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Monte Carlo

Fox // PG // October 18, 2011
List Price: $39.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted October 21, 2011 | E-mail the Author
She did it! Grace (Selena Gomez) has her high school diploma clutched tightly in her hand, and now she can leave her thankless waitressing gig and this sleepy little one-Starbucks-town in
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Texas behind...for a week, anyway. She's spent the past four years dreaming of a trip to Paris with Emma (Katie Cassidy), her bestest friend in the whole world, and her bags are packed an' she's ready to go. Okay, okay, her folks are forcing Grace to go along with her kind of cold and detached newly-minted-stepsister Meg (Leighton Meester), but still...Paris! The City of Love! Or is it The City of Lights? The City of Something-with-an-L! Of course she's excited!

...and then they get there. Grace wants to take in all the sights the city has to offer, but trying to cram Paris down to six days means their tour group is dashing breathlessly through the Louvre and blink-and-oops-you-missed-it driving past Notre-Dame. Heck, even their dark, dank hotel room looks like some kind of Fincheresque nightmare. Yikes! After one particularly grueling and soppingly wet day, the three of 'em duck into a five-star hotel to get out of the rain, and...well, free upgrade! A palatial suite! A lobster the size of a VW bus! Turns out that Grace looks eerily like scandal-ridden, hyperbitchy quadraseptazillionaire heiress Cordelia Winthrop Scott, and the whole thing is a case of mistaken identity. These three goodhearted girls don't want to take advantage or anything, but Cordelia stormed out of France on a temper tantrum, and the room's paid for, so what's the harm in dozing off in her suite for the night? Well, seeing as how the movie's called "Monte Carlo" and
Someone, somewhere just made this his desktop wallpaper.
not "Paris", so you can probably guess what happens next.

Yup, the three of 'em are whisked away on a private jet to Monte Carlo, never managing to find quite the right time to duck out or spill the beans about the whole mistaken identity deal. Grace just keeps on acting prissy and occasionally remembering to speak with a British accent to keep up the charade. I mean, if she doesn't, not only could she and her friends wind up in really big trouble, but this charity auction could fall through and a bunch of schools in an impoverished stretch of Romania or wherever won't ever be built! Grace and her pals have a responsibility to see this thing through. ...and if they have to wear $50,000 dresses and go on yachts and get private fireworks shows and stuff, then I guess the three of 'em are okay with that too. It seems like the whole thing is going great, and the three girls each have a handsome boy hanging off their arm. ...but like that one guy said, nothing gold can stay, and the longer Grace keeps pretending to be a spoiled heiress, the more likely it is that all of it -- handsome boy, charity thingie, and everything! -- will all come crashing down around her.

Okay, maybe you're expecting me to start writing the really snarky part of the review right about now, but...nah. Monte Carlo is a confection: a cute, fluffy cupcake with sprinkles on top. Who'd wanna say mean things about sprinkles and baked goods? If you're going to try to do something weird like compare Monte Carlo to...I don't know, La Dolce Vita or something, then yeah, this teen wish-fulfillment romantic comedy is going to come up a little short. Taken on its own merits, though, Monte Carlo is exactly the movie it sets out to be. Three pretty girls learn about life and love while wearing super-expensive dresses, being
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chauffeured around in cars that cost more than their parents' houses, and palling around in some of Europe's most luxurious hotspots with handsome boys. Fade to black. Roll credits. There aren't a lot of surprises along the way, and the fish-out-of-water gags are pretty much exactly what you'd expect, but that's not really the point.

I'm sure it's no coincidence that at one point the girls are watching Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief 'cause the two movies have an awful lot in common, generally content to get swept up in the romance of Europe...of exceptionally pretty people living in the sort of luxury most of us can hardly dream of. Half travelogue and half wish-fulfillment, Monte Carlo hits the marks it's aiming for. The cute, likeable actresses play cute, mostly likeable characters. Katie Cassidy looks waaaaay too old to be best friends with someone who's unmistakably a teenager like Selena Gomez, but whatever. I thought it was kinda funny that Gomez' character didn't bother pretending to have a British accent 60% of the time and no one really called her on it, but...I say again, whatever. The European backdrop is a knockout. The girls' lavish, ultra-mega-high-end designer wardrobe is sumptuous or whatever word I'm supposed to use there. The handsome boys are indeed handsome. Even though the jokes are obvious, the dramatic elements about dead mommy drama and stuff don't really connect, the climax is really awkwardly forced, and the plot is unwaveringly predictable every step of the way, Monte Carlo is still so gosh-darn earnest and adorable that I rolled along with it anyway.

Why am I even writing a review that's this long? Monte Carlo is exactly the movie you think it is. If you were considering grabbing this shiny new Blu-ray disc and just wanted someone to give you the thumbs-up, go for it. If you're rocking a scowling frowny face or whatever, then no, Monte Carlo probably isn't the movie for you. As cute and adorably frothy as the movie is, Monte Carlo isn't something I see myself playing over and over and over again, so it's probably best suited for a rental. So, when I say Rent It, I don't mean that in a bad way 'cause if you think you might like Monte Carlo, you're probably right.

