Dan Lybarger, 9 January 2004
As a 37-year-old male, itís safe
to say that Iím not in the target market for Chasing Liberty.
Nonetheless, I feel compelled to note the filmís positive traits:
- The opening song is not
performed by the filmís star Mandy Moore. Tom Pettyís spirited
nasal whine is preferable to Mooreís pretty but personality-free
warbling any day.
- The scenic European locations
were photographed in focus.
- The other performers managed
to hit their chalk marks with a good degree of accuracy and
memorized their lines or at least read any cue cards clearly.
- The filmmakers chose to rip
off one of the best romantic comedies every made: William
Wylerís Roman Holiday.
Itís the final point that is also
Chasing Libertyís fatal weakness. If youíre going to steal a
classic storyline, youíd better do something new with it or populate
it with people viewers would actually want to see together.
No such luck here. Gregory Peck has
recently passed on, and Wyler, writer Dalton Trumbo and the
one-and-only Audrey Hepburn could politely be described as
permanently unavailable. Their replacements canít help but leave a
discerning filmgoer feeling nostalgic to the point of necrophilia.
The revamped setup features Moore
as Anna Foster, a Presidentís daughter who has become disenchanted
with her life in the spotlight. Dad (Mark Harmon, more concerned
with sneaking a cigar than foreign policy) is too busy trying to run
the United States to figure out how to deal with his daughterís
urgent needs for privacy and romance.
Some presidential children might
have weighty concerns: For example, Amy Carter was bothered by
nuclear warfare. Anna, however, just wants to get to third base
without the intrusion of Secret Service agents.
While a competent actress, Moore
doesn't give Anna enough charm to make her rather limited goals seem
compelling. Considering that any one associated with U.S. leaders is
a potential terrorist target, her complaints about excessive
protection seem rather petty.
You could say, "But this film is
aimed at teens." But so are the American Pie films, and
despite their over-the-top crassness, those have flashes of
creativity and likable characters: Two essential elements missing
Things don't get much better as
Anna leaves the country. When the Chief Executive takes the family
on a diplomatic trip to Prague, Anna gets upset because even in
Europe, her father has a whole legion of Secret Service agents
hovering around her. She thinks she's ditched them by running off
with a hunky British motorcyclist named Ben (Matthew Goode,
demonstrating all the humanity of a fence post). Little does she
know that he's on the Secret Service payroll, too.
While it might not be that likely,
Chasing Liberty could have come dangerously close to being
fun by letting Anna actually ditch her protectors and handlers as
Audrey Hepburn did in Roman Holiday. Because Ben's security
net is always there, there isn't much that can happen: funny, scary
or otherwise. In Chasing Liberty, both "Old Europe" and "New
Europe" come across as equally dull. Without any sort of narrative
tension or any trace of wit. For example, here is an exchange
between the First Lady (Caroline Goodall) and Anna:
The First Lady: How's your
Anna: It's a little bit broken.
All of this is delivered with a
cold seriousness that belies the ludicrousness of the debut (and
hopefully final) script by Derek Guiley and David Schneiderman. The
attempts at humor, involving a love-hate relationship between Secret
Service agents Jeremy Piven and Anabella Schiorra, make a viewer
long for the comedy and romance of Freddy vs. Jason. Piven
spits out a few one-liners that seem to come off the cuff. One
suspects he's deviating from the script and becomes eternally