Movie Review: 'Monte Carlo:' Don't take the gamble
There's a wonderful moment in "Monte Carlo" when night is falling and fireworks are bursting and love is in the air, and somewhere in the distance the sound of Louis Armstrong singing "La Vie en Rose" begins wafting on the soundtrack.
Then you realize, hey, this scene is in Monte Carlo. Why wasn't the song played when the characters were still in Paris? The song has always been associated with Paris. In case you're not familiar with the city, when the action switches there from a little Texas town, there's a full-screen close-up of the Eiffel Tower with the word "PARIS" splayed out across the screen.
It's the city where Texas-bred best pals Grace and Emma, and Grace's soon-to-be stepsister, Meg, are heading for a one-week vacation celebrating Grace's high school graduation.
It's the city where they stay in a dumpy little hotel, go on a whirlwind bus and foot tour - complete with a flat, clunky, poorly conceived string of slapstick gags. And, this is the important part, it's where, after being caught in a downpour, the three girls duck into what looks like a six-star hotel.
It's the hotel where sweet little Grace (Selena Gomez) is mistaken for haughty, spoiled Cordelia Winthrop Scott (also Gomez), a very wealthy Brit in the midst of freaking out and abandoning responsibilities that await her in Monte Carlo (a city not associated with "La Vie en Rose").
From that point on, this is geared to audiences who bought all of those tickets to see the "Traveling Pants" movies. Wait, make that geared to the less-sophisticated members of those audiences.
Without much explanation, the girls are whisked off to Monaco via private jet. Grace/Cordelia, now boasting a not-so-perfect British accent, but acting "meaner" and looking the berries with all of the fancy clothing in the fancy suitcases sent along with her, is supposed to auction off a necklace for charity. And my, oh my, wait'll you see that necklace. You know, the one that the camera keeps lingering on, the one that's worth millions of Euros, the one that, oops, goes missing.
Meg (Leighton Meester) worries about getting caught, Emma (Katie Cassidy) is carefree and ditzy, Grace displays no will of her own, and seems ready to go along with whichever of her pals is louder at the time.
They meet boys, a breezy musical score wells up, fades away, then keeps coming back like a wart, with plastic pop songs thrown in for emphasis on nothing in particular. A promising idea of showing Cordelia on the cover of Polo Monthly, then having neophyte polo player Grace forced onto a pony and into a match is presented, then quickly forgotten before anything happens.
This is pure vanilla moviemaking. It's so underdeveloped, the scriptwriters, working from the Jules Bass novel "Headhunters," forgot to include any meaningful emotional connection between the three lead characters.
It's too cute and far too neatly tied up. But no one's going to be surprised by all of the shortcomings.
You know there's really something wrong with a movie when you can clearly see the background extras overacting all the way through it.
MONTE CARLO (PG for brief mild language). Cast includes, Selena Gomez, Katie Cassidy and Leighton Meester. Directed by Tom Bezucha. 1 star out of 4.