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SCREEN

CHASING LIBERTY

Josh Bell

Chasing Liberty has a really nice, little subplot. Jeremy Piven and Annabella Sciorra play two Secret Service agents tracking Anna Foster (Mandy Moore), daughter of the president of the United States, across Europe. Anna has slipped her handlers and run off with British photographer Ben Calder (Matthew Goode), with whom she naturally falls in love. The two agents—with about a third as much screen time as Anna and Ben—have a relaxed chemistry, and Piven and Sciorra, both longtime character actors, prove that they could and should be carrying mainstream comedies.


Alas, this isn't a film about underrated character actors. It's about pop singer and budding starlet Moore, who acquits herself nicely, if a little blandly, in the role of the overprotected teen who just wants to cut loose and have some fun. She's tired of always being under the watchful eye of Daddy (Mark Harmon) and his cadre of agents, whose code name for her is Liberty. (Unfortunately it's not Happiness, because then the movie could have been called The Pursuit of Happiness). Goode, whose handsome Vespa-riding photographer has one of those big secrets that creates an artificial obstacle to love in romantic comedies, is charming in his first major movie role. The production, which roams all over Europe, looks wonderful.


But the bubble bursts pretty quickly, and what's endearing at first gets tiresome after a half hour or so. Plot holes abound, and by the time Anna and Ben meet up with the Italian gondolier and his nagging mother, you just want them to fall in love already and be done with it. The screenplay by Derek Guiley and David Schneiderman doesn't much hold up the "comedy" end of the bargain (only some clearly ad-libbed lines by Piven generate any laughs), and the "romance" end is strictly by the book.


Moore fans will probably find enough to be amused by, and their idol even gets to branch out in this PG-13 release by uttering a few swear words and getting naked (but not showing anything). Everyone else will find little more than an adequate rom-com with some undervalued supporting players.

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