January 09, 2004

Chasing Liberty

Life is hard being the hot, 18-year-old daughter of the President of the United States. Always being followed around by Secret Service agents, being recognized everywhere you go, travelling all over the world for free, never having to worry about money, having access to the best of everything, and no matter how hard you try, you just can't seem to lose that pesky virginity that you've been just itching to get rid of. I feel about as sorry for her as I do Paris Hilton. This is the premise we're asked to buy into in the new Mandy Moore film directed by sitcom super-director Andy Cadiff, whose only other feature work was the LEAVE IT TO BEAVER movie. I wish I'd known that going into the ROMAN HOLIDAY rip off known as CHASING LIBERTY.

Now let me make it clear: of all the world's pop princesses, Mandy Moore is probably my favorite. I've never heard a note of one of her songs but her seeming lack of desire to rip her clothes off for magazine covers and videos makes her all the more likely to get cast as Mistress Mandy in my oft-visited fantasy world. And even before I knew she was a singer, I saw her in A WALK TO REMEMBER and thought she did a credible job as a dying teenager. Of course, every film she's done since then has gotten worse, and her promise as an actress has diminished. But that hasn't stopped her from getting cuter by the day, and in CHASING LIBERTY she's sporting an heretofore unseen ample bosom that provided some much-needed distraction from this junky, woe-is-me pity party of a film. Moore plays Anna Foster, daughter to President James Foster (the wholly unconvincing Mark Harmon), and victim of being too popular for her own good. She seems well adjusted, educated, and personable, but the demands and status of daddy's job take their toll on poor Anna-banana. Boo hoo. After the film's opening botched first date sequence, Anna insists that her father allow her more freedom and be shadowed by fewer agents. The first family takes a trip to Europe, and the First Daddy agrees to let Anna have the opportunity to roam Prague with minimal escort. Too bad their first stop wasn't in Bosnia. By sheer coincidence, Anna bumps into the handsome Ben (newcomer Matthew Goode), a fellow world traveller with an oversized backpack and lots of cameras and film to snap shots of the most beautiful first daughter in the world. What Anna doesn't know is that Ben is also a Secret Service agent acting as something of a safety net for Anna's wandering spirit. Thinking she has escaped the watchful eye of her escorting agents, Anna drags Ben through Prague and eventually through Europe toward her ultimate destination, a goofy daytime rave in Berlin called Love Fest. Despite his best efforts the two start to fall for each other.

The real stars of the film, as I mentioned before, are Moore's breasts, which are shot lovingly by Cadiff and displayed prominently by Moore in a variety of low-cut and/or tight outfits. Without sound, this movie might have done something for me. As it stands, the film is one cliche after another. Anna seems to be in a constant state of looking for the next "amazing" and "incredible" (probably the two words used most in this screenplay) thing to do as a catchy pop tune plays behind montage after montage of her and Ben skipping along the streets of whatever picturesque city they happen to land in. Apparently one of the things, Anna things is "awesome" is taking her clothes off all the time. There are several scenes where Moore rips off her clothes in front of Ben (sometimes to go skinny dipping, sometimes for sex) and he pretends not to react. Good luck, dude. Goode seems like a decent enough actor and his deep British accent and good looks will certainly land him on the cover of many magazines aimed at teenage girls, but he's not asked to do much more than react to Moore's frustrations at just wanting to be a normal girl, a dilemma I think we've faced. And Moore's character comes across as shallow and spoiled. When she doesn't get what (or who) she wants, she storms off in a huff. The film is basically a collection of scenes of people running after her immature self. Hey! Maybe that's why the film is called CHASING LIBERTY since Liberty is the code name Anna has among the Secret Service agents. Could it be that this film is deeper and more awesome than I thought? And there is nothing I hate more in the movies than watching other people having fun. It's not enjoyable watching others doing cool stuff.

As the ultimate insult to the audience, there's actually a second underdeveloped romance going on while the world looks for Anna. Her Secret Service escorts, played by the usually reliable Jeremy Piven and Annabella Sciorra, are also falling for each other. I've never known Piven to be this unfunny or Sciorra to look this bored. Perhaps CHASING LIBERTY's biggest crime is being 100 percent predictable. Once the Ben character was introduced, I knew exactly how the film would end: she'll find out he's an agent, she'll run away into the crowd at Love Fest, he'll save her from the throng, etc. etc. etc. Nothing puts me to sleep faster than knowing what's coming next. Congratulations CHASING LIBERTY, you're the first crappy movie I've seen in 2004.

Posted by sprokopy at January 9, 2004 02:51 PM