Eric D. Snider

Chasing Liberty

I keep getting Mandy Moore confused with Hilary Duff. Is that normal? Does that automatically disqualify me from reviewing either of their films? I WISH!

Sadly, Mandy Moore is in a new one called "Chasing Liberty," where she plays Anna Foster, daughter of the President of the United States (Mark Harmon). Anna is 18 and accustomed to life in the spotlight; still, she'd like to experience a normal date with a normal guy without a dozen Secret Service agents prowling around.

So one night while she's on a trip to Prague with the folks, she escapes onto the back of a moped being driven by Ben Calder (Matthew Goode), an English-ish young man who has no idea Anna is the first daughter.

Oh, except he does. Turns out he's a Secret Service agent, too, and the president decides to use this to his advantage. Anna wants some freedom? He'll let her think she's getting it by running off with Ben, when in fact Ben is under strict orders to keep Anna safe from harm and mischief.

Thus we have established The Lie, that all-important romantic-comedy ingredient. Anna lies to Ben about who she is, and Ben lies to Anna about who he is. (Of course, he was ordered to lie by the president of the United States, which is a pretty good excuse.) The truth is bound to come out, causing a breakup, followed by much moping and sadness as they miss each other and a sweet modern pop song plays on the soundtrack, at which point they will reconcile.

But I have gotten ahead of myself. Ol' Ben has his work cut out for him keeping Anna out of trouble, for trouble is exactly what Anna wants to be in! It's a little irresponsible, in my opinion, to make a film geared toward teenage girls, pushing all the teenage girl buttons (rich kid fantasy life, cute boy, scenic Europe, etc.), and then to have the protagonist getting drunk, cavorting naked on a beach, and having sex, all without consequences of any kind. The youthful fantasy of running away from home and experiencing life may be OK to indulge in a film made for teens; I think the events portrayed here cross the line -- especially, again, because none of Anna's actions have consequences.

But anyway. Jeremy Piven and Annabella Sciorra have an amusing subplot as the two agents regularly assigned to Anna, now traveling through Europe trying to keep up with her and Ben. Piven's character has the hots for Sciorra's; they banter; it's funny. It is the only source of actual humor in the film, really.

The whole thing's inexcusably long, especially given how bland and ineffectual it generally is. It is not without its charms, though, and its target audience will probably find it pleasurable. It will certainly tide them over until the next film is released starring Mandy Moore and/or Hilary Duff, whichever.

Grade: C+

Rated PG-13, a little profanity, some obscured nudity, a lot of bad teenage behavior

1 hr., 51 min.

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