Monte Carlo strives to be an old-school farce, a modern girl-empowerment story, and a Gen-Y fairy tale, but because it's bereft of inspiration, imagination, and energy, it fails utterly and totally at all three.
Selena Gomez stars as Grace, a Texas teen whose plans for a Paris getaway with best friend Emma (Katie Cassidy) change drastically after her parents insist that her older stepsister, Meg (Leighton Meester), go with them. Turns out the deluxe tour isn't nearly as nice as they expected, though, and their frayed patience dissolves altogether after their tour group accidentally strands them at the Eiffel Tower. They take shelter from a rainstorm in the bathroom of a posh hotel, where they discover that Emma looks exactly like the spoiled British socialite Cordelia Winthrop Scott (also Gomez). When Scott leaves the hotel in a huff, the staff assumes Emma is her, and soon the trio has upgraded from fleabag flophouses to the lap of luxury.
They eventually fly to Monte Carlo so that Cordelia can attend a charity function, and while there, Grace falls for a tycoon's son, straight-laced Meg canoodles with an Aussie hunk, and sassy Emma goes on a date with a prince, even though she misses her boyfriend back home. Eventually Cordelia also makes her way to Monte Carlo, and the girls have to stay one step ahead of everyone before their fraud is exposed.
To call Thomas Bezucha's direction "pedestrian" isn't accurate because that word makes you think of walking, which makes you think of momentum. No, his work here is stagnant, and that's never more obvious than in the film's final sequence, where his attempt to ape classic farces and screwball comedies by bringing all of the characters together lacks any punch or surprise. Even if you've never seen a movie before, you'll be able to figure out everything that's going to happen.
Believe it or not, the Writers Guild decided that it took three people to write the screenplay for Monte Carlo, and it's tempting to believe their ruling, as no single person could have this many clichés stuck in their head. There are no surprises except for Grace quoting Gandhi -- in total seriousness -- during the movie's climactic scene. The young cast flounders due to the genuinely terrible dialogue; at one point during an argument, Grace yells about not wanting to explain her decision-making process. Only Meester manages a couple of decent moments, and that owes as much to her strikingly adorable face as it does to anything her character actually says. Score this one for the Gossip Girl over the Disney Kid.
There's something appealingly old-fashioned about the premise of Monte Carlo -- the thought that a sheltered Texas teen would save her money so that, right after she graduates high school, she can travel with her best friend to the City of Lights. Sadly, there's almost nothing appealing in the finished film.