In 2003, Ren Stevens and Lizzie McGuire both graduated from junior high school. Lizzie tripped and fell. Ren was covered in Beans’ spaghetti. It was the end of an era. The Lizzie McGuire Movie hit theaters in May 2003, Even Stevens finished its final season that June, and The Even Stevens Movie aired on Disney Channel later in the month. The adventure was written by Marc Warren and Dennis Rinsler, directed by Sean McNamara. While it would have been fun to see the Stevens family on the big screen for their last hoorah, they will always have the distinction of being in the Disney Channel Original Movie canon, something that the McGuires don’t have. As I rewatched The Even Stevens Movie, I enjoyed the subtle familiarity between the series and the DCOM. Not just the characters and their personalities, but also the comical sound effects and musical cues, and the zaniness of the story.
After Ren’s graduation ceremony, her boyfriend Gil dumps her at a pancake house. She’s so sad and out of sorts that she agrees to babysit Beans. Naturally, he’s packed a suitcase full of bacon and is planning to spend a few weeks with the Stevens family while his parents are in Finland. Louis is planning to sit on his butt all summer in a lawn chair that serves him food and drinks. This is consistent — remember that time in Season 1 when he signed up to lay in a bed for days on end?
The relationship has developed a bit between him and Tawny, and it’s good to see her in the Stevens’ backyard with Twitty and Tom. Eileen is still a senator, but Steve is “between prominent law firms,” in keeping with the end of the series. In the midst of these family updates, we cut to a mysterious fellow crossing names off a list. This is Miles McDermott (Tim Meadows), the host of a reality series called Family Fakeout. He goes after the Stevens family and gets them to agree to a free vacation on the island of Mandolino. They have no idea that Miles is taking them just off the California coast to exploit them on a reality show with hidden cameras. What’s supposed to be a luxurious getaway quickly turns into a nightmare. Louis enters a forbidden room and pulls a lever (he thinks it’s a footrest) that destroys the group’s entire lodging. No food, no clothes, no shower… it’s going to be a long week.
One of the best parts of this film is when Twitty and Tawny are sailing out to help the Stevens crew. Tom takes them on his boat but reaches a stopping point on the water and tells his friends, “Oh, you can just hop on my dinghy.” They take the dinghy to shore. Twitty sold out Louis and his family in the first place, so he feels obligated to make things right.
I’ll admit that I’ve asked myself what else the Stevenses would have done for their DCOM if they hadn’t gone on this faux vacation and gotten stranded. But I don’t think there’s a better TV family to go on a trip like this and lose their marbles. The Brady Bunch Hawaii saga comes to mind, but that was a real, planned vacation (well, Mike’s business trip) within the context of the show. I wonder what the Bradys would think of Beans passing gas on the duration of the flight.
Even though it’s part of the “fakeout,” Ren’s budding romance with “Mootai” is very sweet. Here’s one other thing I love: the Stevens family may be silly, but they’re not stupid. After being driven apart by Miles’ reality TV schemes, Steve and Eileen figure out that they’ve been duped. The parents are able to fight back, help Ren and Louis reconcile, and make Miles the center of his own joke. That’s where Dave Coulier comes in. He plays Miles’ rival, Lance LeBow, the host of a prank show called “Gotcha” that Louis was watching at the beginning of the film. Ren pretends to throw Louis into the ocean with her spear, bringing Miles to his knees in despair. No one’s faking out this family! We end with normalcy restored to the Stevens household, including Donnie’s college football career, more shenanigans for Louis, and a new boyfriend for Ren (Mootai, “whose real name is Jason,” Beans says).
I’ll add that I appreciate watching a true ensemble DCOM. The entire family was always included on Even Stevens, but obviously, Ren and Louis took center stage in the series. We get to see everyone work together in the feature film because they must join forces to survive. Pitting Steve, Ren, and Beans against Eileen, Donnie, and Louis brings out everyone’s individual personalities in a fun way. And to end with Ren singing “Dream Vacation?” I want that Even Stevens soundtrack! Almost 20 years later, it was fun to jet off into the kooky world of The Even Stevens Movie. Revisit it on Disney+ and tell us what you think.