'Chasing Liberty,' Eluding Enjoyment

By Ann Hornaday
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 9, 2004

An endless, virtually laugh-free pastiche of Aaron Sorkin by way of Aaron Spelling, "Chasing Liberty" features Mandy Moore trying so strenuously to be the next America's Sweetheart that she almost pops a vein.

Moore plays Anna Foster, the 18-year-old daughter of the U.S. president, portrayed here by Mark Harmon in what "West Wing" fans will find a mind-bending performance (wasn't he Secret Service a few seasons back? Didn't he die? Is that C.J. he's calling right now?!). Tired of her cosseted life, Anna breaks free of her overprotective dad and her Secret Service detail during the G-8 summit in Europe; she takes up with a sober but hunky Brit (Matthew Goode) who turns out to have more of an interest in her than she thinks.

Lethargically directed by Andy Cadiff, who works from a tired script by Derek Guiley and David Schneiderman, "Chasing Liberty" gets off to an unpromising start with a Clinton administration joke that fell as flat with a recent preview audience as it does on-screen with White House security guards. From there, the movie takes bits from the aforementioned "Wing," bits from "Roman Holiday" and a smidgen from "Two for the Road" -- leaving all the punch, romance and style of those titles on the highways and byways of Europe.

Moore blows out her cheeks and slits her eyes as a good girl trying hard to be bad; it isn't terribly convincing. The filmmakers have made a real find, though, in Goode, who brings the appeal of a budding Hugh Grant but with a bit more gravitas. There are some yummy shots of Prague and Venice as the two traipse across Europe, their junket culminating in Goode's character saving the First Midriff from a horde of taunting Europeans. At this point, "Chasing Liberty" turns into an all-too-plausible horror film. Make it stop!

Chasing Liberty (111 minutes, at area theaters) is rated PG-13 for sexual content and brief nudity.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company