Thursday, December 07, 2006

Christmas Episodes: Lizzie McGuire - Xtreme Xmas

Day 5 of the TCR Christmas Extravaganza

TCR readers, you can look forward to the following Christmas Extravanganza content between now and the big day: Album reviews of Christmas albums by The Cheetah Girls, Girls Aloud, Mariah Carey, Hanson, and Clay Aiken; a review of the Phil of the Future Christmas episode; a review of one of the ABC Family original Christmas movies; a review of some undecided upon children's special, and hopefully more. There's still plenty of room in there for requests, so please leave a comment or email if you have one.

In today's installment, I will do a review of the Christmas episode of Lizzie McGuire, which is for whatever reason entitled "Xtreme Xmas". Occurring late into the run of the series, it's an odd little episode, but yet an amusing one nonetheless. I really love Lizzie and it basically came down to a coinflip as to whether it was this show or Even Stevens which I put in the TCR Hall of Fame. Obviously Even Stevens won out (mostly due to Lizzie's rather weak start), but I still consider both of those shows, plus Phil of the Future, to be a pretty clear cut above all the other shows the Disney Channel has produced. Plus I haven't really written anything about Lizzie on this blog so this will start to rectify that.

The Show: Lizzie McGuire
The Episode: "Xtreme Xmas"
Year of Production: 2002
Episode Number: 51 of 65
Key Guest Stars: Steven Tyler as Santa Claus, and playing Kate's eeeeevil cousin Amy is...

That's right, eagle-eyed readers, it's Hilary Duff's older, inferior model, sister Haylie Duff. Haylie appears as Kate's even more stuck up cousin Amy in a few episodes. Her role in this episode is extremely brief, and frankly rather pointless, but she does a decent job with what she has. Gee, Kate's cousin sure does look an awful lot like Lizzie. Odd. Also odd is that it kind of looks like Kate is about to cry in this screencap when actually she's delivering yet another of her charming witticisms.

Brief Series Summary, For the Totally Clueless: "Get inside her head!" say the advertisements and you can do that when you watch this Disney Channel family comedy, the most successful of their "Zoog Weekendz" shows. It's all about the ordinary and not-so-ordinary adventures of a junior high student [Lizzie] and her two best friends [Gordo and Miranda] as they try to deal with the ups and downs of school, popularity [In particular, the EVIL popular girl Kate, Lizzie's archrival. As pictured above next to Haylie], boys, parents, a bratty little brother [Matt]--just life in general. And if Lizzie leaves anything unsaid, you can bet that her cartoon alter ego will say it for her! [Attribution to, with extra information in bold added by me.]

Episode Summary [Contains Spoilers, As Such!]: The episode begins with Lizzie and Gordo meeting in line to meet Santa Claus. In this activity, apparently, students are encouraged to give away old toys for less fortunate kids during Christmas. Nice idea. Anyways, Lizzie is there to give out the old toys, and she and Gordo are discussing the Christmas parade float competition. The winner of the competition wins a ski trip, and Lizzie really wants to win! [Opening Credits]. After the opening credits, we are viewing Lizzie and Gordo in some sort of garage building their float. The theme for her float is going to be "Rock & Roll Christmas", and there's some cute comedy as they have float related conversations with Larry and Kate. Anyways, the Christmas action really heats up when Lizzie and Gordo then meet Knobby, who claims to be one of Santa's elves (Elf owes this royalties!) Knobby seems odd, but harmless. The whole McGuire family then comes to meet up with Lizzie and ends up meeting and ultimately hanging out with Knobby. Lizzie is upset that her family would rather hang out with Knobby than help with her float. We cut to the McGuire house, where an exasperated Lizzie learns that the plumbing at Knobby's retirement home is busted, so he will have to stay with the McGuires for a few days [good work Ma and Pa Mcguire, for all you know this guy is a serial killer]. Some weird scenes follow where the family hangs out with Knobby. Ultimately, Mr. McGuire gets the idea to help out trying to fix Knobby's plumbing himself, as the plumbing company can't fix it due to people being on vacation. So the whole family sans Lizzie, and Gordo too, pitch in to fix the plumbing. Lizzie is left trying to make her float on her own, and is really upset. She collapses and falls asleep in exhaustion. But she's met by Knobby in her dream! Knobby shows her the true meaning of sequence, in possibly the weirdest Lizzie McGuire sequence I've ever seen. She first meets with the "Ghost of Christmas Past" (her mom) who partakes in some "hilarious" comedy, and then just flat out tells Lizzie that she has lost sight of the true meaning in Christmas because she was too wrapped up in the float. Uh, what? Why did they get the Ghost of Christmas Past to tell her that? It's something that's happening right now! Then they get Matt McGuire to tell her the "true meaning" of Christmas, in a humorous parody of the famous Peanuts Christmas Special moment. Lizzie realizes that the true meaning of Christmas is helping people, so she decides to help her family fix the plumbing. At the end, Santa (Steven Tyler) magically builds Lizzie's float at the last second and everybody loves it. It was the best Christmas ever. The episode ends with Steven Tyler singing "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town".

