Mandy Moore so doesn’t want to be lumped in with Hilary and Lindsay. Their names all end in “y,” yes, but Mandy wants to, as Kiss might have said, put the “x” in sex.
OK, maybe not that rowdy. But sex is a main talking point of Moore’s latest, Chasing Liberty. That’s all right, given a few qualifiers. The characters’ ages are close enough together and old enough so it’s neither creepy nor, worse yet, statutory. There is a surprising, albeit comedic, frankness in bringing it up, and the PG-13 rating doesn’t aim it directly at Toon Disney viewers.
It is, after all, part of growing up. But then the filmmakers want to forget anything remotely grown-up has happened. The final shot is cute enough and could have stayed that way, but the immediate events before it are just too neat. Characters don’t confront their choices, and the movie stalls out as little more than a teenybopper version of The Bodyguard.
Moore is mostly likeable throughout as Anna Foster, the 18-year-old daughter of U.S. President James Foster (Mark Harmon, really tan). Dating is a disaster for her, as we see in the film’s opening scene. There is a screwball charm to the way she tries to salvage it as sirens and pat-downs surround her.
She negotiates a deal with Dad during a trip to Prague — only Secret Service agents Weiss (Jeremy Piven) and Morales (Annabella Sciorra) will track her to a Roots concert. Yes, the rap group The Roots, singing “The Seed 2.0,” which, if you know the lyrics, should confirm the movie’s not afraid of sex. But when she spots other agents, Anna bolts on the back of a moped driven by a dulcet-toned Brit named Ben (Matthew Goode).
What she doesn’t know is that he’s the dependent variable in an experiment by James — controlled rebellion for Anna. With Weiss and Morales tagging behind, Anna and Ben jaunt through Europe and, wouldn’t you know it, her charms make his variable, well, independent.
Thanks to Moore and Goode’s relaxed rapport, Chasing Liberty goes down easy. Given some better material, Moore could salvage what is a semi-spiral for her acting career. But with his subwoofer-rattling voice and Rupert Everett-looks, Goode definitely is a guy we’ll be seeing in the future. Maybe a few years and wrinkles down the road, he’ll get fitted for Bond’s tuxedo.
Call the movie’s ignorance of the international danger of the plot stupid and naïve, but who wants the movie to turn into The West Wing? When we see German bungee jumpers pointing at her quietly, all they’re thinking is, “Hey, maybe she’ll want to jump, ja?” and that’s just fine.
“Just fine” could have described this whole affair had the film not stumbled so greatly in the resolution. When we want talk about some truth, all we get is: “My heart is a little bit broken.”
Yeah? So is the movie.