Monte Carlo review / Susan Granger
If you endured "Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer," this is at least two grades up -- and for pre-teens, it's a double dose of fresh-faced Disney star Selena Gomez, who's currently keeping company with Justin Bieber. For 10-to-12 year-olds, it's necessary to know these things.
After saving up her money working as a waitress in a diner, spunky high school grad Grace (Gomez) travels to France with her best friend Emma (Katie Cassidy) and prim stepsister Meg (Leighton Meester from "Gossip Girl"). Disenchanted with Paris and ditched by their dreary tour guide (Valerie Lemercier), this trio from a small town in Texas jets to Monte Carlo after discovering that a look-alike spoiled British socialite, Cordelia Winthrop-Scott (also played by Gomez), is planning to abandon her hotel suite and commitment to host a charity auction in Monaco. Their plan is for Grace to impersonate Cordelia.
Piles of designer luggage loaded with Vera Wang gowns and Bulgari jewels ignite a romantic, adolescent wish-fulfillment fantasy, adroitly timed to coincide with Monaco's Prince Albert's real-life marriage to commoner Charlene Wittestock from South Africa. In a further nod to past royalty, there's the French-dubbed version of "To Catch a Thief."
Of course, there's Cordelia's suspicious Aunt Alicia (Catherine Tate) and that charming young aristocrat, Theo (Pierre Boulanger), who's amazed that the icy heiress is actually much nicer than the tattling tabloids have depicted her. Inevitably, Grace comes to appreciate Owen (Cory Monteith from "Glee"), the good-hearted guy-back-home, while Meg hangs with Riley (Luke Bracey), a hunky Australian backpacker.
Based on Jules Bass' novel "Headhunters" from a story by Kelly Bowe, it's been tritely adapted by writer/director Thomas Bezucha ("The Family Stone") and co-writers April Blair and Maria Maggenti. It's also been `youthified' -- to coin a word -- since the original plot revolved around four middle-aged New Jersey women looking for rich husbands. And although some scenes were filmed in Paris and Monaco, Budapest doubles for Monte Carlo.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Monte Carlo" is a frothy 5, a corny, stolen-identity caper.