In her third starring role in the past two years, bubblegum-pop-songstress-turned-budding-thespian Mandy Moore once again transforms a dreadful teen-oriented romance into something moderately watchable. As Liberty finds adventure, romance, and personal freedom from her over-protective Commander-in-Chief father by smiling her way around Europe with a British hunk, Moore accomplishes something I thought nearly impossible given the film’s tedious, sledgehammer-subtle story: she enchanted me. With her brown locks, twinkling oval eyes, and slender, offhand grace, Moore has screen presence to burn, and Chasing Liberty is largely a chance to watch her flash her considerable movie star charisma. Whether she’s blithely prancing through the crowded streets of Prague or skinny-dipping in the Danube, the young actress brings a passion and bubbly enthusiasm to her character’s quest for an empowering escapade free of parental supervision. That Moore’s latest film once again doesn’t live up to her performance, however, is—after A Walk to Remember and How to Deal—a predictable disappointment. Moore’s Liberty is tired of being followed by a horde of Secret Service agents, and decides to go AWOL while accompanying her father (Mark Harmon, having seemingly forgotten how to flaunt his own once-captivating smile) to a summit in Prague. She teams up with (and swoons over) a mysterious stranger named Ben (newcomer Matthew Goode), who, it turns out, is actually another Secret Service agent ordered to accompany her around Europe and give her a false sense of—ugh!—liberty. Along with the groan-inducing title and an unnecessary subplot involving the budding affair between Secret Service agents Morales (Annabella Sciorra) and Weiss (Jeremy Piven), the bludgeoning score clumsily telegraphs the film’s themes (“You’ve got to live your life and do what you want to do” is sung during Liberty’s climactic visit to a German street parade). The only natural scene involves Liberty’s inaugural sexual experience, which unlike Britney’s deflowering in Crossroads (which felt like the product of month-long debates between Spears’s myriad PR strategists) provides a refreshingly non-judgmental portrait of teenage sexuality. Still, despite Moore’s charms, Chasing Liberty‘s otherwise pervasive blandness leaves one with the impression that the filmmakers don’t trust their female teenage audience to understand or embrace complexity or sophistication.
- Warner Bros.
- 101 min
- Andy Cadifff
- Derek Guiley, David Schneiderman
- Mandy Moore, Matthew Goode, Mark Harmon, Jeremy Piven, Annabella Sciorra, Sam Ellis, Terence Maynard, Martin Hancock
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