Loosely based on the novel Headhunters by Jules Bass, Monte Carlo stars Selena Gomez (Wizards of Waverly Place), Leighton Meester (Gossip Girl) and Katie Cassidy (Melrose Place). Directed and co-written by Tom Bezucha (The Family Stone) this is a more reflective teen comedy, with beautiful locations and three solid performances from its lead actors.
Grace (Gomez) is a high school grad trying to figure out who she is but finding it hard to do so in her small town and dead-end job as a café waitress. She and her friend/co-worker Emma (Cassidy) are planning a trip to Paris that they hope will change their lives. But the twist is that they have to take Grace’s new stepsister Meg (Meester) at her stepfather’s insistence.
So the trip gets off to a rough start. But when their tour bus leaves them behind, the girls stop in at a ritzy hotel. That’s when they see Cordelia Winthrop-Scott (Gomez again), a spoiled heiress who looks just like Grace. One thing leads to another and Grace is mistaken for Cordelia. The trio is then whisked off to Monte Carlo for the glamorous vacation they had all been looking for.
Monte Carlo is enjoyable - it’s fun and flirty with a decent dose of heart. Paris and Monte Carlo look great, the costumes are fabulous and the cinematography is exceptional. As for the screenplay, well, it could have been polished a little more. For example, why would Meg think that one of Cordelia’s necklaces would be safer in her new beau’s bag than on Emma’s neck when Emma goes on a date with a rich guy? Oh, right, because the necklace has to go missing.
Instances like that aside, the interplay between the three girls is believable and interesting. It's pleasantly surprising to learn that Grace and Emma didn’t really like Meg because it gave the movie an edge. Gomez especially shines as both the good-hearted Grace and the narcissistic Cordelia. Meester was especially good and she has a big future ahead of her. Cassidy is decent but good with comedy.
The male characters are somewhat bland. French actor Pierre Boulanger plays Theo, Grace’s love interest. Their exchanges are charming but you hope for more of a spark between them. Australian actor Luke Bracey is good as Meg’s new boyfriend Riley. Glee star Cory Monteith portrays Emma’s boyfriend Owen who doesn’t want to feel left behind. He is not actually very good.
Monte Carlo is fun escapist fare. It’s enjoyable and funny in all the right places. It does run a little long (almost two hours) but it is somewhat refreshing to see such warm-hearted teenagers as protagonists instead of the typical snooty-bitches-needing-life-lessons. Monte Carlo, though imperfect, is very diverting nonetheless.
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