Tonight, Tyra’s seventeenth cycle of America’s Next Top Model, the All-Star cycle, premieres on the CW. In this cycle, Tyra will coach her all-stars not only how to model, but how to turn themselves into personal “brands,” which includes acting, singing and more. And so it seems all too fitting that today, we look back at a special part of Tyra’s journey to becoming a “brand”: Playing an actual piece of merchandise in the 2001 Lindsay Lohan vehicle Life-Size.
Life-Size premiered as a made-for-TV movie on The Disney Channel ten years ago. It stars a young, post-Parent Trap Lindsay Lohan as a naive tomboy who tries to use dark magic to bring back her dead mom, and a youngish, pre-America’s Next Top Model Tyra Banks as a brainless Barbie doll brought to life by that magic. It is a pinnacle of modern cinema…’s assumption that children are idiots, from its preposterous concept to its corny dialogue to its questionable lessons about friendship, stardom and sorcery. It is also full of Tyra faces, fashions and acting fails. Life-Size should and shall never be forgotten. I know that, the angel who put the entire film on YouTube knows that (watch and follow along!) and now you too will know that. Here we go.
She hasn’t aged a day!
The movie opens on “Eve,” an alternate-universe black Barbie phenomenon, who shares not just her voice with Tyra, but also her addiction to being mediocre at multiple careers. Her mantra is “Be a star!” which she accomplishes by being, alternately, a police woman and an office assistant when she’s not shining at “the ball.”
Cut to the local middle school football game, where young Lindsay is playing QB (lol, right) but her dumb, idiot pre-pubescent receiver, played by some Devon Sawa-nnabe, misses the ball and loses the game for EVERYONE. Lindsay is full of angst. She hates Sawa-nnabe, she hates dolls, she hates her coach and she hates THE WORLD!
Also hates hair ties.
The angst turns into silent depression when she notices that her dad’s massive, pubic goatee is missing from the stands. Her dad, “Ben,” is busy at work flirting with his new assistant, who thinks “being a great dad” is sexy and that sending a “birthday kiss” to her boss’s daughter is a normal thing to do. She’s obviously here because of some special needs adult work program. She also wants to get with Ben. We can tell by the way her lilac suit’s shoulder pads quiver when he’s near. When the assistant leaves, Ben’s lawyer friend tells him to hit it, but Ben’s sad eyes tell us that he only wants to hit it with his dead wife. “MOVE ON!” the friend says, because Ben’s wife died what, six months ago? Get over it, Ben. Tell your sad eyes everyone’s tired of your “mourning.”
Back at home, Lil’ Li-Lo resurrects a dinosaur in the shape of a desktop PC so she can Ask Jeeves how to resurrect her dead mom. The movie really dates itself when she finds a website that tells her she’ll find the answer she seeks … IN A BOOK IN THE LOCAL LIBRARY.
The most trustworthy mysticism site on the WEB!
Ben comes home and they get in a fight about how Ben really needs to “make partner at the firm” (one of my favorite movie lies that no one in real life EVER says!) and that’s why he missed her game. Lindsay goes to bed and marvels at how having a Stupid Ben and a Dead Mom is even worse than having a Michael and Dina Lohan. Nothing is impossible!
The next day, Lindsay Lohan’s bitchy little bitch friends complain that ever since her mom died, she’s “totally ignored” them. “Yeah, like, get over it already,” one of these pre-pubescent urchins spits outs. They ask her red and beige fishing hat why it’s been ignoring them, and Lindsay’s hat is like, “There’s more to life than just shopping, fellow ten-year-old using her allowance money on slap bracelets.” Then, in a psychic homage to her future self, baby Lindsay immediately goes shop-lifting… for KNOWLEDGE! She goes to the book store and decides to steal the Necronomicon, because it costs 150 big ones and what is she, a chump? She’s just a child who wants to bring her dead mom back to life, and this book is the only logical conclusion to that problem.
Yep, this is the one! Totally gonna work. Foolproof.
(Maybe that necklace that real life adult Lindsay stole also had magical powers? Did you ever think of THAT, the prosecution? The defense RESTS!) Baby Lindsay leaves an “IOU” as her calling card. “Oh, great, I’ll never see HER again,” says the bookstore owner about a ten-year-old who just stole a book about dark magic. It’s unclear whether he means that she will soon be dead after exposure to all those evil spells, but he seems unconcerned either way.
