Chasing Liberty
review by Dan Lybarger, 9 January 2004

As a 37-year-old male, itís safe to say that Iím not in the target market for Chasing Liberty. Nonetheless, I feel compelled to note the filmís positive traits:

  • The opening song is not performed by the filmís star Mandy Moore. Tom Pettyís spirited nasal whine is preferable to Mooreís pretty but personality-free warbling any day.
  • The scenic European locations were photographed in focus.
  • The other performers managed to hit their chalk marks with a good degree of accuracy and memorized their lines or at least read any cue cards clearly.
  • The filmmakers chose to rip off one of the best romantic comedies every made: William Wylerís Roman Holiday.

Itís the final point that is also Chasing Libertyís fatal weakness. If youíre going to steal a classic storyline, youíd better do something new with it or populate it with people viewers would actually want to see together.

No such luck here. Gregory Peck has recently passed on, and Wyler, writer Dalton Trumbo and the one-and-only Audrey Hepburn could politely be described as permanently unavailable. Their replacements canít help but leave a discerning filmgoer feeling nostalgic to the point of necrophilia.

The revamped setup features Moore as Anna Foster, a Presidentís daughter who has become disenchanted with her life in the spotlight. Dad (Mark Harmon, more concerned with sneaking a cigar than foreign policy) is too busy trying to run the United States to figure out how to deal with his daughterís urgent needs for privacy and romance.

Some presidential children might have weighty concerns: For example, Amy Carter was bothered by nuclear warfare. Anna, however, just wants to get to third base without the intrusion of Secret Service agents.

While a competent actress, Moore doesn't give Anna enough charm to make her rather limited goals seem compelling. Considering that any one associated with U.S. leaders is a potential terrorist target, her complaints about excessive protection seem rather petty.

You could say, "But this film is aimed at teens." But so are the American Pie films, and despite their over-the-top crassness, those have flashes of creativity and likable characters: Two essential elements missing here.

Things don't get much better as Anna leaves the country. When the Chief Executive takes the family on a diplomatic trip to Prague, Anna gets upset because even in Europe, her father has a whole legion of Secret Service agents hovering around her. She thinks she's ditched them by running off with a hunky British motorcyclist named Ben (Matthew Goode, demonstrating all the humanity of a fence post). Little does she know that he's on the Secret Service payroll, too.

While it might not be that likely, Chasing Liberty could have come dangerously close to being fun by letting Anna actually ditch her protectors and handlers as Audrey Hepburn did in Roman Holiday. Because Ben's security net is always there, there isn't much that can happen: funny, scary or otherwise. In Chasing Liberty, both "Old Europe" and "New Europe" come across as equally dull. Without any sort of narrative tension or any trace of wit. For example, here is an exchange between the First Lady (Caroline Goodall) and Anna:

The First Lady: How's your heart?

Anna: It's a little bit broken.

All of this is delivered with a cold seriousness that belies the ludicrousness of the debut (and hopefully final) script by Derek Guiley and David Schneiderman. The attempts at humor, involving a love-hate relationship between Secret Service agents Jeremy Piven and Anabella Schiorra, make a viewer long for the comedy and romance of Freddy vs. Jason. Piven spits out a few one-liners that seem to come off the cuff. One suspects he's deviating from the script and becomes eternally grateful. 

Directed by:
Andy Cadiff

Mandy Moore
Stark Sands
Tony Jayawardena
Jeremy Piven
Annabella Sciorra

Written by:
Derek Guiley
David Schneiderman

PG-13 - Parents
Strongly Cautioned.
Some material may
be inappropriate for
children under 13.






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