Well, it was a lot better than I thought it would be. I took my 7 year-old to see “Monte Carlo,” and she absolutely loved it. It’s a silly, often funny movie. Surprisingly, it wasn’t wall-to-wall tween girls at the matinee we attended. There were people of all ages and even couples, and everyone seemed to have a good time.
Selena Gomez (“Wizards of Waverly Place”) plays recent high school graduate Grace (get it – Grace in Monaco?), who has saved for years for her dream trip to Paris. Her slightly wild best friend, Emma (Katie Cassidy – “Gossip Girl,” “Melrose Place”) is set to accompany her, but at the last minute her mom and stepdad ask her older stepsister Meg (Leighton Meester – “Gossip Girl,” “The Roommate”) to join them, as both a chaperone and to give Meg a chance to get out and see the world, as she has been withdrawn since the loss of her mother.
The three girls worked well together, but Gomez seemed young and more than a little bit out of her league, not really strong enough to carry a movie. Luckily, Meester, who practically steals the movie, with both a better story and greater screen presence, and Cassidy, as the wacky-with-a-heart-of-gold sidekick, are there to take the focus off the central, boring teen romance between Gomez and French actor Pierre Boulanger. British comedian Catherine Tate (“The Catherine Tate Show,” “Dr. Who”) has a nice cameo as Cordelia’s aunt Alicia and “Glee’s” Cory Monteith plays Emma’s Texas boyfriend.
The tour Grace chooses is a total disaster, speeding the girls (and the audience) through the Louvre without even a glance at the Mona Lisa and putting them in a no-star hotel. In a series of silly mishaps, set to the scenic backdrops of the Eiffel Tower and a fancy Parisian Hotel, the girls find themselves separated from their tour and Grace mistaken for a beyond bratty British heiress, Cordelia Winthrop Scott (also played by Gomez). Gomez seemed more at ease playing her nasty doppelganger.
Love interests are introduced (Luke Bracey as Riley is especially appealing) and the girls, after a little (supposedly) harmless fraud, find themselves on an all-expense paid trip to Monaco to take hooky-playing Cordelia’s spot at a charity event. Before parents should get too worried that their daughters are being schooled in how to grift their way through Europe, lessons are learned, tears are shed, and fireworks fill the night sky.
Beautiful locations in both Paris – including Sacre Coeur, the Arc de Triomphe, and in Monaco – the Grand Corniche, and many aerial views, are featured. Inexplicably, there were no scenes in the famous Casino, probably Monte Carlo’s most well-known and visited attraction. Maybe the girls were considered to be too young to get in?
“Monte Carlo” is light and fluffy and fun time at the movies, a scenic rom-com in the same vein as “French Kiss” and “Only You.” It may take Leighton Meester to the next level in her movie career, rather than Gomez. It could have been zanier, as the romp and the ultimate come-uppance are definitely at a lukewarm level, but that’s probably best for the core audience. At the very least it will make you want to book a trip to the City of Lights, or City of Love, depending on who you’re talking to.