CHASING LIBERTY - DVD review

I found my attention wandering several times...

 
Eddie
Feng

Mandy Moore arrived on the scene as the last of the blonde teen pop singers who gobbled up media space as the 20th Century ended and as the 21st Century began. They all presented themselves as nice with a hint of jailbait naughty in order to attract as many fans as possible. Since then, they've differentiated, with Britney Spears (the Southerner) playing the icon/trendsetter (ala Madonna), with Christina Aguilera (the extremely thin one) playing the nastiest (in every sense of the word), with Jessica Simpson (the ditz) playing the virginal-idiot-turned-married-idiot, and with Mandy Moore (the tall one) losing all hints of naughtiness in order to be the sweetest. Alas, the one who parents would love to see their daughters embrace is also the least successful at moving albums from stores' shelves, so Mandy Moore has been trying her hand at starting a viable film career.

How's Miss Moore doing? So far, so pretty bad. She played the evil popular girl to great comic effect in "The Princess Diaries" but got de-fanged for "A Walk to Remember", a good effort about how a moral teenaged-girl changes the life of a too-cool-for-school lunkhead. We then had to deal with trash like "All I Want" and "How to Deal". Now, we see Miss Moore reaching for the classics with "Chasing Liberty", a re-make of "Roman Holiday" that wishes that it could posit its star as the next Audrey Hepburn.

It's not too much of a stretch, really; Hepburn looked regal without the benefit of Mandy's height (5'10"). Mandy is cute, inoffensive, and likable. She's also a decent actress, holding her own opposite veterans like Peter Coyote and Mark Harmon. However, she continues to pick some of the worst scripts being greenlighted, stories that treat teenagers and coming-of-age situations as excuses for bad jokes and trite messages. This is not to say that movies about teenagers and coming-of-age can't be funny or good. However, Mandy's vehicles are rather flat, like soda that's been left unattended for a couple of hours.

In "Chasing Liberty", Amy Foster (Moore) longs to be able to spend some quality time with a boy without her dad's Secret Service agents ruining her dates. President Foster (Mark Harmon) decides to use Ben (Matthew Goode), a young agent with a British accent, to keep his daughter occupied while the family visits Europe on official business. The youngsters traipse through several Central European countries with Ben keeping in touch with his Secret Service superiors while also keeping his job a secret from Amy. Meanwhile, agents played by Jeremy Piven and Annabella Sciorra keep an eye on Amy and Ben even as they fall in love with each other in a parallel situation.

Everything feels rather banal because
1) the characters don't have anything witty or profound to say;
2) the film presents Europe as a collection of noteworthy vistas without trying to say something about the state of European politics/society despite the fact that Amy's dad is the president of the U.S.A.;
3) Matthew Goode is a blank of an actor given a blank of a character to play.

Since there's no real development of characters, themes, or narrative strands, the film feels like it's much longer than 100 minutes. I found my attention wandering several times, and even Amy's "first time" wasn't very involving. Rather than thinking, "Oh, she's growing up", I thought, "Oh, she had sex (shrug)."

"Chasing Liberty" is good enough for me to keep as light date-night fare. However, given her acting trajectory, I don't think that Mandy Moore will establish herself as a respected thespian any more than she has established herself as a commercially successful singer. It's too bad; she's actually pretty good at both acting and singing, but her decision-making leaves much to be desired.

Video:
A previous Mandy Moore-starrer from Warner Bros., "A Walk to Remember", featured a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen image that looked like it was populated by blobs for some reason. The happy news for "Chasing Liberty" is that its 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen is gorgeous. The filmmakers shot the movie as if it were a postcard (indeed, there are some shots that were designed to be postcards within the movie's mise-en-scene). The sharp, clear transfer is never too dark nor too bright.

Audio:
The front-heavy Dolby Digital 5.1 English does its job without either impressing or disappointing. The audio is "just there", with a decent amount of front-channel separation and clear dialogue to keep you from wondering why your rear speakers are so quiet. The subwoofer gets to play when a couple of cars screech across the screen and during music-heavy scenes, but things never really get interesting.

There's a DD 5.1 French track featuring dubbing done in Quebec, Canada. Optional English, French, and Spanish subtitles as well as optional English closed captions support the audio.

Extras:
There's an audio commentary by Mandy Moore and Matthew Goode that is dominated by the giggly former. Suffice it to say that the only comments worth noting are the ones concerning Miss Moore's near-nakedness in several scenes. I don't get it--Mandy wants to be nice and exhibitionistic at the same time? There's nothing wrong with being naked, but there's something off about skinny-dipping in a river that runs past several restaurants.

There are some deleted scenes, a gag reel (featuring mostly Jeremy Piven's improv), footage of a concert, and a text-with-audio-clips presentation of the actors' favorite moments in Europe. Finally, you can enjoy the film's theatrical trailer.

--Miscellaneous--
A cardboard-and-plastic snapper case offers chapter listings on the inside of its cover flap.

Film Value:
As with so many other movies that are competent on a technical level, "Chasing Liberty" becomes a chore to watch because its screenwriters ran out of ideas. The characters do not grow during the course of the film's running time. Although the locations change from sequence to sequence, the effect is the same wherever Amy goes in Europe ("Oh, look how pretty Prague/Rome/Berlin is!"). As such, the actors aren't required to show more than one emotion at a time. I know that Mandy Moore is the "good girl", but even good people struggle with complex turmoil from time to time.

Ratings

Video
9
Audio
7
Extras
4
Film Value
5