Before she can make a zombie-mom, Lindsay has to eat her birthday cake with dumb ol’ dad, who reminds her that the cake is her favorite, “Double chocolate. Chocolate on the inside and chocolate on the outside.” (Foreshadowing that soon she will have a chocolate goddess as her new best friend?) “DON’T TELL ME WHAT I LIKE AND DON’T LIKE, DAD!” says Lindsay’s gross chunky wristwatch. Her mouth is full of cake and sadness: “I wish that mom could come back.” This starts a fight about her child psychologist’s bad breath and whether magic exists. Ben distracts Li-Lo from the fight by bribing her with NFL tickets because he’s #1 Dad. The ghost of Lindsay’s dead mom tells her to never give up on her dream. Just then, the doorbell rings. Hey, look who it is!
OH, IT’S YOU, A PERSON I WAS NOT EXPECTING ALL ALL, HENCE MY FACE!
It’s Ben’s slutty assistant, who stopped by instead of calling on the phone like an actual human would. She wants Ben to “review her draft.” What a disgusting euphemism, slutty assistant.
Slutsistant waltzes in like she owns the place and gives Lindsay a birthday present because she “couldn’t resist” (my ardent desire to bone your dad). Hey, look, we finally got to the point of the movie: THE GIFT IS AN EVE DOLL! Now this plot is really rolling, and all it took was a grossly presumptuous and inappropriate gift from a tertiary no-name character who barely knows this butch little ginger girl and has no sense of human boundaries.
SPEAKING OF: Lindsay goes upstairs and prepares her “altar” to resurrect her mom, which means putting a seashell on her dresser. Uh oh, what if she accidentally brings a hermit crab back to life? Then she gets out her mom’s hairbrush (while whispering “mom’s brush”) and asks her mom to “be there for her one more time” (as a zombie). She’s about to say the “incantation” when Slut-sistant barges in to say goodnight (convince a child to put in a good word with Dad so she can do sex with him at an indeterminate point in the future).
“Oh, look at all the trophies you have!” this insufferable woman, let’s call her SHARON, says as she knocks down the entire upper shelf like her arms are made of wood and glued together with overstaying one’s welcome. Lindsay runs out of the room with all her Wiccan props, and that’s when Sharon finds the Eve doll, whose hair’s integrity is the one casualty of Hurricane Sharon. “Oh, look at you,” the adult human woman says to the fake, non-living doll. She brushes the doll’s hair with the dead mom’s brush, like that’s a thing you would do to someone else’s doll in someone else’s room with someone else’s hairbrush.
Sharon props Eve up on her display stand and then decides where to put it: On the child’s nightstand. This woman is a creep and I want her arrested.
After Sharon goes back to her alien pod, Lindsay FINALLY gets to do her spell, which goes like this: “Zamba tarka ishtu neboreen!” Seriously. Completely loyal phonetic transcription right there. Very legit, very magic-sounding. She repeats it about eight or a hundred times, and the book starts to glow, and so does the Eve doll. Something’s happeninggggggg!
The witchcraft book is glowing…
The doll is glowing…
Which means it’s time to go to bed! Cut to the next morning: Lindsay is asleep, yet still mumbling the incantation (what do you mean that’s impossible?), and next to her is … TYRAAAAAAAAAAAA!
I did an ancient, dark spell I didn’t understand, and then something strange and unexpected happened? The fuuuuuuuu?
Tyra is wearing a three-piece, mid-riff-bearing orange velour suit. It is glorious. Just like her face.
Truly, she has never looked more beautiful and terrifying.
Tyra’s first words are these: “I’m Eve, and you’re my special friend.” Just so there’s no confusion that this is a tiny piece of plastic that has been brought to life (and LIFE-SIZED!), not some psychotic woman who snuck into a stranger’s bedroom at night so she could sleep next to a child. (Sharon does that.) “My ankles bend! I can move!” she marvels. Lindsay pieces it all together like a whiz: “That was my only chance, I’ll never be able to bring her back. My mom! You’re alive, not her!” Then: “Why do I feel like I’m in a bad horror movie?” Because you’re in a bad, horriBLE movie. Not exactly the same, but close!
Eve uses her brand new brain to make model poses in the mirror while Lindsay looks in the back of the Necromonicon and discovers that the solution to her problem is in Volume Two. VOLUME TWO? So this is the fault of those evil sorcerers, always looking for a cheap buck by publishing their magical manifestos in multiple parts. Now what will she do?!
Eve discovers her first downside to being human: She has no clothes, accessories or her “fashion trunk”! But she’s got an even bigger problem: Lindsay says it’s all a big mistake (ohhh, so NOW dark magic is a mistake?) and threatens that as soon as she gets her hands on volume two, Eve will be “plastic” once more. The stakes are almost too high to handle. WILL EVE EVER FIND HER FASHION TRUNK?
