 17, 2001)
Lizzie and Miranda are shocked to catch Gordo on a date with Brooke Baker (guest star Kyla Pratt), both because Gordo may have a girlfriend and he hasn't mentioned anything to them. Turns out they're right about both, and Gordo's smug attitude and lies are the result of him wanting to keep the relationship private. Looking out for their friend, who they think surely is being used by Brooke, Lizzie and Miranda can't bear to give Gordo space, instead opting to secretly keep tabs on him. After a math lesson from his father, Matt starts to gamble with his classmates.

21. Rated Aargh! (22:31) (Originally aired August 10, 2001)
Lizzie, Miranda, and Gordo want to go see Vesuvius: The Eruption, the latest R-rated Ben Affleck film. Lizzie's parents won't allow it, so the trio says they're playing mini-golf, and really sneaks into the theater. While there, Lizzie saves a man choking on a sourball...which puts her and inadvertently their act on the news. Matt tries out a velcro wall that Mom and Dad build for his carnival.

22. Educating Ethan (22:30) (Originally aired August 24, 2001)
Gordo needs to raise money to buy a new stereo system and Lizzie comes up with the idea that he should tutor students in math. Lizzie and Miranda try to make use of Gordo's role to get close to Ethan, but Gordo just gets irritated and brushes them off. Turns out Ethan would rather get tutored by Lizzie. Matt and his friend Oscar try to conquer boredom by becoming superheroes and helping people, only it doesn't turn out like that.

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Gordo, Lizzie, and Miranda on camera for documentary filmmaker Stan Jensen. Toon Lizzie shows how Lizzie intends to make up for her guilt at sneaking into a movie.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Presented in its original broadcast ratio (1.33:1 fullscreen), "Lizzie McGuire" mostly looks very good. There's adequate sharpness, colors are accurate, and no noticeable video flaws to detract from this presentation. The biggest problem is that sometimes, grain seems a bit excessive. This occurred with a somewhat surprising frequency, but I suspect this is the way the show appeared on television, and this transfer still looks better than broadcast quality. Production values on this show are several notches above the low-quality digital video of the Disney Channel's "That's So Raven" (though low-budget photography is occasionally for succinct memory clips) - and that comes through in this pleasing video transfer.

The audio presentation (Dolby Digital 5.1) merits no complaints. It's not surprising that such a recent show is free of problem in this digital form. Surround speakers are used to reinforce the show's rampant use of music. There isn't much channel-separation; dialogue (crisp and faithful) sticks to the center channel and the rest of the sound appropriately occupies the other speakers. There's not much else to note, except for the fact that there's no laugh track on this series. So, of course, the audio mostly stays in the front, and that's sufficient.

Teen Attitude: the magazine-like Bonus Features menu on Disc 4. Ashlie Brillault gets a makeover in "Makeup and Hair Secrets of the Stars." Then she tries on clothes in an effort to "Get the Lizzie Look."

BONUS FEATURES

For this boxset, Disney has thoughtfully put together some bonus features featuring the cast of the show. Unfortunately, Hilary Duff (Lizzie), Adam Lamberg (Gordo), and the McGuire parents are nowhere to be found,
leaving us with two regular and two recurring supporting cast members to reflect on the show. As it was this series that launched Hilary Duff into the public eye (a role which both she and Disney have readily embraced), her lack of participation on this DVD is disappointing. Of course, Duff is busy making movies, making news, and asserting her ability to rock on tour as a pop singer along with her sister. Still, it seems as if she has already forgotten her breakout role and her absence among the bonus material is noticeable.

But let's put that aside and focus on who and what is here. The first and most significant (length-wise) bonus feature: three episode audio commentaries. A trio of cast members--Lalaine (Miranda), Clayton Snyder (Ethan Craft), and Ashlie Brillault (Lizzie's nemesis Kate)--have selected their favorite shows, and Jake Thomas (who played Lizzie's rambunctious younger brother Matt) joins them for the discussions.

These episodes are "I Do, I Don't" (Disc 2, selected by Snyder), "Night of the Day of the Dead" (Disc 3, selected by Brillault, who is ubiquitous among the bonus material) and "Rated Aargh!" (Disc 4, selected by Lalaine). The commentaries are a bit on the immature side, but the cast's enthusiasm and upbeat nature makes them pretty easy to listen to. It never gets more crass than burping and a discussion of vomit. Certainly, like the other bonus features, the commentaries won't shed much light on the show (there's a lot of laughter and reciting of lines), but they offer additional entertainment and you'll learn about the numerous props from the show that Jake Thomas has accumulated.

Ashlie Brillault, Jake Thomas, Clayton Snyder, and Lalaine reflect on their experiences in "The Cast Dishes the Dirt." No more spikes for Matt McGuire (Jake Thomas). Clayton Snyder and Lalaine in the bonus featurette.

Designed like a magazine, the "Teen Attitude" menu on Disc 4 houses the remaining three bonus features.

