Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Thomas Bezucha

Stars: Selena Gomez, Kate Cassidy, Leighton Meester, Pierre Boulanger, Luke Bracey, Cory Monteith, Giulio Berruti, Andie MacDoweel, Catherine Tate.

Monte Carlo is squeaky clean, inoffensive family friendly fantasy about romance, friendship and mistaken identities played out against some exotic locations. The film will appeal strongly to tween girls who flocked to films like The Sisterhood Of The Travelling Pants, The Lizzy Maguire Movie, and Hannah Montana, etc.

Dreamy Texas waitress Grace (played by former Disney starlet Selena Gomez) has just graduated from high school and embarks on a dream holiday to Paris. She is accompanied by her best friend Emma (played by David Cassidy’s daughter Kate Cassidy, from Gossip Girl, etc) and her uptight stepsister Meg (Leighton Meester, also from Gossip Girl, etc). The budget holiday is not exactly a joy for the three girls, until Grace is mistaken for the lookalike but horribly spoiled British heiress Cordelia Winthrop Scott.

The three friends help themselves to Cordelia’s swank hotel suite, her designer clothes, shoes, handbags and jewels. Suddenly, Grace and her two friends are whisked off on a luxury holiday to the ritzy playground of the rich and shameless in Monte Carlo, where she hobnobs with royalty, plays polo, and loses a valuable necklace. She also falls heavily for the handsome playboy Theo (Pierre Boulanger, who made his film debut opposite Omar Sharif in Monsieur Ibrahim). Meg finds romance with a hunky Australian backpacker Riley (Luke Bracey). Emma is swept off her feet by a suave prince (Giulio Berruti), who helps her get over her recent break up with her boyfriend Owen (Glee’s Cory Monteith). Eventually the deception will be exposed, but in this family friendly film the three girls get off relatively scot free, which sends a mixed moral message to its demographic audience.

The central plot device of switching identities has driven many films, from Disney’s The Parent Trap, through to the classic The Prisoner Of Zenda and even The Man In The Iron Mask. This tween variation of Three Coins In The Fountain and Roman Holiday has been directed in such leaden fashion by Thomas Bezucha (The Family Stone, etc) that much of the humour and breathy romance falls flat. He gives the film the breezy, unaffected air and visual style of a glossy telemovie, a feeling reinforced by the fact that most of the cast is drawn from the world of television.

Based on a novel by Jules Bass, Monte Carlo is fairly bland and predictable stuff. The rather cliched and contrived script comes from director Bezucha, April Blair, and Maria Maggenti, who wrote the far more edgy The Incredibly True Adventure Of Two Girls In Love.

The three stars are likeable enough, and Gomez brings perky energy to her dual role. Andie McDowall is wasted in a thankless role as Grace’s mother, a sure sign that she has reached a certain age in Hollywood when good roles become scarce. Acerbic British comic Catherine Tate is also wasted in a relatively straight role as the socialite’s haughty aunt Alicia, who unexpectedly warms to the imposter.

Other films have used picturesque Monte Carlo as a backdrop (the recent French romantic comedy Priceless and Alfred Hitchcock’s classic To Catch A Thief, to name but two), but this slight European vacation doesn’t do this fabulous location justice.




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