Monte Carlo strives to be Eat, Pray, Love for the Twilight generation. But despite its soul-searching pretensions, the movie hinges on what is essentially a con - one bereft of tension and so sanitized for young female viewers that little room is left for temptation or humour or good old-fashioned summer shenanigans.
At least the flick delivers the scenery. And by that, I mean the cute guys (including two new foreign heartthrobs), who get ample screen time to smoulder and behave like prince charmings (sorry, no bad boys here).
This snoozefest co-stars a trio of fetching gals plucked from TV fame. Disney Channel star Selena Gomez ( Wizards of Waverly Place) plays the earnest blank slate Grace, a small-town, high-school grad whose summer trip to Paris begins as a no-frills flop. While ducking into a swanky hotel to get out of the rain, she is mistaken for bitchy British heiress Cordelia Winthrop Scott, who has decided to skip a charity event she's expected to attend in Monte Carlo.
In a blast of paparazzi flashbulbs, Grace and her two travelling companions are whisked into a limo by a bunch of fawning French bellhops and soon land at the resort town's famed Hôtel de Paris with a stack of luggage, including everything a girl needs to play dress-up. The game is ostensibly sustained because Grace wants to see the event through - her doppelganger is supposed to auction off an expensive necklace. And of course there's a cute, smart, rich French boy (Pierre Boulanger) to impress.
Gomez, who turns 20 next year, looks much younger than her age and has the thankless task of playing three roles - Grace, Cordelia (despite a bad accent, Gomez has the most fun here) and Grace pretending to be Cordelia. It feels like a struggle and the screenplay doesn't help.
Grace's slightly older companions have their own storylines. Emma, played with casual charm by Katie Cassidy ( Melrose Place reboot), is a waitress with an anxious fiancé ( Glee's Cory Monteith) and a knack for embracing the moment. Gossip Girl's Leighton Meester delivers the standout performance as Grace's uptight stepsister Meg, who gradually becomes the free spirit she is meant to be with the help of a handsome Aussie vagabond (Luke Bracey).
Despite the recent obsession with the new royal, Kate, Monte Carlo seems tonally off the mark considering the naughty female-powered movies that have defined the summer so far, like Bridesmaids and Bad Teacher - I mean, even the silly tween-centric Judy Moody movie has more edge. But Monte Carlo didn't start off so tame; Headhunters, a novel about four middle-aged New Jersey women who pretend to be heiresses in Monte Carlo, was optioned over a decade ago. Jersey Shore meets the Bridesmaids on the Mediterranean? Now that's a European vacation.
Special to The Globe and Mail
- Directed by Thomas Bezucha
- Written by Thomas Bezucha, April Blair and Maria Maggenti
- Starring Selena Gomez, Leighton Meester, Luke Bracey, Pierre Boulanger and Cory Monteith
- Classification: G