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Monte Carlo (A Movie Review)

Monte Carlo


Starring Selena Gomez, Leighton Meester, Katie Cassidy, Corey Monteith, Andie MacDowell, Brett Cullen, Luke Bracey, Catherine Tate, Amanda Fairbank-Hynes, Pierre Boulanger, Joe Camp III, Valérie Lemercier, Franck de la Personne, Máté Haumann, Christophe Malavoy and Bruno Abraham-Kremer.

Screenplay by Thomas Bezucha, April Blair and Maria Maggenti.

Directed by Thomas Bezucha.

Distributed by 20th Century Fox. 109 minutes. Rated PG.

Okay, here is the situation. A teen starlet, beloved for her kids’ sitcom on a cable network and also a hit-making pop singer, has been working her way into films. Her first few attempts did not seem to make much of a splash, so they set up a grand romantic comedy for her. 

The teen queen will be doing a loose variation on the classic Mark Twain novel The Prince and the Pauper, playing a normal American girl who is taking her dream vacation to Europe, only to run into a celebrity who looks exactly like her. Through a series of wacky complications, the normal girl and her friends get to live out the life of the celebrity, all the while afraid that people will catch on to her ruse. And she meets the cutest European guy, who thinks she’s hot too! 

Plus, the actress gets to stretch her acting muscles, also playing the snooty, bitchy celebrity. 

No, we are not in a time warp to 2003. The starlet is not Hilary Duff, and the movie is not The Lizzie McGuire Movie. 

Monte Carlo just sounds a whole lot like it. 

Oh, there are some differences. Lizzie took place in Rome while Monte Carlo takes place in Paris and (naturally) Monte Carlo. In Lizzie she was impersonating a famous pop singer, in Monte Carlo the celeb is merely a famous spoiled rich heiress. And, frankly, Lizzie had a much more adventurous climax, subverting some of the audience’s original expectations. Most everything in Monte Carlo is straight from the tween comedy rulebook. 

And of course, there is the actress, Selena Gomez of the Disney Channel’s The Wizards of Waverly Place. 

However, the situation – both in front of and behind the camera – seems awfully familiar. 

You can say, “What’s the big deal? There have been dozens of variations of The Prince and the Pauper over the years,” and you’d be absolutely right. 

However, Hilary and The Lizzie McGuire Movie and her ensuing career should be a warning to Selena Gomez. 

Eight years later, even though she’s still under 25 years old, Duff’s career is pretty much at a standstill. That is mostly because she pandered to her tween-age audience with fluff like Lizzie McGuire Movie, A Cinderella Story, The Perfect Man, Material Girls, and the like. She never learned to grow as an actress. (Well, in fairness, she did take on a risky role in the awful black comedy War, Inc., but she just picked a really bad vehicle for her image reformation.) 

Little girls grow up and change. What they like at 11 will be insufferable to them at 16. This is your audience, Selena. Unless you grow with them, you will be left behind. 

Making movies like Ramona and Beezus, Another Cinderella Story (a Hilary Duff sequel, for goodness’ sake!), Princess Protection Program and (naturally) Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie will not bode for a long career. So, if you want to still be working at 30, you may not want to follow Duff’s career path. 

That said, for a tween girl romantic fantasy, Monte Carlo is not an awful film. It has cute kids, gorgeous scenery, light romance, haute couture, mildly amusing dialogue, fancy cars, beaches… and did I mention gorgeous scenery? Monte Carlo is worth seeing just to get a cinematic tour of Paris and Monte Carlo. 

Sadly, the writers don’t seem to know all that much about Europe. Or perhaps they care so little about their setting that they set up an elaborate sight gag in which one of the girls tries to plug in her cell phone charger and ends up blowing the entire hotel’s electricity – not even knowing that an American electrical plug would be physically impossible to fit into a European outlet. It is a completely different shape; even the densest tourist couldn’t possibly make that mistake. But the screenwriters do. More likely, they assume their young audience would never know better. 

We also have one of the girls’ boyfriends from back home – who it was established earlier had never left Texas – deciding on a whim to follow her to Paris. Apparently, he is able to get a passport (which normally takes weeks) and a flight all within a few hours. 

Interestingly, Gomez is kind of likable in the role – however her acting specialty (see her earlier roles as well) seems to be petulant sulkiness. Every once in a while, you just want to tell her to lighten up already. 

Actually, her two girlfriends – played by Gossip Girl faves Katie Cassidy and Leighton Meester – are more interesting as characters and the actresses are more assured than their more hyped co-star. 

Most of the guys here – including a handsome Australian tourist whose accent appears and disappears regularly and a handsome French philanthropist who keeps his accent straight through – are generic guy candy. Cory Monteith of Glee is kind of wasted as the hard-headed Texas boyfriend. 

There are worse ways to spend a couple of hours than Monte Carlo. It is formulaic and safe, but it does just barely deliver the goods that its rather undemanding target audience is looking for. 

But Selena, you are turning 19 in less than a month after this film’s release. The clock is ticking on your career. Assuming you have higher aspirations for your life than just being the possible future Mrs. Justin Bieber, you may want to look at some more adventurous scripts.

Dave Strohler

Copyright ©2011 All rights reserved. Posted: June 30, 2011.

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