Lindsay puts on her bucket hat and leads Eve into the mean streets of Small Town, USA, where Eve immediately discovers the dark side of human existence: Garbage cans smell reeeeeally icky and chubby guys throw their taco wrappers on the ground. Life Lesson One of Life-Size: Being alive is bad to smell and look at.
Lindsay sends Eve in to ask for Volume Two, because if we’ve learned anything so far, it’s that Eve is intelligent and reliable in a pinch. She goes inside, looks at one book like it’s an alien artifact and promptly tells the book store owner that Lindsay stole Volume One. GOOD WORK, EVE! He follows Eve out of the store and Lindsay, whom I can no longer deny is named “Casey” in this film, runs into the middle of the street like an idiot to get away from him. Eve walks in front of her and stops a truck from running over the small child with her SMIZE.
The power of SMIZE compels you!
Just then, Ben shows up and says he found the stolen Necronomicon at the house, and thanks Eve for saving his child’s life. “It’s nothing, I’ve been a police officer,” she says like a bad joke because it is. Eve flirts with Ben (“Are all the men here as handsome as you are?”) and it’s hard to tell from his face if he’s into it or SO into it that he needs to change his pants. Casey pretends to faint because she’s a child addict (for attention).
When she wakes up, she’s horrified to learn that Eve wasn’t just a nightmare. Classic movie scream. Ben says that Casey shouldn’t worry because the supermodel in the fuzzy orange dress took care of her and has “medical training,” and he sounds like he believes himself! Good luck making partner, Professor Always Making Sense. The three of them decide to go to the mall because who cares why, it’s a kid’s movie and we wanna see the doll play dress-up. And fail at riding the escalator!
Heeeeeeeeeelp I’m pretty and useless!
Eve sees a prom dress she “needs,” and since she has no ID/money/soul, Ben offers to loan her some cash. Then he says that she can stay in their “guest house” until she “figures out what she wants to do.” Casey is pissed: “Go find a DOLLHOUSE.” I’m pissed, too! This dad is worthless.
Inside the store, Eve picks out a bunch of ugly, rainbow-tinted crap and begs Casey to “dress her.” Montage time! She puts on a black evening dress with bright blue butterflies on it, then a pair of white bell bottoms, then a heinous red suit that comes with a top hat and a nightstick, then some other costume-y crap, all while B*Witched’s “C’est La Vie” plays in the background.
There goes my college fund.
Ben blows like $8,000 on this broad’s insanely impractical outfits. He’s going to be so disappointed when they get home tonight and he discovers that she lacks the anatomical lady-parts to “pay him back” the way he’s hoping.
At dinner, Eve looks at the menu and says “I can’t read this!” My hopes that we’re about to watch a scene about adult learning disabilities are dashed: The menu is in Italian, so Ben orders two of the “special’ and one “spaghetti,” really putting his Italian to great use. Ben is a moron. But that’s good, because so is Eve. She brain-gasms over a bread-roll and eats straight butter, which he finds quaint and charming.
Now this is a woman I could settle down and build a life with!
Eve tells him about all her jobs (law enforcement, medicine, office work…) and he’s impressed, because Ben THE LAWYER doesn’t suspect anyone could be a liar. So obviously he immediately hires Eve to be his new secretary starting tomorrow. His generosity inspires Eve’s big empowerment speech, which I am completely certain Tyra wrote all by herself:
“My real purpose in life is to help girls. I strive to present a positive image of womanhood, because I believe that girls everywhere should know that all things are possible.” Life Lesson Two of Life-Size: “Positive image” means only caring about fashion and saying dumb stuff constantly. Like how it’s too bad you’ve never been married because you look “AWESOME!” in a wedding dress. SUCH a positive life lesson about marriage for the girls!
Back at home, Lindsay uses her ancient computation machine to discover that some other jive-talking youngster has the Necronomicon Vol. 2 checked out for another week. That doesn’t work well for her baby witchcraft schedule. She resorts to every baby’s Plan B: Tell dad everything! But dad doesn’t believe that Eve is actually a doll who came to life through an ancient, synthetic-hair-initiated witch spell. GOD, parents can be such a DRAG! Meanwhile, Eve channel surfs and learns more lessons about how to be a positive image for young girls, like how to slap a man and how to shop on QVC.
