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Movie review: ‘Monte Carlo’ a bland adventure with teen jet setters

Dennis King Published: July 1, 2011
MC-017   Grace (Selena Gomez, left), Meg (Leighton Meester, center) and Emma (Katie Cassidy) live like royalty during their very special vacation.
MC-017   Grace (Selena Gomez, left), Meg (Leighton Meester, center) and Emma (Katie Cassidy) live like royalty during their very special vacation.

Crown Selena Gomez the latest in a long line of teen royalty-of-the-moment (Anne Hathaway, Amanda Bynes, Hilary Duff, etc.) who have been tapped to star in their very own princess fairy tales. “Monte Carlo” is Disney star Gomez’s chance to play dress-up in a bland little mistaken-identity story that sprinkles around a lot of glitter to cover up its narrative dross.

Directed by Thomas Bezucha, from a schematic script based on a novel by Jules Bass, the movie casts the fresh-faced Gomez as small-town Texas teen Grace, whose post-graduation adventure is a long-dreamed-of trip to Paris in the company of her sassy waitress friend Emma (Katie Cassidy of “Melrose Place”).

But a last-minute interloper appears in the form of Grace’s uptight stepsister Meg (Lieghton Meester of “Gossip Girl”), whom Grace’s buttinski parents insist on being included in the trip.

As the three starry-eyed American tourists arrive in the City of Lights and quickly get whisked up in a high-speed tour bus blitz of the sights, this trip of a lifetime threatens to turn sour. But unlikely fate steps in when the girls get left behind by the hyper-tour bus and soon bump into Cordelia Winthrop-Scott (also played by Gomez), a snobby, pampered heiress who is an exact look-alike to Grace.

At bad-girl Emma’s urging, Grace takes advantage of a hotel staff mix-up and jumps into Cordelia’s place – with her friends in tow – on a weekend jaunt to Monte Carlo and the opulent Hotel de Paris.

There, the girls con their way into the lap of luxury and win the attentions the dashing bachelors from Cordelia’s jet-set world. Grace catches the eye of a smooth French aristocrat (Pierre Boulanger); Emma juggles the attentions of a suave Italian hunk (Gulio Berruti) while putting her hometown beau (Cory Monteith of “Glee”) on hold, and Meg strikes up romantic sparks with a boho Australian backpacker (Luke Bracey).

Naturally, complications ensue, but none of them seem particularly dire, or crucial, or dramatic, or even interesting. Even with all the lying and deception going on here, this fairy tale feels squeaky clean and ho-hum bland. With so little at stake, we’re left to admire the lavish settings, the teen-chic costumes, a wholesome and likable performance by the very pretty Gomez (a passably talented actress-singer and Justin Bieber squeeze) and surprisingly strong supporting turns by Cassidy and Meester.

Tweens and teens, who haven’t had their expectations of Monte Carlo colored by the cool, worldly sophistication of Cary Grant and Grace Kelly (whose classic Monaco-set “To Catch a Thief” is briefly referenced here) might well find the allure of “Monte Carlo” transporting. However, fans of classic cinema – and anyone with a working DVD player – might in the end find this superficial jet-setter fairy tale merely a pale, immature knockoff of the real deal.

- Dennis King

“Monte Carlo”

PG
1:48
2 stars
Starring: Selena Gomez, Leighton Meester, Katie Cassidy, Cory Monteith
(Brief mild language)