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Warner Home Video presents
Ben: Come on. Trips to Europe, tickets to the opera...you're life can't possibly be that bad.
DVD ReviewPrincess movies are all the rage these days, enticing teen girls to the neighborhood cineplex in droves. There's The Prince and Me, Ella Enchanted, the upcoming The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement—the plots take many forms, but wholesome romance and a happily-ever-after ending remain steadfast genre requirements. Chasing Liberty doesn't feature a princess per se, but by chronicling the misadventures of America's own thinly veiled version of royalty, the First Daughter, it wins admission to the sorority. A cross between two classic Audrey Hepburn movies, Roman Holiday and Two for the Road, Chasing Liberty lacks the same level of style and sophistication, despite a heaping helping of gorgeous European scenery and good old American charm.
First, let's get one thing straight. Although Mandy Moore is a cut above most of the current crop of teen personalities masquerading as actresses, she's no Audrey Hepburn. Of course, the target audience of Chasing Liberty has probably never even heard of Hepburn, so that's a moot point. What the comparison does prove, however, is that Chasing Liberty is very much a teen film, and possesses little of the depth and texture that distinguishes the movies that inspired it. While overlong and often meandering, Andy Cadiff's romantic comedy painlessly passes the time, but winds up succeeding more as travelogue than romance.
And what a travelogue it is. Washington, Prague, Venice, Vienna, Berlin, London—all so sumptuously photographed by cinematographer Ashley Rowe (Calendar Girls) they eclipse the glamorous actors. Scenery and cityscapes, however, should never upstage story, yet the shenanigans of First Daughter Anna Foster (Moore) never quite pique our interest as much as St. Mark's Square and the Austrian Alps. Fed up with the asphyxiating protection of the Secret Service, Anna longs for the freedom to enjoy such normal teen pursuits as dating and concerts. She accompanies her parents, the President (Mark Harmon) and First Lady (Caroline Goodall), on a junket to Prague, where she enlists the aid of girlfriend Gabrielle (Beatrice Rosen) to help her elude the watchful eyes of agents Weiss (Jeremy Piven) and Morales (Annabella Sciorra).
When the plan begins to unravel, Anna, desperate for a hasty getaway, spies hunky British photographer Ben Calder (Matthew Goode) sitting astride his motorbike. She convinces him to whisk her into the depths of Prague, and the pair begins a rocky, roller coaster relationship, made all the more dicey by Ben's clandestine profession—that's right, he's a Secret Service agent, too. When the president learns his daughter is in Ben's care, he orders him to maintain the charade, thus giving Anna the illusion of freedom without all of its real world dangers. Ben, however, quickly discovers Anna's impulsive spirit, and keeping her on a short leash without betraying his identity proves a more challenging assignment than the fledgling agent anticipates. He also doesn't anticipate falling in love with her.
With his darkly handsome looks, wiry build, and engaging accent, Goode could be classified as the new Mel Gibson, and his unaffected acting helps offset Moore's more self-conscious portrayal. The two ignite plenty of romantic sparks, but unfortunately Cadiff's leisurely pacing keeps those sparks from properly combusting, and the slight story barely sustains audience interest—unless, of course, you're a girl in the 11 to 18 age group. Piven and Sciorra punch up the proceedings with some welcome, if predictable, comic relief that should appeal to (and appease) the older crowd, and their suggestive bantering is often more entertaining than the primary story.
As a princess movie, Chasing Liberty meets all the requirements, and its fairy tale ending is the cherry on this lighter-than-air confection. It can't compete with Roman Holiday, but, then again, how many princess movies can?
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: C+
Image Transfer Review: Crisp, clean, and lush describe the Chasing Liberty transfer, which shows off the dreamy European locales to terrific advantage. Much of the film transpires at night on deserted streets, romantic balconies, and picturesque riversides, but the level of detail remains exceptional throughout. Skin tones are a little too rosy, but otherwise color and contrast are vibrant and rich, and nary a speck or scratch mars the slick presentation.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: The DD 5.1 track isn't as active as most current releases, but despite a lack of true surround effects, the audio fills the room with solid depth and fidelity. The contemporary music soundtrack especially shines, and the romantic prattle is always clear and comprehendible. Minimal ambient effects, however, keep this track from reaching its full potential.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 29 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Love Don't Cost A Thing
8 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by actors Mandy Moore and Matthew Goode
Layers Switch: 57m:19s
Passport to Europe allows Moore and Goode the opportunity to rhapsodize over the European locations and offer exclusive travel tips. ("Buy crystal in Prague!" is one of my favorites.) The two oooh and aahh over Prague Castle, the Vienna Opera House, and other sites during this dopey six-minute featurette, before crowning Venice their favorite city of all.
The Roots Concert allows the popular band to perform their song The Seed without dialogue and cutaways, while a five-minute Gag Reel focuses almost exclusively on the very clever antics and improvisatory abilities of supporting actor Jeremy Piven. Finally, a string of eight additional scenes (some of which are merely elongated versions of existing sequences) add little to the finished film. The movie's original trailer completes the disc supplements.
Extras Grade: C
Final CommentsSweet, romantic, wholesome, beautifully photographed, and a little boring, Chasing Liberty will satisfy both teen girls and their moms. Warner's spotless transfer, the fabulous locations, and the good-looking stars make viewing easy on the eyes, but not much substance lies beneath the frothy trimmings.
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