Monte Carlo (2011)

I suffered through all 109 minutes of Monte Carlo and came away with absolutely nothing of value. I watched a clichéd, repetitive and boring story, characters without any depth, and also some pretty locations. I suppose getting to go on a sightseeing tour of Paris and Monte Carlo is fun enough, but it just would have been nice if the characters would have done something while we’re there. Oh, and it’s also basically a retread for star Selena Gomez, as she plays the same sort of role as she did in Princess Protection Program, except this time with a fake, inconsistent accent.

The story begins in Texas, where two young waitresses, Grace and Emma (Gomez and Katie Cassidy, respectively), have been saving for years to go to Paris for a week. Grace has just graduated high school, Emma left for a modeling career that didn’t work out that well, and nobody in the audience will care. Grace’s parents decide that they’re going to send her stepsister, Meg (Leighton Meester), to act as a chaperone, and also in a hope that the sisters will bond while out of the country.

Once in Paris, the trip doesn’t really go as planned. The tour that Grace booked is rushed and not terribly thorough, the hostel rooms suck, and it’s not a lot of fun for anyone. You might think it would come as a relief when the bus leaves without them as they explored the Eiffel Tower, but they don’t think it’s so great. One thing leads to another, an identity is stolen, and the girls find themselves in Monte Carlo, with Grace impersonating a rich English heiress named Cordelia.

Basically, this is just an excuse that the filmmakers can use to say that there’s a plot. There really isn’t much of one; characters just go from place to place, meet a couple of different people, and do whatever their heart desires. Grace is forced to go to rich-people events and do things like playing polo, and each of the girls will find a guy that they will probably fall in love with. And we also get to see lots of fun sights, so there’s that, I suppose.

Grace meets a Frenchman named Theo (Pierre Boulanger), Meg meets a traveling Australian named Riley (Luke Bracey), while Emma tries to forget about her sweetheart back home, Owen (Cory Monteith), but probably can’t. Everything you expect to happen in a film like Monte Carlo will, and there are no surprises to be had. It’s cute, innocent, family friendly, and bubbly, and if you’re in the target audience — a 12-year-old girl or the parent of one — you might think it’s just fine.

My main problem was with the characters and how stereotypical they are — as well as how simple their relationships are with the other ones. Grace is the happy one, Meg is the cynic, and Emma is the … I’m not really sure. If it was a PG-13 flick she’d be the promiscuous one, I guess, but since this is a PG affair, she’s just kind of there. She’s happier than Meg, and those two fight as a result, but she doesn’t really do anything, and could have been excluded from the film without any noticeable detractors.

They all have to learn one thing in order to be happy, and there’s a lack of depth as a result. Superficial attempts are made to make us care about them — one character was in the hospital for a year, another couple lost a parent at a young age, and so on — but it feels fake and forced, like the filmmakers were aware that they were working with paper-thin caricatures and wanted to fix that, but weren’t quite sure how to. I suppose it won’t matter to the target audience, but I couldn’t help feeling like the film was trying to trick me.

I’d be remiss to not point out that I did laugh a couple of times during Monte Carlo. The first came rather early on, actually, during the high school graduation ceremony. I can’t actually remember any of the others, although I’m sure that they were generated from Meester’s character, the cynical one. She was also one of the only two characters I liked in the film — at least, when she hadn’t yet “grown” as a person.

The other one was the English heiress that Gomez plays, if only because it’s playing against type for the actor. She’s cold, unemotional, and a real jerk here, and it’s kind of enjoyable to see, even if the accent could have used some more work. Meester is fine for the most part, while Cassidy had no reason to be in the film and doesn’t do anything to warrant an inclusion. Gomez, when playing Grace, failed to convince me that she could headline a movie. And the male actors are there but never manage to stand out.

Monte Carlo is not a good movie, but it will satisfy the desires of the teenagers who want to see it. If it sounds like it’s a movie for you, chances are that you will have a good time with it, as it’ll be exactly what you’re seeking. For me, it’s a mess filled with cliché, stereotypes, and tedium. None of the characters are anything more than caricatures, their relationships fall flat, and the plot is non-existent. There are a couple of laughs to be had and the sightseeing tour can be fun, but the film as a whole isn’t worth watching. It’s like Princess Protection Program mixed with the Lizzie McGuire Movie, and that’s about all that needs to be said about that.

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