out of Five
Running time: 109
Monte Carlo is the movie equivalent of candy floss – it's fluffy, sugary and you might feel a little bit sick afterwards but it's also trashily enjoyable thanks to some expertly assembled clichés, an assortment of picturesque locations and likeable chemistry between the three leads.
What's it all about?
Directed by Thomas Bezucha, Monte Carlo stars Selena Gomez as Grace, a Texas high school graduate who's put all her waitressing job money towards a dream trip to Paris, along with her best friend and co-worker Emma (Katie Cassidy). However, Grace's mother (Andie Macdowell) and step-father (Brett Cullen) decide that Grace needs to bond with her wet blanket step-sister Meg (Leighton Meester), so they pay for her to accompany them on their trip.
When their hotel and tour guide turn out to be a crushing disappointment, the girls are about ready to throw in the towel, but things take a surprise turn when they shelter in a posh hotel and Grace gets mistaken for snooty British heiress Cordelia Winthrop Scott. Before they know it, the three girls find themselves whisked away on an all-expenses paid, week-long trip to Monte Carlo where “Cordelia” is expected to auction an expensive necklace at a charity event.
Gossip Girl co-stars Leighton Meester and Katie Cassidy are both excellent as Meg and Emma, generating an appealingly sparky chemistry that compensates for a lot of the film's other flaws; their bantering, for example, is the only area of the script where it feels like someone's put some effort into the dialogue. There's also strong support from Cory Monteith (as Emma's stay-at-home boyfriend who tries to stop her leaving by proposing) and Pierre Boulanger as Grace's French love interest, while an under-used Catherine Tate delivers an amusing cameo as the real Cordelia's aunt Alicia and pretty much steals every scene she's in.
The plot is entirely predictable, but Bezucha effectively marshals his assortment of clichés and ensures that they do the job they were created for, hitting all the required sugary notes along the way. Similarly, it's nicely paced (despite being around 20 minutes too long) and is heightened by some picturesque location work, even if Monte Carlo is actually mostly Bucharest.
Though undeniably cute, Gomez is actually a bit boring as Grace (weirdly, she's much more fun as Cordelia), though she at least generates believable chemistry with Boulanger. Similarly, Luke Bracey (the latest in a long line of Heath Ledger clones) is a little wooden as Meg's Australian love interest and there's a slightly dodgy accept-that-you're-just-a-waitress-and-settle-down-and-get-married message in Emma's subplot that seems to negate the film's central theme.
Monte Carlo is fluffy, forgettable fun aimed squarely at pre-teen girls and secret Gossip Girl fans. Yes, it's basically rubbish but it's also trashily enjoyable. A guilty pleasure.