I remember seeing the first Mandy Moore video on MTV and thinking "one-hit wonder". Moore's music was undeniably sugary and completely bubblegum. As the music has continued, Moore has matured, even taking the risk of relasing an album of covers of beloved folk and rock tunes ("Coverage"), which arrived to mostly positive reviews (I thought it was a mostly very successful attempt). Moore as a double-threat emerged with "The Princess Diaries" and has continued, as the singer has acted in several films that have, unfortunately, have not attracted large audiences. Cheek-pinchingly adorable, Moore manages to be sweet and charming on-screen, and in a manner that's genuine and unforced.
"Chasing Liberty" is Moore's first starring vehicle and, once again, she turns in a very fine performance. Unfortunately, she doesn't have the kind of movie around her that she deserves. In "Chasing", she plays Anna Foster, the daughter of the President (Mark Harmon). She's reached her 18th birthday and now, more than ever, wants her freedom and privacy - two things denied from her simply by the fact of whose daughter she is.
In order to try and get her way, Anna finally works out a plan with her father to have a night out in Prague where she's only accompanied by two agents.. When it becomes clear that her father has gone back on his word, she seeks escape with a young photographer named Ben Calder (Matthew Goode). The two have a series of adventures that go through Venice, Berlin and Austria, with agents Weiss (Jeremy Piven) and Morales (Annabella Sciorra) on their trail. Ben, however, might not be exactly who he says he is. See, he's really an assassin named Jason Bourne, who has amnesia. Just kidding.
"Chasing Liberty" functions as a pretty nice travelogue of some utterly beautiful foreign locations, yet it doesn't proceed with much purpose or urgency otherwise. While the cinematography could be better, the stunning visuals of Italy, Germany, UK and the Czech Republic are still often breathtaking. It's to Moore's credit that she overcomes a lot of the script's flaws; the character could certainly be whiny, but isn't; the character's actions seem utterly ridiculous, but I was able to overlook most of them. Moore and co-star Matthew Goode generally have chemistry, too. Sciorra and Piven aren't bad, but neither seem particularly into their roles - too bad, because their romantic subplot together seems like it'd work well if it was developed more.
The story, however, is really another matter. The film tries to be both a comedy and a drama, but really never quite succeeds at either. The film also follows romantic comedy formula down to the last detail (as I joked about, it really evens includes the "guy likes about who he is" bit, then skips into the "both realize they still love each other and make up" bit), making the whole enterprise pretty predictable. The other irritation with the story is that it shows Anna getting into all sorts of trouble without any sort of consequence for her actions. I like Mandy Moore a great deal and think that with a few more years, she could be more of a household name. However, she'll certainly have to choose projects less ordinary and more interesting than this.
VIDEO: "Chasing Liberty" is presented by Warner Brothers in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen by Warner Brothers (a chopped up pan & scan version is also available). The picture sometimes seemed just a shade dark, but I didn't see the film theatrically; it may have always looked this way. Sharpness and detail were often just fine, as the picture seemed well-defined and crisp, if never sharp enough to show fine details in the image off.
The picture was largely free of edge enhancement and compression artifacts, aside from a couple of minor traces of both. The print also appeared to be in fine condition, with no noticable specks or marks, aside from one shot that seemed to noticably be stock footage. Colors remained bright and vibrant, with nice saturation and no smearing or other faults. This was a satisfactory, if unremarkable transfer.
SOUND: "Chasing Liberty" is presented by Warner Brothers in Dolby Digital 5.1. This is clearly a "comedy" mix, with little in the way of surround use. Music remained clean and clear, as did dialogue, but there really wasn't very much going on here. Strong bass is present during a festival scene and a club sequence, but aside from that, the soundtrack isn't particularly dynamic.
Commentary: Actress Mandy Moore and actor Matthew Goode provide a full-length commentary for the picture. The two seem to be having a lot of fun together chatting about the movie, but there's a lot of "shout-outs" to their friends from the cast and crew and "happy talk" about how great everyone was to work with in-between some interesting information about shooting the picture.
Gag Reel: A 5-minute gag reel made up almost entirely of improvs by Jeremy Piven.
Also included are character bios, the film's theatrical trailer, more of the concert by the Roots and 9 minutes of deleted scenes.
Final Thoughts: "Chasing Liberty" is a sweet, but rather uninspired and uneventful flick. I think Moore is terrific, but I'd love for her to find better material. Warner Brothers has provided a fine DVD, with enjoyable picture quality and some decent extras. A rental.
The Film ** 1/2