And They All Learned a Valuable Lesson: The true meaning of Christmas is helping people, not building badass floats to burn your social rivals! Though it undermines its own message by having Lizzie get a badass float that burns her social rival anyways. So, you should help people out, because if you do, you'll just get whatever you selfishly wanted anyways.

Greg's Review/Comments: First comment is that, like a lot of the later Lizzie episodes, Miranda does not appear in this episode at all. I'm not sure what happens here, but I liked Lalaine as Miranda a lot, and her absence was a big flaw with the show towards the end of its run. One of the reasons I consistently rank this show below Even Stevens is that it was weak at the beginning and end. At the beginning because Hilary's acting was rocky to start with, and and the end because of the lack of Miranda, who really did contribute a lot to the show. Despite that flaw, this manages to be a very cute and fun episode. Some of the jokes I found funny, particularly the parts where Lizzie is interacting with Gordo and her other classmates (Tudgeman, Kate, etc.). In actuality, the jokes are primarily based on pop culture references, and as is par for the course on this show, are very hit or miss. That being said, this was definitely one of the odder Lizzie episodes I've yet seen.

The character of Knobby in particular, was very odd. He claims to be an elf, but yet dresses in normal clothing! In addition, the fact that he claims he is an elf is pretty much irrelevant to the episode. He's basically just a random old man. But yet everybody trusts and loves them from the moment he meets them! The McGuires invite them into their home! They agree to fix the plumbing to his retirement home even though they have no formal training as plumbers. OK, that part of the episode is extremely unrealistic. I wish they had thought of a different way for Lizzie to learn the simple joys of helping out her fellow man, by having her whole family work together to help on something that was at least slightly realistic.

Anyways, this episode ultimately succeeds on the merits of everything that makes the show succeed in general. Hilary Duff as Lizzie became excellent at the role by the time of the end of the series, she was expressing her emotions great, and you could really relate to her. Her interactions with her classmates can sometimes be genuinely funny, and anyways, even if they aren't funny, the show does a great job of getting you emotionally involved in them. Hell, I felt frustrated for Lizzie when nobody would help her build the float, even though the show was depicting her as selfish. Like always, the non-Lizzie scenes tend to drag, and this episode is much less centric on Lizzie and her school drama than most Lizzie McGuire episodes are. For that reason, it doesn't rank as one of the top episodes in the series run. But then again, a common complaint about the show, that it was highly repetitive and unoriginal throughout its run, definitely does not apply here. Additionally, this show's top notch supporting cast was either not in the episode at all (Lalaine) or in the episode for so little time as to practically add no value (Ashley Brillault, always excellent as Kate).

Final Rating: Not the best episode of Lizzie but a fun watch if you are a fan of the series. This episode was a good microcosm for the problems I had with the series towards the end of its run. Namely, too little Miranda, too little Kate, too much Tudgeman, and too much of the McGuire family other than Lizzie. Like most Christmas episodes of long running series, this episode is basically designed to be a stand-alone. No reference is made to any long running plots on the show, and no real prior knowledge of the show is needed for watching. 7.5/10. Also, why in the world is this episode called "Xtreme Xmas"? There's nothing remotely extreme about it. Odd.

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