As you'd probably expect for a glossy studio flick just now bounding out of theaters, Monte Carlo looks terrific on Blu-ray. The cinematography is crisp and richly detailed, sporting a pastel palette that paints Europe in the most striking possible light. Nicked from the digital intermediate, it ought to go without saying that there isn't the slightest trace of speckling, wear, or damage, and no edge enhancement or hiccups in the compression creep in either. Jonathan Brown's photography has a bit more grit to it than I'd normally expect for a movie like this, but I love that warm, filmic texture; it gives Monte Carlo a certain class and character that'd have been lost if it were shiny and silky-smooth. No gripes or complaints at all.

Monte Carlo's high bitrate AVC encode is spread across both layers of this BD-50 disc. The film is slightly matted to preserve its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1.

The sound design showcased in Monte Carlo's 24-bit, six-channel DTS-HD Master Audio track is just about exactly what you'd expect. Pretty much all of the action is spread across the front channels. The
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emphasis is placed squarely on music and dialogue, and there's a pretty convincing sense of stereo separation up front too. The pop songs in the soundtrack coax big, booming waves of bass from the subwoofer and fill every square inch of the surrounds. Otherwise, the rears are mostly reserved for light atmosphere: barking dogs, a torrential downpour or two, clinking plates in a backwater diner, a lapping know the drill. A few scattered effects take advantage of the 5.1 setup, like a thunderous fireworks display and a cyclist tearing his way from the rear speakers up to the front, but that sort of thing is pretty rare. It's not the most ambitious mix in the world, sticking to the pretty well-established romantic comedy formula, but it's effective enough.

Also included are Dolby Digital 5.1 dubs in French and Spanish. Subtitles are served up in English (SDH) and Spanish.

  • Deleted Scenes (7 min.; HD): Monte Carlo's reel of deleted scenes dishes out seven more snippets of footage, including some additional goofing around with the nightmarish tour group, a couple more bits with Emma's beau from back home, and catty Cordelia getting what's coming to her at the very end. Most of this isn't really missed, but I do think the two scenes with Cordelia would've plugged really well into the final cut.

  • Ding-Dang Delicious: The Boys of Monte Carlo (6 min.; HD): ::double-checks to make sure I didn't accidentally write "ding-dong":: Anyway, this is a quippy, playful casting featurette about the three handsome boys that co-star in Monte Carlo.

  • Monte Carlo Couture (6 min.; HD): A fashionista featurette! Not much of a review to write here...lotsa stuff about the wardrobe and how each character's personality comes through in her choice of clothing.

  • Jet Setter's Dreams (6 min.; HD): This making-of piece breezes through all the different backdrops for Monte Carlo: cameras rolling in posh, luxurious Monaco, the girls getting the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre to themselves for a little while in Paris, and Budapest standing in for a bunch of postcard perfect shots.

  • Gossip with the Girls (6 min.; HD): This fluffy interview with Monte Carlo's three starlet types has them giggling their way
    [click on the thumbnail to enlarge]
    through questions about cute boys and Monaco and why you should go see the movie. They spend a lot of time spelling out the premise and the characters they play, so if you've already seen the flick, you're not gonna get a whole lot out of this.

  • Backstage Pass (4 min.; HD): The girls gab about their makeup, hairstyles, and wardrobe for a minute or two, and then they each chat about a couple of particularly memorable days of filming.

  • Monte Carlo Match-up (HD): This super-simple quiz lobs ten questions at you and then says which character from the movie you are. Turns out I'm Leighton Meester, and that sounds about right. The whole thing is pretty bland...just a bunch of questions, a plain-jane answer, and a few clips from the movie at the end.

  • BD-Live: There are two online bells and whistles for Monte Carlo. The first is something called "Live Lookup", which...well, I guess I can't write about that since the disc said my Blu-ray player doesn't have any BD-Live capability. ...and that's kinda weird since it did let me hop online to snag Selena Gomez' music video for "Who Says?" that you can stream or download.

  • Trailer (2 min.; HD): Last up is a high-def theatrical trailer.

Oh yeah, and the second disc in the set is a digital copy.

The Final Word
I know I'm not exactly the target demographic or anything for Monte Carlo, but still, it's a cute, bubbly comedy...the kind of wish-fulfillment fantasy that I guess is supposed to make teenage girls lean back in their chairs and swoon over lavish European hotel suites and private jets and handsome boys. It's kind of disposable and routine, yeah, and The Princess Diaries hit a lot of these same notes with more wit and charm, but whatever. Monte Carlo is exactly the movie it sets out to be, and I don't see the point in saying anything mean about a flick this sweet and adorable. If you think you might be into Monte Carlo, you're probably right. Totally worth a rental. Rent It.
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