What It Is
Grace (Selena Gomez) has been saving money for years to pay for her own high school graduation present, a trip to Paris. And so she’s not a little disappointed when her plans — a week with her best friend and coworker down at the Teeny-Town Texas diner, Emma (Katie Cassidy) — are a bust. Number one, they’re traveling with Grace’s uptight, college senior stepsister, Meg (Leighton Meester). Two, all three find their guided tour overscheduled and too fast and mostly boring. Three, they’re caught in the rain. Oh dear!
And then, before you can say, “The Lizzie McGuire Movie” or maybe even “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2,” these unhappy girls run smack into a solution, namely, a paparazzi-magnet heiress, Cordelia, who just happens to look so much like Grace that she’s also played by Justin Bieber’s girlfriend. When they learn that the horribly snobbish Cordelia is ditching her responsibilities for a few days, the interlopers decide they’ll have Grace fill in — they’ll all three stay in a fancy hotel suite, not to mention use Cordelia’s trunks full of makeup, outfits, and hugely expensive jewelry. It’s outrageous and illegal and not a little morally questionable, but, oh well!
It’s true that Meg provides initial resistance (“We’ll get caught!”), Grace worries she won’t pass as the British celebrity, and even Emma wonders for a minute or two about consequences (say, she might miss a phone call from her mechanic boyfriend back home, Owen, played by the perfectly pleasant Cory Monteith). But the sheer speed of all this identity-mix-up mayhem doesn’t leave much room for reflection, especially as the girls simply must notice their fabulous locations — first in Paris and then in Monte Carlo.
This plot only accelerates when each girl meets the boy who will best help her learn a valuable life lesson: Meg meets an outdoorsy Australian, Riley (Luke Bracey), who helps her get over her mother’s recent death by embracing the present, especially when that present has terrific abs and does not appear to have a shirt with all its buttons. Emma meets a prince (Giulio Berruti) whose arrogant dismissal of “the help” makes her see just how honest and fine Owen really is. And Grace.... well, she actually doesn’t have a whole lot to learn, being sweet and hardworking and the star here. Oh yes, maybe lying isn’t such a good idea, though even when her new beau, Theo (Pierre Boulanger), finds out, he forgives her because, as he rhapsodizes, she’s “different.” Even if she’s not, quite.
Why It’s Fun
The shots of Paris and Monte Carlo, the nighttime lights and daytime beaches, are excellent. Some are predictable (Markets! Narrow streets! Suntanned lovelies!), and others are homagey (a concise set of shots of the Eiffel Tower from a series of views look a lot like the opening montage from François Truffaut’s singular The 400 Blows).
The girls’ shenanigans soon grow tiresome. But Meester is quite fetching when she’s with the Australian kid.
Who’s Going To Love It
Very loosely based on Jules Bass’ novel, Headhunters (in which the travelers are middle-aged), Monte Carlo is revised for Selena Gomez’s fans, with some slapstick and few consequences for bad behavior.
What To Be Aware Of
The lying. Yes, it’s a tweeny fantasy, and yes, the girls only prevaricate in order to be educated and so, become Better People. But still, they spend very little time doing the right thing and lots of time doing wrong things.
That said, the point is that Grace’s take on what’s right and wrong is fundamentally more admirable than Cordelia’s. She’s concerned with a charity auction where Cordelia’s super-expensive Bulgari necklace is to be auctioned off in order to fund schools in Romania, whereas the real heiress is so awful and selfish that she’d rather stop the auction and arrest the imposter than raise the money. Luckily, Grace does meet a couple of rich people who are nice — evidenced by their willingness to contribute to the Romanian schools project.
A couple of chaste kisses, but the girls, at least, are earnest.
The girls note that Cordelia is involved in “scandals” (as reported in OK! magazine), but no one mentions a detail (Grace’s eyes go wide as she reads).
Meg and Riley talk about loss and grief — for a very short minute. She’s sad about her mother, he was in an unspecified rugby accident and so spent a year in a hospital “flat on my back,” apparently feeling lonely and worried.
Extremely mild language includes “crap.”
4 out of 10
Director: Tom Bezucha
Cast: Selena Gomez, Leighton Meester, Katie Cassidy, Andie MacDowell, Brett Cullen, Luke Bracey
Studio: 20th Century Fox
US Premiere: July 1, 2011
UK Premiere: August 24, 2011