Chasing Liberty (2004) / Romance-Drama

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for sexual content and language
Running Time: 111 min.

Cast: Mandy Moore, Matthew Goode, Mark Harmon, Jeremy Piven, Annabella Sciorra, Caroline Goodall, Martin Hancock
Director: Andy Cadiff

Screenplay: Derek Guiley, David Schneiderman
Review published January 12, 2004

Chasing Liberty posed quite a challenge for me to review, as every few minutes I had to force myself to pay attention and not completely zone out.  Quite frankly, I don't know why I bothered trying so hard, as there's nothing that happens during the movie that's fresh or surprising, with plot developments easily guessed from the get-go.  Although the producers of this film probably hoped it would have broad appeal, it really is probably only of interest to people who love romances set in various lush European vistas, so if you just enjoy nice scenery, there's plenty of that for you.  Oh, I suppose if you want to catch up on a little snoozing, it's also not a bad choice.

Mandy Moore (A Walk to Remember, All I Want) stars as Anna Foster, the only child of the President, trying to live life like a normal 18-year-old, but finding that living in a fishbowl surrounded by Secret Service agents, the press, and a nosy public makes dating life a drag.  She makes a deal with daddy to attend a concert in Prague with minimal Secret Service watching her, and when she finds out her overprotective father still monitors her every move, she uses the opportunity to run away, with the help of a handsome passerby, Ben Calder, a British bloke who just so happens to also be a Secret Service agent, although Anna is completely oblivious to it.  The President sees Ben as the perfect opportunity to give Anna her freedom by letting him befriend her, although in truth, he is only there to protect her.  The two decide to travel together to attend the Love Parade in Berlin, but the chemistry between the two is evident, causing great conflicts within Ben as to whether to indulge in the budding romance or do his duty to keep her honor intact.

There are only two aspects of Chasing Liberty that make it somewhat tolerable for those able to maintain attention-span.  First and foremost, the cinematography by Ashley Rowe (The Affair of the Necklace, Calendar Girls) is excellent, with beautifully shot scenery, nice locale work, and superb use of the widescreen process in capturing the look and feel of each particular location.  The other strength comes from the competent acting by Moore, Goode, and Harmon, and although they aren't really roles that necessitate great dramatic emotion, there is a good deal of subtlety to their situations that they pull off quite well.  Jeremy Piven and Annabella Sciorra are also fun to watch in a very predictable side story of two Secret Service agents on Anna's trail who have a back-and-forth flirtatious relationship.

Outside of these, there's very little to recommend.  Much of the people Anna and Ben meet during their road trip aren't particularly interesting, especially an annoying Irishman named McGruff, who seems to be a carbon copy of Rhys Ifans' Spike character from Notting Hill, without the funny t-shirts.  The film could also have used some tightening up, as the musical montages don't really push forward the story, and probably exist only to hock the soundtrack.  The writing by first-time screenwriters Guiley and Schneiderman doesn't really explore enough of the only unique element of the film, the political implications of the First Daughter's rebellious jaunts, instead only concentrating on the blander, broader theme of a girl trying to break out of a sheltered existence (another nod to Notting Hill).  It's hard to sympathize with a girl who has more opportunities and open doors than any of us will ever have in our lifetimes, as she petulantly whines about how hard her life is and that nothing is fair.  What a laugh! 

Watch the Audrey Hepburn/Gregory Peck classic, Roman Holiday, to see this material done right.

Qwipster's rating:

2004 Vince Leo