Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Forest Whittaker
Stars: Katie Holmes, Marc Blucas, Michael Keaton, Margaret Colin, Amelie.
Just when it seemed that Dawson’s Creek‘s Katie Holmes was leaving behind cute teenage roles for something more edgy (Pieces Of April, Go, etc) she returns to the type of role that may satisfy her fans but hardly challenges her dramatically.
Possibly inspired by the antics of Chelsea Clinton, First Daughter is hackneyed and cliched teen comedy, overladen with fairy-tale trappings, depicting what happens when the President’s only daughter heads off to college. Raised to a life of privilege, Sam Mackenzie (Holmes) has always grown up in the shadow of power protected from anything resembling a normal life. When her father (Michael Keaton, returning to the screen after an absence) becomes President she finds herself living in both the White House and the public spotlight. Anxious to enjoy something like a normal life, she enrols in college in LA, thousands of miles away from Washington, where she hopes to escape the pressures of her fame.
Unfortunately, it is the middle of the re-election campaign, and her arrival at college is accompanied by lots of pomp. Sam finds it hard to keep a low profile, especially with her very obvious security detail following her every move. Her roommate Mia (Amelie) initially resents her presence, but soon warms to Sam and becomes a close friend who helps her negotiate some of the trickier social aspects of life on campus. Sam also becomes something of a good-time party girl, the campus Paris Hilton, much to the chagrin of her father who sees her antics creating headlines and adversely affecting the polls.
Then Sam meets a handsome student in James (Marc Blucas), and begins to experience the joys of a normal life, sneaking away from her security guards, going to the movies, and having fun without having to worry about her image. But Sam soon learns that James is a secret service agent, just younger and less conspicuous. Her life is thrown into confusion as she tries to deal with her emotional turmoil and comes to reconcile that she can never expect to lead a normal life.
There was potential here for a first class romantic comedy, another variation on the fish out of water scenario, an exploration of teenage rebellion or the desperate search for their own identity, or even a sharp satire of politics, but some how First Daughter fails to deliver on all fronts. Under Forest Whitaker’s typically pedestrian and unimaginative direction, First Daughter ends up being a curiously banal and unsatisfying experience. Whitaker may be an intelligent actor with a powerful presence, but as a director (Waiting To Exhale, etc) he seems to lack imagination and flair, and his sluggish direction fails to gloss over any glaring inconsistencies in the plot.
Keaton is a strange piece of casting, and he is unable to shake off his affable persona and never quite convinces as the chief executive.
This is an overly simple and excessively sugary experience, reminiscent of the little seen Mandy Moore comedy Chasing Liberty, which explored similar themes. Ultimately, First Daughter is of little interest to anyone besides Katie Holmes’ fans or those anxious to follow the fluctuating career fortunes of former Dawson’s Creek alumni.