The next day, Eve starts her new job at Dad’s office. Her first task is to “do some letters,” but since she doesn’t know how computers work, she immediately gets sexually harassed by Ben’s lawyer friend who offers to give her some “tips.” Life Lesson Three of Life-Size: “Eve never says no to learning!”
Later, Eve gives Ben a massage (Ben never says no to boner!) in his office because this is a children’s movie. Dumb ol’ party-pooper Sharon comes in and says Eve “looks familiar,” because she recognizes a living black woman from the way she looks like a non-living plastic black doll because Sharon is an idiot AND a racist.
Eve screws up literally everything in the office, but still manages to save the day, HER WAY, by giving the ugly office manager a makeover so she can attract a cute boy.
I love being a female working professional!
Later, Lindsay gets pissed off that Eve is going to some lawyer party and says, “Just because you’re beautiful doesn’t mean you get everything you want! Your days are numbered! Literally!” I bet someone said the exact same thing to Lindsay when she was in jail one of those times.
Eve shows up to the lawyer party with Ben’s friend (let’s call him Steve, I guess) in some red and black monstrosity like it’s the freaking ’93 Oscars.
Perfect work party attire!
Through her immature, nonsensical words and actions, Eve repeatedly confirms that she is mentally stunted and possibly psychotic, but Steve still wants to bone her. He says, “If you were staying at my house, I’d never let you out,” so Steve, whose name is actually Richie (which is WAY worse), is now a rape-murderer. Richie asks Eve to go home with him, so she slaps him and then she calls him handsome, because Life Lesson Four of Life-Size: Sexual harassers are just friends you haven’t made yet.
Then it’s time for her big moment of the movie: Apropos of nothing, Eve sings “Be A Star,” a song about herself in third-person (“Eve shines wherever she goes…”), in front of everyone. Everyone dances along because Life Lesson Five of Life-Size: If you’re pretty enough, everyone will pretend you’re not a self-involved a-hole with a rainbow cupcake where your brain should be.
It’s such a Tyra moment through and through: Self-involvement and self-promotion masquerading as role-modeling and empowerment. This entire sequence should be played at her funeral, so fully does it embody Tyra’s point of view.
After the party, Ben and Eve are about to make out, but Baby Lindsay barges in like such a c***-block and ruins EVERYTHING. She’s mad that Dad let Eve stay in “Mom’s special place,” which is actually the guest house, not whatever gross thing you’re imagining.
The next day at football practice, Lindsay acts out by calling another kid a “weiner head” (LOL, good one!) and gets benched. Then she and Eve have the dumbest conversation in the history of fake dumb conversations:
Eve: Last night you had water in your eyes. It ran down your cheeks.
Baby Lindsay Lohan: It’s called crying. You really don’t get it, do you? When people get sad it makes tears in their eyes.
Eve: Where do the tears come from?
BLL [points to throat]: In here. (She means her chest/heart.)
Eve and Lindsay bond over how her dead mom got dead, and how hard and uncertain and ultimately futile it is to be human because sadness and death are inevitable. For a minute. THEN THEY GO HOME AND BURN DOWN THE HOUSE!
I think we took the fatalism a little too far.
Eve cries about how she can’t do anything right and she “needs [her] fun and splash hot tub.” She truly is the pinnacle of modern womanhood. After a shower and before a tickle fight, Lindsay teaches Eve that to be a role model she doesn’t have to be perfect all the time, and Eve teaches Lindsay that she needs to break down her walls and let people in. SHE’S TEN! But she’s pretty cool. I mean, check out how she gets her email:
You’ve got new mail AND NOTHING ELSE MATTERS!!!!!!!!
Later, Eve sees a TV news report about how her line of dolls might get canceled forever. Feel that heat under your collar? That’s the stakes a-RISIN’!
The next day, it’s time for Lindsay’s championship football game, but her helmet is depressed because Dad’s goatee isn’t in the stands. It’s back at work, waiting for The Big Partner Meeting to start. In a moment of clarity, Ben decides to ditch his deposition and go to the game, because Eve taught him what it means to be a real star, and that’s being a great dad! Ben gets to the game just in time to see Casey get sacked. HARD. But he shakes his fists at her, lovingly, and that’s when the REAL magic begins. The magic of love conquering all!
Meanwhile, Eve is downtown at the toy store, visiting her own final clearance sale. It’s like a toy’s version of “This is Your Life.”
Could it be…?
The woman in the toy store recognizes Eve, because why else would a beautiful, tall black woman be in this tiny podunk town? She must be the living incarnation of a plastic doll. The toy store woman has so many questions! What happened? Where did she come from? How does she pee? But Eve rushes off before Toy Store Lady can get answers.
