How many "Prince and the Pauper" look-alikes (pun intended) are we going to see on the movie screen? It's a plot device that's as worn out as the whole switching bodies routine. Mistaken identities that transport one or more people into a life that they aren't accustomed to. 'Monte Carlo' is decidedly one-sided though. The pauper becomes a princess, but the princess never descends to pauper status.
Grace (Selena Gomez) is just about to graduate high school. She's saved up for the past four years, working at the town diner, to get enough money to travel to Paris after graduation. Her best friend Emma (Katie Cassidy) is planning on coming with her. They're going to have like the greatest time and stuff. That is until Grace's parents drop a bomb on her. She's going to have to share the trip with her step-sister Meg (Leighton Meester) a wet blanket if there ever was one. Grace and Meg don't get along. The question is, how do you think their relationship will end up at the end of the movie? I'll give you one guess.
Grace books the absolute worst tour in Paris. The bus flies from stop to stop and the hurried Americans pile out snap pictures and pile back in. This is the funniest and most enjoyable part of this dreary movie. You can actually picture people traveling halfway across the world, to a place like Paris, and visiting every stop in 20 minute increments. The rest of the movie, however, is dreadfully dull and dumb. Here's a movie that feels it needs to plaster big text reading "PARIS" on the screen with the Eiffel Tower in the background. That's about the level of cleverness that's going on here.
It just so happens that the girls are visiting Paris the same time a wealthy socialite from England is visiting. Cordelia Winthrop-Scott (Gomez) is a mean, callous rich brat who bosses people around because she has money. Through a series of mishaps a few hotel workers end up thinking that Grace is Cordelia, and at the behest of her best friend, Grace reluctantly plays along. Soon the three of them are swept off to Monte Carlo, in a turn of the plot that doesn't make a lick of sense.
They assume Cordelia's identity and the perks that come with living the high life. Hotel suites, fancy dresses, and expensive jewelry. They party it up. They're plastered on newspapers, and then we start wondering. In the day of celebrity saturation where paparazzi is everywhere, and pictures spread through the internet via Facebook and Twitter like wildfire, how in the world did these girls go days without being found out. This is supposed to be one of the most famous socialites in England and wherever she disappears to for most of the movie she isn't checking the news, her phone, or the internet? It's safe to say that the entire foundation of this movie doesn't hold an ounce of water.
Since the situation is so ludicrous the movie just hopes you'll forget about it and play along. Indeed most tween girls will play along as the movie plays out to every prepubescent teenage girl fantasy. Traveling to Europe, playing dress-up, meeting cool guys, no parents, it's a female teenager wonderland. Like generic pop songs about young unrequited love, 'Monte Carlo' evokes girlish dreams of being swept off their feet by hunky Europeans, traveling the world, and living life without any consequences. The movie is so devoid of any real danger that it's as sterile as they come. The entire purpose of the movie is to shine a big happy light on young girls floating through life without a care in the world.
While teenage girls will eat this tripe up, the rest of us know a turd when we see it. 'Monte Carlo' is the same trading places story we've seen before. It's all wrapped up nicely with a thick coat of sugary topping so it goes down easy. Even with all that sugar it still surprisingly ends up being a bore.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This 20th Century Fox release comes with a BD-50 disc, and separate disc for the Digital Copy. Blu-ray extras like BD-Live and PocketBlu are also provided. It's marked on the back of the case as a Region A release only.
This movie was released this year? You could've fooled me. This is one of the softest, most indistinct recent releases I've ever had to sit through. The 1080p AVC-encoded picture is average at best. Detail is all but washed away in the movie's gauzy, undefined look. I didn't see the movie in theaters, but I'm fairly certain that it wasn't this hazy on the big screen. The movie actually has a look that most mid-90s catalog Blu-rays have. It's an out-of-focus mess most of the time. Truthfully, the clarity and detail definition is better in the special features than it is in the movie.
At first I thought that the actual look of the movie and how it turned out on Blu-ray was a directorial choice since much of the soundtrack tries to evoke a classic 'American in Paris' feeling. After a few scenes though I was convinced it wasn't. Facial details look like they've been scrubbed away. Hair turns into indistinct blobs instead of defined strands. Even when the camera pans up to take in the awe-inspiring sites of Paris the picture is murky, full of noise which is especially visible in the blue sky.
For a movie filmed and released this recently, there's really no reason it should look this crummy on Blu-ray. The softness is a killer, because it saps any detail and dulls any color in the image.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is just about average as far as engaging movie mixes goes. Michael Giacchino's original score is much more ambitious than the movie itself. His classical tones make you think of old Carey Grant movies, which is nice, if they weren't intermixed with terribly generic popular pop and hip-hop songs throughout. The marriage between the two is jarring and doesn't help the movie's cause much.
Dialog is clearly defined in the front and center channels. Ambient sound, while there, is quite soft and unclear. Even during rowdy parties, and a rather loud auction during the climax of the film, the surrounds are fairly hushed.
LFE only kicks in when it's needed to accompany the latest Cee-Lo song pumps out of the soundtrack, other than that it's pretty silent throughout. All together a pretty uneventful, if serviceable, audio mix.
'Monte Carlo' is as sanitized as they come. A wishful girly parade of pretty ball gowns, foreign dudes who are good looking and sensitive, and unlimited amounts of money to spend as wildly as possible. What girl wouldn't want that? So, even though your teenage daughter is bound to be enraptured by the whole thing, the rest of the family will be fast asleep on the couch. Are you willing to put everyone else through that? With the troubled video and middling audio presentations there's nothing here that would even warrant a rental or a curious look-see. Let's just avoid this one and move on.