When Andie MacDowell, in her brief role as the Mom in the new teen farce Monte Carlo, says to Selena Gomez’s Grace, “Paris is just Paris. It isn’t going to turn you into a whole new person,” it’s tough not to roll your eyes at the ham-fisted foreshadowing, especially when you realize this is exactly the calibre of entertainment you’re in for over the next 108 minutes.
If you’ve seen even one of the film’s trailers, you’ll know that poor Mom couldn’t have been more wrong. After recent high school grad Grace takes off for a week’s vacation to Paris with her sassy friend Emma (Melrose Place‘s Katie Cassidy) and her conservative step-sister Meg (Gossip Girl‘s Leighton Meester), she quickly runs head-on into a series of mishaps and coincidences that lead her into posing as British heiress and Paris Hilton-like tabloid fodder (also Grace’s exact double) Cordelia Winthrop-Scott, then heading off on a whirlwind, first-class trip to Monte Carlo.
The film is designed to be harmless aspirational summer vacation fun in the grand tradition of Gidget (or more like, Gidget goes to Rome) and in that avenue it succeeds thanks to the lovely vistas, cute (but safely bland) boys and pretty clothes. It’s meant to be escapism; the kind of shut-your-brain-off popcorn flick that’s tailored to teen girls in the same way that this week’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon (read my review, here) is tailored to teen boys. The problem is, there’s not an original idea to be found.
Instead Monte Carlo feels like a movie cobbled together by bits and bobs of other better movies, as though Director and co-writer Thomas Bezucha decided to take a pinch of Pretty Woman, a dash of Under the Tuscan Sun and a smidgeon of The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, throw them into a blender and go with the result. It’s a popcorn movie soup that relies on Gomez to elevate and carry the material and while she’s certainly charming, it’s just not enough to make the film watchable for anyone who’s not in the throes of puberty.
Bezucha’s last film, The Family Stone, was an exercise in smartly written, colourful characters (although it also benefited from an all-star cast of great actors), managing to make that old “zany family Christmas” trope entertaining. It’s just too bad that for all of his grand efforts this time around, Monte Carlo is nothing to write home about.
Monte Carlo opens in Toronto today. Check here for showtimes.
Wondering what else to see at the cineplex this weekend? Check out my reviews for:
Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Bad Teacher, Super 8, X-Men: First Class and more!
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