It strikes me that one of the most common elements of teen movies today is escapism. We are to believe that today's typical teens (read: white suburbanites) are generally repressed by those who don't "get it", and that everything would be better if they could just step out of themselves into some other lifestyle.

Having just watched a more serious exploration of such a topic in Blue Car, it's interesting to see the flip side, a comedic, lighter-than-air approach. It brings up the question of whether a serious endeavor is necessarily better than a comedic one. Well, no, but it just so happens that so many comedies simply don't have depth.

As is the case here. The overseas-school-trip scenario (this time to Italy) is populated with such rehashed and predictable ideas of unrequited love, cute but untrustworthy foreigners, the tough-but-wise chaperone, and overcoming fear in front of a large crowd. These pieces are put together in a very obvious manner, without much to offer other than cheap, surfacy entertainment.

But maybe that's what it's supposed to be. From that perspective, we can congratule Hilary Duff (Lizzie) on an energetic, if predictably perky, performance. She is surrounded largely by caricatures, and perhaps cannot escape being one herself, but she is at least having fun. That said, I have a hard time coming up with much else to recommend the film over other of its type.

Perhaps it's the mix of live action with brief bits of animation - ways for us to see what's going on in Lizzie's mind - that's supposed to make the film distinctive. I've never seen these mixed in a way that worked for me. In a way, this is the outlet for Lizzie to escape, letting loose the wry comments and screaming that are kept under control in a so-called civilized society.

I can't speak to the TV show this is based on. If this treatment goes deeper into the characters and relationships of the show, I'm a little scared of actually seeing it. It's possible the show simply didn't translate well to the screen, but I suspect that they kept the movie a bit shallow so as to not outshine the television version too much.

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