Pop princess Mandy Moore plays the President’s runaway 18-year-old daughter in this formula romantic comedy designed for middle school girls and not of much interest or appeal for anyone else.
Anna (Moore) is a sweet kid who understands that being followed by secret service agents and having her picture taken with tourists and dignitaries is part of the job decription. Like any other 18-year-old, she thinks her parents are too protective. Her secret service code name maybe “Liberty,” but she feels anything but free. On a trip to Prague, her father (Mark Harmon) breaks his promise to limit her secret service protection to two agents, so she runs away, with the help of a handsome guy named Ben (Matthew Goode) with all three requirements to make any pop princess swoon — a dazzling smile, a moped, and a British accent.
It turns out that Ben is in the secret service, too, but the President orders him not to tell Liberty, so that she can have the illusion of an adventure. Things do not go as planned, and they end up having more of an adventure than they expected.
The movie has pretty things to look at, especially Prague and Venice and newcomer Goode who is very good indeed. And we want to root for the overprotected Liberty, never alone but always lonely, to take some risks and have some fun. But Moore is so limited as a performer, the plot and dialogue are so superficial and unimaginative, and the lack of chemistry between the leads is so intrusive that a recap montage of the would-be high points near the end just seems painful.
Parents should know that characters use some strong language in the movie (about the level of night-time network television) and characters smoke (there is a running joke about the President liking cigars) and drink (while they make it clear that Liberty is not breaking the law because it is legal to drink at age 18 in Europe, she does get tipsy and behaves foolishly as as result). Characters also lie and steal without any second thoughts or consequences. Liberty and Ben leave a restaurant without paying and lie to get a free gondola ride.
The movie has sexual references that are much spicier than the sexual situations. A girl begins to explain the appeal of a pierced tongue, but is stopped before she can finish. Liberty complains about not getting a chance to get to “third base.” Liberty twice takes her clothes off in front of Ben (nothing shown), once intending to seduce him, but he refuses. Even after they declare their feelings for each other, they do not have sex, a refreshing departure for the norm in this genre.
Families who see this movie should talk about how Liberty’s situation is just an exaggerated version of the struggles that all parents and teenagers have over independence. Why did Liberty try to get Ben to have sex with her? Why did he turn her down? What made them like each other? Families might want to read up on Alice Roosevelt, the headstrong and outspoken daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt. When asked why he did not stop her from getting into trouble, he replied that he could control the affairs of state, or control Alice, but could not possibly do both.
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy two classics of the lonely, overprotected rich girl runaway genre, the multiple Oscar-winning It Happened One Night and Roman Holiday, must viewing for all families with young girls. Older viewers might enjoy another peek at romance in the White House with Michael Douglas and Annette Benning in An American President. A bittersweet story about the relationship between a President’s widow and a Secret Service agent is Guarding Tess. The script is not very imaginative, but the movie is worth watching for lovely performances by Shirley Maclaine and Nicolas Cage.