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Movie Info



PG for language, sexual situations, and alcohol-related material


Sept. 24, 2004




Katie Holmes, Marc Blucas, Michael Keaton, Amerie Rogers


Jessica Bendinger, Kate Klondell


Forest Whitaker


20th Century Fox


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'First Daughter' Less Than First-Rate

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 possible.

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 warned.

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 downright stupid.

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 intended.

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 for details on how to have reviews of new films delivered directly to your e-mail address.

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