Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"Monte Carlo": Fakin' it, but still not makin' it

There are three genuinely appealing things about this throwback teen romance Euro-caper: the suitably lush photography, the performance of Katie Cassidy (who largely steals the show, but more on her later), and the strong jazz feel in the soundtrack (not least of which includes Louis Armstrong's "La Vie En Rose").

Those aside, this is merely a starring vehicle for Selena Gomez, packaged for her in manner eerily similar to what had been done previously for Hilary Duff and - in slightly different fashion - for Miley Cyrus. Therefore, if you're over 16, and interested in non- formulaic films, this is one tour you should avoid.

but, we treat with the material as presented us. As such, Monte Carlo is all sheen and sweet sounds, and very little substance. It's chief plot point, a trans-Atlantic case of mistaken identity has no legs, even with the very likable Gomez to pout and raise her eyebrows through the dual roles - working-class American and Brit socialite. She makes no pretense of sustaining a credible English accent and neither the director nor the producers attempt to hold her to it, figuring that her army of fans won't either.

Leighton Meester, as her stuck-up half-sister and the aforementioned Cassidy, as her impulsive friend, are intended as decoration, but the latter, daughter of 70s TV/pop star David Cassidy, manages to flip the script, as they say, and infuse her character with a welcome shot of humanity. It's not enough to lift the picture, but it's a joy to watch while it lasts.

From where I write, graduation season (especially high schools) is in full swings. Even if you may not personally have the stomach for this saccharine soufflé, your teen daughter may well be chomping at the bit to see her idol onscreen and vicariously enjoy the lavish hotel suites, gowns, baubles, and frothy romance.

Give in, and let her have it. You only live once.

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