Eve makes it to the end of the football game, just in time to watch Lindsay and Weiner Head make the perfect play to win the game! … SIKE.
What a week. Wait ’til my diary hears about THIS.
Weiner Head carries Casey’s perfect pass an inch to the goal line, then falls and time runs out. Her team loses the game! (Life Lesson Six of Life-Size: Boys don’t make passes at girls who can’t turn their passes into touchdowns.) Whoa, did M. Night Shyamalan direct this? Because that was a TWIST!
Ben apologizes to Casey for not being a good dad and says her dead Mom would be mighty proud of that pass. Eve watches from the sidelines, and look at that: There’s water coming out of her eyes/heart. She touches her eyeball to make sure.
Yep, she’s a REAL GIRL NOW! Eve looks around at all the real families feeling real feelings around her, and disappears. Casey asks a stranger where Eve went, and the stranger tells Casey calmly, “Oh, that nice looking woman? She just left. She said she found a book, got someone to read it to her, and she’s heading home.” What a ludicrous sentence for a human being to say! But whatever, this movie left Logic Town the minute it took its first step. Casey drags Ben away from the field saying, “There’s no time to explain! Eve’s about to have a meltdown!” Whatever that means. Casey clearly understands more about this world than I do.
Eve arrives at Eve Doll Headquarters or something. She walks down a long hallway decorated with photos of her doll-self, and then walks into a big studio set up like a playtime theater. OR A TALK SHOW.
Eve slowly surveys her kingdom: There’s her dreamhouse, her red corvette, the mall, her servants’ quarters and decides that it’s time to go home. She looks at the ceiling and whispers, “Sun of suns, moon of moons, once awakened, now to return.” She wants to be a doll again, where everything is easy and nothing hurts. Because if you’re all the way plastic, you don’t have a brain, and if you don’t have a brain, you can’t feel sad. It’s the same reason pretty girls grow up to be Playboy Bunnies and pretty boys grow up to be Ryan Seacrests.
Casey and Ben show up, and the security guard tells them he thought Eve was “the woman from the photo shoots” and he sent her down the hall to pick up her last paychecks. If it weren’t on Disney, this movie COULD take an awesome/sinister turn right there: What if Eve is actually just a model who had a nervous breakdown and now believes she is the doll she’s been modeling for? And so she goes around to young girls’ houses, tricking them into believing she’s the doll come to life so they’ll be her best friend and she can MURDER/STEAL them? Now that would be a great twist.
Instead, it’s just an excuse for how Eve got into the building, and Eve really is the doll come to life. Casey and Ben make it to the talk show room just in time to say goodbye. She’s still a human, but “the spell is complete” and Eve is “going home,” where they apparently need her spirit/essence so the doll line won’t get canceled. Don’t think too hard about it. Eve tells a crying Casey that she loves her. “I can go back now, and everything you’ve taught me will be a part of ALL the dolls,” Eve says. Uhhh, like football? Or like magically resurrecting your dead mom? Oh, she means like crying and friendship.
Beam me up, Barbie!
Casey and Ben watch as Eve gets consumed by a swirl of twinklies, glitterbugs and sweetie pies. She becomes the doll once more. Ben grabs the doll and says, “How ’bout we put her somewhere special?” GROSS, BEN. She was, like, just a person and now you want to use her as your sex toy? Get help.
Epilogue: While walking downtown, Ben and Casey see that the Eve dolls are flying off the shelves at the toy shore now. Then Casey runs into her old friends and ditches dumb ol’ Dad to hang out with them. Sharon runs into Ben, calls him “partner” and offers to take him to lunch. They’re going to get married, probably. Down the street, a little girl hugs her Eve doll, who has bangs now and says, “Show me your million watt smile!” The movie ends with an unnecessary encore performance of “Be A Star” with Tyra as the lead singer.
Shine bright, shine far. Be a star! Of a low-budget Disney made-for-TV movie.
And they all lived happily ever after, except for Eve because she’s not real and never was, except in Casey’s young grief-stricken imagination. THE END!
FINAL VERDICT: For its premonitory use of smize, misplaced and superficial message of female empowerment and all that terrible acting, singing and dancing, Life-Size is an essential part of the Tyra canon that foreshadowed several of her future career moves, including her latest: A young adult fantasy novel about (wait for it) female empowerment, modeling and magic. It’s called Modelland, and it came out yesterday. I think I know what I need to review next…