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Eighteen-year-old Anna Foster (Mandy Moore) just wants her dream of living life to the full, and chasing liberty and happiness. But she is unable to lead life as a normal teenager, go on dates or kick up her heels: as daughter of the President of the United States, Anna’s life is constantly monitored by the media and a battalion of Secret Service agents. While on a diplomatic trip to Europe with her parents, Anna’s promised ‘taste of freedom’ goes awry, when she meets charming Englishman Ben Calder (Matthew Goode), who helps her escape from her zealous bodyguards.

Review by Louise Keller:
A surprisingly enjoyable romantic comedy, Chasing Liberty is a fairy tale romance and road movie European style with alluring destinations. Of course it bears little resemblance to real life, but if escapism is what you’re after, here’s your chance for an uplifting magic carpet ride. A twist on the Roman Holiday story is just the starting point; the best part of the film is that while Anna and her Englishman Ben begin their relationship, so too, begins the parallel relationship between Anna’s two bodyguards. This adds a second tier with young love reflected by a more mature and less idealistic one.

When we first meet Anna, she is trying to decide what to wear on her big date. ‘Of course you can kiss me,’ she practices in front of the mirror, but of course, by the time her dinner date is nervously chatting her up in the restaurant, there is no kiss, but a security scare, and the date is over. When Anna jumps on the back of Ben’s motorbike in Prague, she is ready to rebel. Whether or not you buy this part of the story is debatable, as Anna goes up to the stranger (after changing her hair colour in the middle of a formal function), screaming ‘I’m on fire; I’m untouchable; I’m Anna; who are you?’ But the film does get better, I promise, although the treatment of Mark Harmon’s US president, who seems always available on the phone for an update about his daughter’s escapades is often ridiculous.

Prague makes a beautiful setting for Anna’s midnight skinny dip, the Austrian border is the most unlikely spot for bungy jumping, and Venice – well, Venice is glorious for anything. We drool at the bridges, the canals, the shops, the masks, the gondolas… and then there’s the encounter with Joseph Long’s accountant-turned-gondolier, who takes what he believes are the newly-weds home to Mama, so they can spend the night after drinking her home-made grappa. It’s characters like this that Anna and Ben meet along the way, that make the trip delightful. Martin Hancock’s McGruff is a Rhys Ifans-like scoundrel, who believes in ‘group hugs’, and muscly Gus Gus (‘there’s so much of him, he needed naming twice’) as the organiser of ‘jumpinggermans.com’.

Mandy Moore is charming as Anna, and in the early scenes, as a blonde, she could easily pass as Diane Lane’s daughter. Matthew Goode has great appeal as Ben, and together, there is plenty of push-pull chemistry. While we may not get to know their characters in very much depth, Jeremy Piven’s Alan Weiss (with the receding hairline) and Annabella Sciorra’s cynical Cynthia Morales deliver some of the film’s most endearing moments.

Filmed in five countries (Czechoslovakia, England, Italy, Germany, US), Chasing Liberty is certainly easy on the eye. And while kisses to the sound of Puccini’s Turandot may be contrived, it nonetheless works as an emotional highlight. 

The DVD contains some special features including a commentary by Mandy Moore and Matthew Goode, additional scenes, a gag reel and two featurettes.

Published June 10, 2004

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CAST: Mandy Moore, Matthew Goode, Jeremy Piven, Annabella Sciorra, Caroline Goodall, Mark Harmon

DIRECTOR: Andy Cadiff

SCRIPT: Derek Guiley, David Schneiderman

RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes

PRESENTATION: widescreen

SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary by Mandy Moore and Matthew Goode; passport to Europe; The Roots Concert; Additional Scenes; Gag reel; trailer

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Home Video

DVD RELEASE: June 9, 2004

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