Fox // 2011 // 109 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // November 2nd, 2011
She followed her dream -- and found herself.
Selena Gomez has been pretty busy over the years, but the popular TV actress and singer only recently decided to start focusing on theatrical films, and she has yet to storm the box office. Last year, she completed her first major role in Ramona and Beezus, which only scored $26 million domestically. Not a disastrous result, but expectations ran higher.
This year, she followed up with Monte Carlo, which grossed a mere $23 million. She still has a long way to go, and while the box office receipts already seem to drop a little, the quality of her filmmaking escapades is in decline as well. Ramona and Beezus may still qualify as a halfway decent movie, but as far as Monte Carlo is concerned, it pretty much loses all of its appeal within the first 15 minutes.
In the film, Gomez plays Grace, an ambitious small-town high school grad who's beyond excited to finally embark on that much desired Paris vacation with her best buddy Emma (Katie Cassidy, Melrose Place) and soon-to-be stepsister Meg (Leighton Meester, Gossip Girl). Although their trip starts off rushed and not as luxurious as they had imagined, things take an abrupt turn when Grace is mistaken for a high-profile British heiress named Cordelia Winthrop Scott. Next thing they know, the girls suddenly find themselves on a glitzy journey to Monte Carlo, eager to keep up appearances and discover where this new adventure will take them.
In a nutshell, Monte Carlo can best be described as one of those movies that collapse early on and never really manage to recover from the excruciating damage caused by obvious weaknesses. While the film's opening moments and quick introductions of the lead characters show a hint of promise, the situation hits the skids as soon as Grace gets mistaken for a super-rich heiress. Arriving in Monte Carlo shortly after, the three Americans stumble into a life of pure luxury, seemingly impervious to the potential consequences of pretending to be someone else. The story then places them into the middle of an elaborate charity auction, during which the real heiress is supposed to raise a bunch of moolah by selling an exquisite necklace. At this point, Grace realizes she doesn't have a choice but to go all the way.
That's pretty much all you need to know about the plot of Monte Carlo, which I admit counts among the most unconvincing teen comedies I've ever seen. I understand films in this particular genre don't always require proper logic, but the complete lack thereof in this case quickly proves to be a huge problem. The major issue here is that almost everything you see or hear in this thing is as implausible as it gets. The horde of coincidences Grace and her buddies experience couldn't be any more ridiculous, and I simply can't imagine a child with a fully functioning brain falling for any of it. It all starts with the completely unbelievable circumstances surrounding the identity mix-up between Grave and Cordelia, followed by an unusually large number of twists and plot points that feel forced and appear tweaked to an implausible level just to make sure the story goes somewhere.
Any teenager old enough to fly to Paris without parental supervision should be able to make rational decisions, but for some odd reason, Grace and Co. seem completely blinded by the sudden promotion to wealthy celebrities. Another thing I simply can't wrap my head around is the sudden disappearance of the real Cordelia (also played by Gomez). She vanishes from the face of the Earth just moments before Grace heads to Monte Carlo, and we don't see or hear of her again until the very end. Where the heck is she? Why does she not make her way down to Monte Carlo? Are we as viewers supposed to believe she didn't even know about the charity event just days before it's supposed to happen? The mystery broadens...
While the messy plot causes a lot of damage to Monte Carlo, the acting certainly doesn't do any good, either. Unconvincing and way over the top, Gomez, Cassidy, and Meester deliver forced performances you won't be able to take seriously. Gomez especially is horrendous every time she has to imitate the real Cordelia, struggling with an annoying British accent and arrogant attitude. I understand she's supposed to provoke some laughs, but at the end of the day, she's nothing short of embarrassing. Gomez does appear a little more genuine when she doesn't have to play a socialite, but the overall goofiness and eccentricity of her character pretty much ruins every chance for her to display solid acting qualities. It also doesn't come as a surprise then that most of the dialogue in Monte Carlo falls victim to terribly simplistic screenwriting.
Since I'm on a roll, let me briefly talk about the film's running time. A comedy like this one should probably clock in at 90 minutes, but Monte Carlo runs for 109 atrociously dragging minutes, which is obviously way too long. Besides the trite heiress mix-up and auction angle, the filmmakers also decided to stuff the movie with three romances trigged by questionable coincidences. While Grace falls for a French dude she has to lie to because she's forced to keep up her appearance, Meg spends way too much time in the film hanging out with an Australian guy she keeps bumping into randomly. As for Emma, she gets a taste of an ignorant rich boy before starting to miss her confused Texas boyfriend. Needless to say, all of these subplots clearly show to what extent the screenwriters struggled to keep the film going.
On a slightly more positive note, Monte Carlo is a harmless experience. While the movie won't really stimulate your kids in any particular way, it could potentially inspire them to stay true to who they are. Then again, it takes the plot way too long to get to these conventional pearls of wisdom, so I'm not entirely sure younger viewers will even remotely care about the advice. What viewers will most likely enjoy is the production design. Boasting glamour and extravagant decorations, the sets in the film look fantastic, even though they can't save the film from inevitable ruin. Still, the grandeur of the locations causes sporadic relief, and I'll take that anytime.
In high definition, Monte Carlo (Blu-ray) looks pretty good. The disc includes a 1.85:1/1080p presentation of the feature film, and both the sharp, clean image quality and the DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio boost the slightly overall quality of the product. Special features include deleted scenes and five short featurettes, none of which is particularly fascinating.
Sadly, Monte Carlo isn't as glamorous as it looks, and the lack of plausibility, over-the-top performances, and boring storyline ruin every chance for the movie to shine. While everyone deserves a fair shot, I'm beginning to think that further diving into a theatrical career may not be the best move for Gomez.
Review content copyright © 2011 Franck Tabouring; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 109 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Deleted Scenes
* Digital Copy