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‘Monte Carlo’ is Cut Above Young-Women-Abroad Films

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HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 4.0/5.0
Rating: 4.0/5.0

CHICAGO – Nothing like a summer surprise at the movies to make the season a little more tolerable. Selena Gomez and the ubiquitous Leighton Meester take a sumptuous trip and brings us along in “Monte Carlo.”

Using the old “Prince and the Pauper” theme, Monte Carlo creates a bubbly, amusing film with the old stagecraft of mistaken identity and the multiple slamming doors that result. It also is a pretty decent travelogue, going from the sights of Paris to the titular city of Monte Carlo in expressive and awe-inspiring shots. It seems everyone had a great time on their working vacation.

Grace (Selena Gomez) is a dreamer, looking the shake the dust off the small-time Texas town she is currently residing in. Her mother Pam (Andie McDowell) is remarried and Grace has a shaky relationship with her stepsister, Meg (Leighton Meester). But two things are coming up roses for Grace, she is finally graduating high school and taking the long-saved-for trip to Paris.

There are a couple of complications. Her parents are not sure of the responsibility of her traveling companion and older friend Emma (Katie Cassidy), so they insist that Meg go along. This throws both Katie and Grace into a tizzy, for Meg is rather a stick in the mud (still mourning her mother who has past away). But despite all that, and over the protestations of Katie’s boyfriend Owen (Cory Monteith), the gang jets to Pareé and hooks up with a less than luxurious tour.

The Dilemma: Leighton Meester, Katie Cassidy (Emma) and Selena Gomez (Grace) in ‘Monte Carlo’
The Dilemma: Leighton Meester, Katie Cassidy (Emma) and Selena Gomez (Grace) in ‘Monte Carlo’
Photo credit: Larry Horricks for © Twentieth Century Fox

Even though the tour company is a bummer, Meg does lock eyes with a hunky Aussie (Luke Bracey) and the best is yet to come. It seems that Grace bears a striking resemblance to the Paris Hilton of Britain, Cordelia Winthrop Scott (Gomez again) and before you can say two-of-the-kind the Texas gals are being flown to Monte Carlo on a private jet, where through a series of complications Grace will stand in for the heiress. Can true love be far behind?

What separates this film from the “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” series, for example, is that they don’t shoehorn the young women into stereotypical boxes. They are having a good time in the ruse, which is fairly harmless, and creating some comic situations that skew the upper crust environment with some wit and relish. Selena Gomez has a great time portraying Cordelia, so much so that another movie about just her might actually work.

The two co-stars bring some nice aid and comfort to our hero. Katie Cassidy is a hoot playing a flighty Texan overseas (by the way, I’d like to visit that Texas town where those gals reside, everybody is so “purdy”). She is the one that wants the mistaken identity to continue, given the luxuries affording it. Leighton Meester continues her climb up the star ladder with her perfect camera ready face, and she forms a nice balancing act to all of the madness.

What is most fun in the direction of Thomas Bezucha (”The Family Stone”) is the way he structures the events to milk the most farce out of the typical starlet fluff. The staffs of the grand hotels in Paris and Monte Carlo are used as comic relief, foils to the complications that surround them. There is a touch of the master Blake Edwards in this, especially when everyone is trying to run around the two characters of Selena Gomez in the end.

And Bezucha isn’t stingy with the scenery shots. Of course both Paris and Monte Carlo lends themselves well to the screen, but Bezucha adds a bit of spice in both places that expand the treasures within each of them. The neighborhood streets of Paris counter the touristy areas, and the vistas of the oceanfront in Monte Carlo gives the potential lovers some places to hide.

Breezy: Leighton Meester (Meg) in ‘Monte Carlo’
Breezy: Leighton Meester (Meg) in ‘Monte Carlo’
Photo credit: Larry Horricks for © Twentieth Century Fox

The hunky men of Monte Carlo are secondary to the gals, which both makes sense and allows their background actions to maximize the overall narrative. Luke Bracey as the Australian adventurer Riley low keys it the most, and is rewarded with a fine laugh just by sipping a glass of champagne. Cory Monteith, as the Texan left behind by Emma, makes a case for all the romance of American men, by chasing his true love across a couple of borders.

This is not “Citizen Kane,” it is just an example of how to do a frothy trifle of a film and make it entertaining for all the levels of its audience. It throws in romance for the pre-teens, empathy for the young adults and a few laughs for everyone else. If that ain’t the best bet for the 4th of July, then we all can Mess with Texas.

”Monte Carlo” opens everywhere on July 1st. Featuring Selena Gomez, Katie Cassidy, Leighton Meester, Andie McDowell, Luke Bracey, Cory Monteith and Pierre Boulanger. Screenplay by Thomas Bezucha, April Blair and Maria Maggenti, directed by Thomas Bezucha. Rated “PG

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Senior Staff Writer

© 2011 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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