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Chasing Liberty

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Chasing Liberty

Starring: Mandy Moore, Matthew Goode
Director: Andy Cadiff
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 111 Minutes
Release Date: January 2004
Genres: Comedy, Romance

*Also starring: Jeremy Piven, Annabella Sciorra, Mark Harmon, Caroline Goodall, Beatrice Rosenblatt, Brian Caspe, Sam Ellis, Martin Hancock, Joseph Long, Stark Sands

Review by Harvey Karten
2 stars out of 4

One can get the impression from reading the papers that the teen children of high officials are particularly prone to getting into trouble. The other day, Al Gore's son was picked up for possession of marijuana. Many years back, when President Nixon was urging Americans not to travel to Europe but to spend their dollars at home, one of his daughters up and went to the Continent. Wouldn't you think that the offspring of people in the public eye would be particularly cautious not to hurt their celebrated fathers? That they would avoid getting their faces in the tabloids if only to spare their hard-working celebs of more ignominy than they already face from their political opponents?

Mandy Moore as Anna Foster, the daughter of the U.S. president, performs in the role of an eighteen-year-old woman who, in the tradition of these other children of the famous, concludes that smiling for the press and signing autographs at public functions is not what life is all about. In acting on that impulse, she is not unlike the wife of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who bolted from the relationship because she could not adapt to an endless round of stiffly formal state dinners. Young Anna Foster watched over by President James Foster (Mark Harmon) and followed on dates by an army of Secret Service limos wants to be free and independent like other American teens. When the president is urged by First Lady Michelle Foster (Caroline Goodall) to cut the teen some slack, he devises an ingenious plan one we can expect to have the success of quite a few clever, real-life presidential strategies. He can appease his classy wife and rebellious daughter without putting the adolescent into real danger. Why not assign a young and handsome agent the job of escorting Anna around Prague, where the president and his family are on a state function? When Anna and secret agent Ben Calder (Matthew Goode) meet cute she jumps on his bike to escape a number of agents, not realizing that Ben is in the employ of the administration the big man expects them to have fun in the Czech capital. Instead, the two young people end up on a romantic fling across Europe, taking in the Austrian Alps, Venice, London, and a joyous love fest in Berlin celebrating the need for world peace.

Mandy Moore is awfully sweet, her high cheek bones framing her pouts as well as her smiles, but director Andy Cadiff allows as much depth from the actress as Gary Marshall got from her in "The Princess Diaries" which is to say her emotions range from whine to delirium and back again without passing through the usual intermediate processes. As Cadiff takes us on a tour of high spots of Europe, filmed nicely but not with any great dazzle by photographer Ashley Rowe, Ben and Anna have the off-again, on-again flights so common to Hollywood romances, the stories for which the audience members absolutely demand that the conclusion be a prolix kiss "or we want our money back." Miriam Margolyes shows up as a Venetian mama, convinced that Ben and Anna are married and on their honeymoon. This episode leads to the scene that required some hefty pulling back to retain the PG-13 rating without which there could be a really small box office as the alcohol- high princess tries to seduce the secret service guy into serving her. The more interesting love story takes place between two middle-aged secrets played by Annabella Sciorra and Jeremy Priven in a buddies-turned-lovers subplot that mirrors the principal action. Will Agent Alan Weiss (Priven) stop treating Agent Cynthia Morales (Sciorra) as one of the boys and relate to her as a woman?

Mark Harmon as president recalls the presence and charisma of JFK, making us think that scripters David Schneiderman and Derek Guiley are modeling their chief executive after Kennedy while at the same time inspired by Chelsea Clinton's real-life romance as a student at Oxford University. "I think you have a thing for me," insists Anna before she realizes that her new friend is not what he seems. "No, I don't have a thing for you...not a big thing or a little thing." Only people like me with dirty minds would consider this dialogue to be meant as a double-entendre, which means that "Chasing Liberty," a conventional and bland romance, is perfectly suited for the teeny-bopper crowd.

Copyright 2004 Harvey Karten

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