The authors posed the question: What would happen if Hollywood's most hated director met MTV's best cartoon? The answer was a live-action Daria movie directed by Joel Schumacher, in which many liberties were taken.
Warning: The following may contain plot or ending details.
Daria Morgendorffer, the only child of Amy Barksdale-Morgendorffer and Keith Morgendorffer, lives a normal existence in Highland, Texas... until learning that her parents have died from falling on a cow while sky diving. Daria is then sent to live with her cousin, Lynn Quinn Michaelis, and her aunt and uncle, Helen and Jake Michaelis in Lawndale.
From there, the movie loosely follows several early episodes from the television series, including "Esteemsters," "The Invitation," "The Lab Brat," and "Road Worrier." Daria meets Jane in a self-esteem class and quickly becomes enamored of her brother, Trent. She and Trent grow closer at Brittany's party, but Quinn (who has designs on Trent herself), does everything in her power to keep them apart, creating conflict after conflict. After the Fashion Club sabotages Daria and Mystik Spiral at the school talent show, Daria rebounds by reciting a Melody Powers story, beating Quinn's "Academic Imprisonment" essay to win first prize. Finally, Sandi ups the stakes: Quinn can be Fashion Club president if she successfully breaks up Daria and Trent. Quinn arranges for Upchuck to blackmail Daria into a date at Chez Pierre, where Trent catches her. They break up, and Daria gets revenge by dressing and acting like Quinn, stealing her boyfriends, and spreading vicious rumors intended to wreck her reputation.
Daria gets in a fight with Jane over her break up with Trent, only to receive a ghostly visit from her mother, who advises her on how they can get back together. Daria decides to use a reporter's visit to Lawndale High (for her "My So-Called Angst" essay) to make amends with Jane and Trent while exposing the "mean girls" underside of the school. Every bad thing Sandi and Quinn have ever done is dug up and exposed, destroying them both. Realizing that Daria was just a victim of Quinn's scheme, Trent forgives her for being with Upchuck.
Daria the Movie manages to use not only every teen movie cliche, but also several cliches from the Daria series as well. The lesbianism between Daria and Jane goes from questionnable to overt, as Jane manages to get Daria in a full liplock. Trent is described as "often sluggish, but there is a fire in his eyes, one that allows him to explode into action when music or situation demands it." The "Daria is drop-dead gorgeous" cliche is taken to the extreme when Daria dresses like a vixen to lure Quinn's boyfriends away.
In addition, there are the teen movie cliches of the "big party" in which the title characters get together or split up, the high school talent show, the montage of school cliques when Daria starts her first day, and the blowing up of Quinn and Sandi into near super-villains who run Lawndale High with an iron fist.
Typical of Hollywood films, several aspects of Daria the Movie have been glamourized. Jennifer Love Hewitt's Daria is an example of the Hollywood "plain" girl who only needs a clothing change to be drop-dead gorgeous. She rarely wears Daria's trademark glasses except for reading. Most of the cast members (especially Jakob Dylan) are several years older than the characters they play. Meanwhile, the Morgendorffer surname has morphed into the cuter "Michaelis" (though why this was never extended to Daria is not explained).
Movie Rumor Page
The first hint at a movie came in the form of the Unofficial Daria Movie Rumor Page. Dating back to August 1998, the rumors discussed a possible Daria movie and who might be in the cast. (Early possibilities for Daria included Neve Campbell, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Shannen Doherty.) The Movie Rumor Page was notable for its strong resemblance to authentic movie rumor websites, going so far as to mix real news in with the fake and including "cast" photos. While the rumors date back to August 1998, it is possible that the Adelman brothers began the project much later and just back dated to make it look as though the rumors had been swirling for a long time.
A separate movie rumor page would be made for the Year 2000 rumors concerning Daria 2: The Curse of the Misery Chick.
The Adelman brothers photoshopped several existing movie and publicity shots to create authentic-looking "screen captures" for the movie. This included a montage of the "cast" for a poster, the grafting of a smiley face onto Keri Russell's bathing suit, and several party scenes. Many of the "screen captures" seamlessly bring together photographs taken from various sources. However, some discrepencies can be detected, such as a photo of "Jane and Jesse" in which they appear to be standing under completely different light sources, a photo of "Jane and Daria" where Daria's head appears detached from her neck, and a photo of "Daria and Trent" in which Jakob Dylan's face has obviously been grafted onto another actor's body.
Lyrics from a movie "soundtrack" are included here, sung by Jakob Dylan and groups such as Nine Inch Nails, Hole, and Barenaked Ladies. Many of the songs, like "Ice Box Woman," appear to be completed versions of the ones sung in the television series.
The Adelman brothers featured several "reviews" from fans and professional critics on the website, the longest and most detailed being C.E. Forman's. Forman was given a sneak preview of the script and asked to pretend as though he had just watched the movie. Most of the other reviews appeared after the Daria the Movie fanfic had been released. Only one was positive.
Accompanying the fanfic script was a commercial in which Love Hewitt's Daria and Ricci's Jane comment on how Hollywood destroys the original source material to make its films, seemingly unaware that their movie was following the same path.
- Daria Morgendorffer = Jennifer Love Hewitt
- Lynn Quinn Michaelis = Keri Russell
- Helen Michaelis = Gates McFadden
- Jake Michaelis = John Travolta
- Amy Barksdale-Morgendorffer = Janeane Garofalo
- Jane Lane = Christina Ricci
- Trent Lane = Jakob Dylan
- Jesse Moreno = Leonardo DiCaprio
- Andrea Flynn = Rose McGowan
- Sandi Griffin = Denise Richards
- Tiffany Blum-Deckler = Alyson Hannigan
- Stacy Rowe = Reese Whitherspoon
- Upchuck Ruttheimer = Jonathan Taylor Thomas
- Brittany Taylor = Melissa Joan Hart
- Kevin Thompson = Joey Lawrence
- Ted DeWitt-Clinton = Taylor Hanson
- Val = Alicia Silverstone
- "I can't go full tilt all night, every night! No man can!" -- Trent telling Andrea why he won't have sex with her
- "Her parents fell onto a cow. Fashion trauma." -- Quinn explaining Daria's dour appearance to Sandi
- "I have low esteem for people who administer self-esteem tests." -- Daria explaining to the Michaelis family that she doesn't have low self esteem
- In one of many deviations from Daria the series, Beavis and Butt-head interact with the Daria cast and come across as less socially disturbed.
- Most of the scenes from Brittany's party come from the Jennifer Love-Hewitt movie, Can't Hardly Wait (1998).
- Daria the Movie was a strong influence on Kara Wild's Abruptly Amy fanfiction series.
- When Kara Wild wrote "Of Absolute Value" in October 1999, she had recently learned about the Unofficial Daria Movie Rumor website and, thinking it hilarious, included a Sick Sad World dig in her fanfic: "Would you want Jennifer Love Hewitt starring in your movie?". She did not realize that, in fact, the Adelman brothers planned to release Daria the Movie that same month. Aaron Adelman later thanked her for the publicity in his fanfic end notes.