Monte Carlo was originally intended to be a film starring Nicole Kidman about golddiggers who go on vacation hoping to snag wealthy men. Over the years, for whatever reasons the script was rewritten and it ended up becoming a teen girl fantasy romp aimed at the very lucrative tween market starring the latest product of the Disney machine (and Justin Bieber’s cradlerobbing girlfriend), Selena Gomez.
Gomez plays Grace, a recent high school graduate and waitress who has been saving for four years to take a trip to Paris with her “wild” best friend Emma (Katie Cassidy). Her mother (Hey look, it’s Andie MacDowell, she plays moms now!) and new stepfather are concerned about Grace going with Emma (she is wild after all) so they foot the bill for older stepsister Meg (Leighton Meester) to come along to make sure no shenanigans ensue. Grace isn’t happy about this. Not, you may think, because she’s been scrimping and saving her waitressing tips for four years while Meg gets a free ticket, but because she doesn’t get along very well with stick-in-the-mud Meg and doesn’t want her to drag down the trip.
“Did you know that the Catacombs of Paris hold the bones of over six million people? They call it ‘The City of the Dead.” Waah, waah, waah.
The trip doesn’t start out so well. The beautiful hotel in the brochure is a run-down fleabag motel. The tour guide is apparently a meth addict and leads the group through speeded tours of famous landmarks. (For someone that’s been planning this trip for four years, Grace really didn’t research her choices very well. Hey Grace, next time, there’s this thing called the internet where people post reviews of things like hotels and guided tours.) The girls end up getting separated from the group and caught in a rainstorm. They seek shelter in a posh hotel where Grace is mistaken for a Hilton-esque socialite named Cordelia Winthrop Scott (Gomez in a dual role) who has skipped out of a charity obligation in Monte Carlo. What to do, what to do….
Yes, the whole mistaken identity/instant princess thing has been done many, many times before and you can pretty much figure out how it’s going to go, but I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I can’t say I went into this movie as objectively as I should have (I instantly started looking for things to snark at) but I found myself pretty consistently entertained. Mostly due to Leighton Meester and Katie Cassidy (the only good thing about the now canceled Melrose Place reboot) who were terrific in their roles. Selena Gomez, though the weakest of the three leads, is still a whole lot better of an actress than former Disney-it girl Miley Cyrus, especially while playing the bitchy Cordelia. The men (of course each girl gets a romantic interest) fit in nicely also (it was nice to see Cory Monteith, of television’s Glee, play a role closer to his age.) No one’s performance was annoying to watch in that Disney School of Overacting way, and that was a very, very, good thing.
The film breezes along and there are even a few real chuckles along the way. I’m not saying it’s fantastic, but it’s nice and harmless and even fun if you allow it to be.
While the cast does a respectable job, it’s often a little distracting that Selena Gomez appears to be about fifteen years old while her two friends look like they’re in their mid-twenties. Also, most of the characters are from Texas, but the southern accents range from affected to non-existent. It’s best not to focus on these things.
With any far-fetched hijincky switcharoo movie, you have to drink a figurative (or literal) cold one to suspend disbelief at at least a few gaping plot holes. Or in the case of Monte Carlo, many gaping plot holes. For instance, how does Cordelia not realize until she arrives in Monte Carlo that someone has been impersonating her for a WEEK? There are pictures in the newspapers and paparazzi all over. Does she not have a smartphone? Twitter? Where did she go without any access to the outside world?
I hear they have raging parties over there.
And in what kind of place can you steal someone else’s luxury accommodations, private jet, and million dollar jewelry, and then kidnap that person without facing criminal charges? I place I’d sure like to go, that’s where. And also, supposedly, Monte Carlo.
Also, how amazing that all three woman fit perfectly into another woman’s clothes!
Must be some kind of magic!
I feel like I have to apologize to the readers of MovieBoozer. This movie had “six-pack” written all over, but I liked it in spite of myself. Yes, it’s silly, contrived, and corny, but enjoyable nonetheless. (Maybe it’s the fourteen year old girl that still lives inside me. Don’t deny it, everyone has one, even a lot of you guys). I’m not saying run out and spend $8 on it, but it’s the type of fun, light movie that isn’t a terrible way to kill some time on a lazy Sunday afternoon on the couch when it’s on cable in a few months.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a drink: every time the fun and very helpful graphics pop up to tell you where the scene is taking place. (Example: “PARIS” –You know, in case the Eiffel Tower doesn’t clue you in.)
Take a drink: every time someone wears a beautiful evening gown.
Take a drink (and play a sad trombone): every time Meg mentions her dead mother.
Take a drink: every time two characters kiss. (At the screening I attended, instead of drinking a beer, I got squeals and giggles from twelve year olds.)
Take a drink: every time a character mentions that what they are doing is wrong.
Take another drink: every time they continue to do it anyway.
Take a shot of whisky: at the end of the movie, when you realize you didn’t hate it and wonder if you’re going soft.