PG for language, sexual situations, and alcohol-related
Sept. 24, 2004
Katie Holmes, Marc Blucas, Michael Keaton,
Jessica Bendinger, Kate Klondell
20th Century Fox
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'First Daughter' Less Than
By Phil Boatwright
The Movie Reporter
- The “Dawson’s Creek” star plays the teen daughter
of the U.S. President who falls in love with a boy who has a secret. Anybody
see Mandy Moore’s Chasing Liberty? We’re talking carbon
copy here. They don’t go to Europe in this one, just to college in California.
But about everything else is the same, only duller – if that’s
Now, those of you familiar with my work know that I don’t take cynical
potshots at an actor’s expense. Nor do I want to ever appear hostile
to filmmakers. After all, no one sets out to make a bad movie. But about once
or twice a year I get so disgusted, so frustrated with clumsy, inept, pointless
filmmaking, that I find I cannot bridle my fury. Since this one killed off
two hours of my life, this will be one of those times where I shall vent in
the vein of Addison DeWitt (the cynical Broadway critic in All About Eve).
Actors, writers, directors and sensitive artistic types, you’ve been
I’m just trying to decide where to start. The direction? (Absentminded.)
The editing? (Hackneyed.) The script? (Witless.) The acting? (Boorish and
self-conscious.) Or how about the messages? Well, we’ll get to those
in a moment.
I actually remember involuntarily groaning in several spots. Like a two-hour
dreary episode of “The O.C.,” I can’t remember a film with
quite so many soul-searching sequences. Indeed, the entire film, though advertised
as a romantic comedy, is nothing more than a teen angst soap opera. That I
can deal with. The fact that I’m not the intended audience, I can deal
with that. What I cannot abide is a stupid movie. And, brother, this one is
The story wants us to believe that the lead is sophisticated, intelligent
and caring, but time and again she evidences just the opposite. The film is
extremely long (at least it feels that way) but sudden edits leave us suspicious
that many an explanation was left on the cutting-room floor. And why, after
the lukewarm box office reception of Mandy Moore’s Chasing Liberty,
does 20th Century Fox further subject us to the trials and tribulations of
a spoiled rich First Kid?
Next we have the obligatory wiseacre roommate. Of course she must come from
the other side of the tracks, but must be savvy enough to set the “square”
First Kid straight. And to make the salt-and-pepper contrast even more poignant,
she is cast as an African American. (Get the subtlety?)
As for messages, the film attempts to be family friendly, but sends out
conflicting communiqués. The black roommate -- you know, the one with
lots of attitude and urban wisdom -- refuses the First Chick entrance one
night, telling her to come back in two hours. Let’s see, could she be
playing backgammon with the boy inside? Then the male lead, the boy the First
Preppy falls for, finally gets mad and out comes Christ’s name as an
expletive to indicate annoyance and frustration. Footnote: Can you guess why
he is reluctant to kiss or dance with the First Cutie? It being a so-called
family-friendly film, it’s not because he’s gay. So he must be,
well, if my warning here doesn’t dissuade you from attending, you’ll
guess the real reason. You’ll guess it long before the screenwriter
Feeling betrayed by her dad, our put-upon First Freshman rebels. She gets
drunk in a bar (how does the First Child at eighteen get served drinks?) while
decked out like a hooker, in high-heeled boots and short shorts and dances
provocatively (well as provocatively as Katie Holmes is able) on top of the
bar until she nearly passes out and is carried out by her put-upon, jealous
ex-boyfriend. He carries her slung over his shoulder, those short shorts riding
as high as an elephant’s eye, through town, with nary a photographer
in sight. Well, just one, who manages to get a compromising picture on a tabloid
cover for the early-next-day edition.
I could go on, but quite frankly the film doesn’t deserve all this
attention. We critics should keep our mouths shut, drawing as little attention
as possible in hopes that this coma-inducing sludge will simply die a quick
box office death, ending up with a silly cover on video shelves to entice
poor, unsuspecting video hounds who foolishly think it might be a fun theme
night – renting both this and Chasing Liberty. The horror.
Suffice it to say, this movie is stupid. As a reviewer I know I should come
up with a more caustic catch phrase or paragraph to expose the inadequacy
of “The First Daughter.” But this movie doesn’t deserve
50-cent words. Stupid works.
For the record, has anyone in Tinseltown ever thought of actually interviewing
a former First Kid and getting some real insight? Oops, what am I thinking?
When it comes to anything remotely resembling the political scene, Hollywood
has its own reality.
I fear that this won’t be the last of the First Adolescent movies.
Perhaps, Lord forbid, it will generate a genre of its own. We could get a
liberal daughter fighting her bumbling President father over social issues,
starring Lindsey Lohand. Then Hilary Duff may star as the embarrassed, conservative,
stumbling daughter of a bumbling, liberal First Father. That one will then
spawn a sequel starring Hilary’s younger sister just as she is about
to leave adolescence and become a woman, despite her bumbling Presidential
Papa’s reluctance to let her grow up. Etc., etc.
Rating: PG (one misuse of Christ’s name by the male
lead, several “oh my Gods” a euphemism that borders profanity
when overused; some implied sexuality that includes bikini-clad college girls
at a frat party – although, to be fair, that scene is tamer than it
sounds, but it is implied that the roommate is promiscuous).
Video Alternatives: A Walk To Remember. This generation’s
“Love Story,” A Walk To Remember is a smart drama aimed
at the teen market. The central character is a devout Christian who has a
positive effect on those in her life. Caution, it does contain some objectionable
material, but it is powerful seeing a Christian as the focal character of
a story. Better yet, try Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory
Peck. A princess is courted around Rome by a newsman. William Wyler directs
with a light touch. Funny, touching, romantic. Memorable ending. If your teenage
daughter has never seen Audrey Hepburn in a movie, tie her to a chair in front
of the TV and make her watch. Well, don’t actually tie her to the chair.
The cops don’t dig that. Just suggest, strongly.
Phil Boatwright is the editor of The Movie Reporter. Review used by permission.
Go to Phil Boatwright's website at www.moviereporter.com
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