If you really want to know what Mandy Moore did last summer, then check out her European travelogue called Chasing Liberty. But be warned, watching her travels in this film makes sitting through the reels of your grandparent’s vacation seem like an easy walk in the park. Moore’s third film about finding true love is worthless, and just about as believable as those vacation slides are entertaining.
Moore is Anna “Liberty” Foster, the 18-year old daughter of the overly protective President of the United States (Mark Harmon). She’s in search of a life outside the White House, yet her dad refuses to let her leave home without an entourage of Secret Service agents (in today’s world, I can hardly blame him). When her latest date bails on her because the agents are “way to out of control,” she demands that her dad grant her some space while on their upcoming trip to Prague. He relents slightly, because unbeknownst to her, he has conveniently found a young secret service agent named Ben Calder (Matthew Goode) to befriend her and watch over her activity.
Even with Ben by Anna’s side, the President’s top two agents, Weiss and Morales (Jeremy Piven and Annabella Sciorra) are never far behind the pair. Ben and Anna escape from Prague and accidentally find themselves in Venice where they pass themselves off as a married couple to get free gondola rides and lodging. When Weiss and Morales finally show up, Ben and Anna move on to Austria where they meet up with a group that bungee jumps from bridges. After taking their own big plunge (in more than one way), they make it to Berlin just in time to attend a love parade.
Liberty writers Derek Guiley and David Schneiderman have penned a predictable and superficial boy gets girl/boy loses girl script where all reality is abandoned in favor of plot contrivances and whiny, teenage dialogue. Ben and Anna cover a lot of ground in very little time, and when they are not being chased to their new locale, Anna bitches about how tired she is of being controlled by her dad and desires the freedom to lead a more “dangerous” life. We clearly got this point before the opening credits even finished — is there nothing else for these two to talk about? Chasing Liberty makes us commit to a fantasy world where the safety of the first daughter is compromised so she can have “fun.”
What’s more, Ben and Anna have absolutely no chemistry. Not only is it beyond belief that Ben would betray his duty to the President, it’s even more unconvincing that he would fall for Anna and her constant complaining and moodiness. What’s the attraction? And if Ben and Anna’s pathetic romance wasn’t enough, there is another unbelievable yet predictable love connection between Agents Weiss and Morales.
Director Andy Cadiff clearly tries to model his first feature film off the wonderfully quirky Roman Holiday, but Moore and Goode lack the charisma and charm of Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn that made William Wyler’s film an instant classic. Chasing Liberty could have worked better had Anna’s security been taken more seriously, or at least realistically. That’s one thing those vacation reels have going for them, and in a way, somehow they’re not looking so bad.
The DVD includes 10 minutes of deleted scenes (heavy on alternate versions of stuff already in the feature) and a five-minute gag reel (almost exclusively featuring Jeremy Piven ad-libbing). Other extras, including a "tour of Europe" hosted by Moore and a commentary track by Moore and Goode, are safely skippable.
Review by David Levine © 2004 filmcritic.com