Remember the Oscar-winning Roman Holiday? Chasing Liberty's screenwriters Derek Guiley and David Schneiderman do, too, sticking pop star Mandy Moore in the Hepburnesque role of an 18-year-old U.S. president's daughter who finds freedom and love while on a state visit to Prague.
Chasing Liberty should have been called How To Deal with Chasing Liberty While Remembering To Walk. Liberty may not be as tragic as Moore's A Walk To Remember or as hokey as How To Deal, but the general premise is the same--a teenage girl on brink of adulthood rebels, learns a few hard lessons, falls in love with a guy and grows up. Here Moore plays Anna Foster (aka ''Liberty,'' the code name the Secret Service agents use for her), the only child of President James Foster (Mark Harmon). Having grown up in the shadow of her father's successful political career, Anna is sick and tired of living in a heavily guarded fishbowl. On a trip to Europe, she persuades him to allow her one night of relative freedom in Prague, which means only two Secret Service agents--Weiss (Jeremy Piven) and Morales (Annabella Sciorra)--in tow instead of hordes of them. But the prez goes back on his word, and the multitude of hidden agents Anna discovers pushes her over the edge. She escapes into the night--and realizing he doesn't know who she is--elicits the help of a young British photographer Ben Calder (newcomer Matthew Goode). They take a whirlwind three-day trip around Europe with Weiss and Morales hot on their tail. For the first time, Anna is having the time of her life, and even though she and Ben are initially at odds, it's easy to see they're falling for each other. Still, she'll have to face reality and tell Ben who she really is--but lo and behold, he ends up having a secret of his own. Can true love prevail when all is revealed? Of course it can.
It's 19-year-old Moore's perky appeal that lets her get away with being in another frivolous romantic teen flick. It's fun to watch her bounce around, and when the camera zooms in on that big smile and those soft doe-brown eyes, she looks great. Unfortunately, in Chasing Liberty Moore gives little proof that she's anything more than a pretty face; however, there's enough of a spark that one wonders if, given the right part and right director, she could find some depth. In any event, it's definitely time for Moore to hang up her coming-of-age teen spurs once and for all. The handsome Goode, on the other hand, best known for his work on British television, isn't given much to work with in his big-screen debut. The dialogue he's stuff with is pretty pathetic--''I'm completely unhinged around you''--but you can tell he's got something. Goode and Moore are the eye candy of the film, but the real acting comes from Piven (Old School) and Sciorra (The Sopranos) as the Secret Service agents chasing Liberty down and falling in love themselves along the way--it's a sweet and far more natural romance between two talented actors who know how to handle it, and that makes them far more interesting to watch than their teen counterparts.
Liberty is a retread of the 1953 classic about a young princess (played by the exquisite Audrey Hepburn, who won an Oscar for her performance) who escapes her royal duties while visiting Rome and spends one carefree, fun-filled day with undercover reporter Gregory Peck. There are even a few scenes in Liberty taken directly from Roman Holiday; Anna cuts off her hair to go incognito, and Hepburn does the same, and there's a scooter ride through Prague's streets in Chasing Liberty that mimics the classic journey Hepburn and Peck took on a Vespa through Rome. Like Roman Holiday, Liberty makes the most of its romantic setting, showing off gorgeous European cities such as Prague and Venice, but the good similarities end with the plot points and scenery. Holiday is filled with wonderful subtleties and great performances, and Liberty well, isn't. Director Andy Cadiff, a television helmer making his feature film debut, just isn't savvy enough to turn the formulaic coming-of-age tale into a good or relevant film, and he lacks the experience to take his two amateurish young stars to the next level.
Watching pretty people cavort in beautiful locales can sometimes be enough to make a movie palatable, but in the end Chasing Liberty is just another coming-of-age flick showcasing the eternal teenager Mandy Moore.