"Makeup and Hair Secrets of the Stars" (4:12) follows actress Ashlie Brillault (who plays the catty Kate) into a Hollywood salon. It's a pretty revealing featurette; before she's made up, Brillault looks quite different from the way she does on the show (then again, filming wrapped well over 2 years ago). Of course, the somewhat dangerous implication is that young teenage girls need to go through such a process to look 'cool' like Ashlie Brillault. But maybe it's silly to search for social messages in such a knowingly fluff extra.

"Get the Lizzie Look" (5:40) reunites the show's costume designer Cathryn Wagner with Brillault as they go shopping at Jami Lyn. The duo talk about the kind of clothes that the show's characters would wear, but it's basically another entertaining fluff piece rather than a valuable bonus to provide insight for fans.

"The Cast Dishes the Dirt" (5:52) shows the four actors who contributed to the audio commentaries: Ashlie Brillault, Lalaine, Clayton Snyder, and Jake Thomas. It's interesting to see how the cast has grown in the two years since "Lizzie" stopped filming. (Little Matt McGuire isn't so little anymore!) While it's brief (and surely has been heavily trimmed from what appears to be a lot of footage), the featurette allows the actors to recall getting cast, their characters, and the success of the show. Clips from the show are interspersed with the reflections. As such, it's an enjoyable piece and the most substantial video supplement.

Sneak Peeks at the start of Disc 1 are for "That's So Raven" Supernaturally Stylish, "Kim Possible" The Villain Files, and "Boy Meets World" The Complete Second Season. The Sneak Peeks menu adds promos for "Felicity" Season 3, "Popular" Season One, and the Hilary Duff: The Girl Can Rock concert DVD.

A still from Disc 1's animated Main Menu. The box and two keepcases that fit inside.

PACKAGING, MENUS, and DESIGN

The Lizzie McGuire Volume One Box Set houses two standard sized keepcases in a cardboard box. Each white keepcase holds two discs
and has its own artwork and catalogue numbers. There are no full-sized inserts; the episode information is found on the back of the keepcases.

Unfortunately, there are no chapter selections within episodes, which makes accessing specific scenes a bit of a challenge. On the upside, each DVD offers a "Play All" option which will run through the 5 or 6 episodes without break for just under or just over 2 hours of "Lizzie."

An enclosed booklet includes coupons for Hilary Duff: The Girl Can Rock, Lizzie McGuire CDs, December's Kim Possible and That's So Raven DVDs, and In Search of Santa, the new Miramax computer animated film featuring the voice of Hilary Duff and her sister Haylie. There's also a rebate form which will get you $10 if you send in receipts and proofs-of-purchases on this and one of the three other new TV boxsets: Boy Meets World: Season Two, Home Improvement: Season One, or The Golden Girls: Season One. Ads promote Lizzie McGuire Cine-Mangas and upcoming DVDs including Mulan II and Where the Red Fern Grows.

The 4x3 menus emulate the opening credits, by using the theme song and similar backgrounds, as it cycles through pictures of Lizzie in front of a moving collection of cast pictures. Each disc uses the same photos, but with a different color scheme.

Gordo, Lizzie, and Miranda go to the three-way call, a tactic they often employ. Lizzie and her friends experience "Misadventures in Babysitting."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

As the cast mentions in the retrospective featurette, "Lizzie McGuire" had wider appeal than the creators could have foreseen. While the show is clearly speaking to adolescents who are trying to cope with the struggles of junior high life in and out of school, it possesses a magnetic quality which draws in people far from that demographic (whether younger, or much older) and entertains them too. The show's success would seem to ultimately inhibit its creative strengths, but most of these first 22 episodes from 2001, while replete with pop culture references and a glossy look, retain a sincerity that steers clear of a "manufactured hit."

No, "Lizzie McGuire" wasn't a manufactured success in the way that some recent Disney Channel projects would appear to be ("Kim Possible" and "That's So Raven", for instance), but rather a clever, comedic show that caught on like wildfire. While it's not sure-to-please entertainment, people who have avoided "Lizzie" assuming that it's strictly fare for adolescent girls may be pleasantly surprised. It's funny more often than it's not, and its unique take on junior high life merits a look.

With this Volume 1 box set, Disney treats the origin and most significant part of its "Lizzie McGuire" franchise with the respect it deserves. This 4-disc set vastly improves upon the random episode compilations that have been released over the past year, by providing a comprehensive collection of episodes in chronological order. Hopefully this will lead to a similar DVD release for the even-better Disney Channel series "Even Stevens."

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

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The Suite Life of Zack & Cody: Taking Over The Tipton • The Even Stevens Movie
Cadet Kelly • The Lizzie McGuire Movie • Leroy & Stitch • Cow Belles
High School Musical (Encore Edition) • Twitches • Boy Meets World: The Complete Second Season

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Page 1: Show Discussion, Disc 1, and Disc 2
Page 2: Disc 3, Video/Audio, Bonus Features, Menus & Packaging, and Closing Thoughts

Reviewed November 20, 2004.