What a very strange little movie Monte Carlo is. The marketing campaign was clearly aimed at the tween audience, but it seems the filmmakers had somewhat grander ambitions. From the attempts at subtle, deadpan humor to the eclectic, quirky pop soundtrack to even the font used for the titles, it felt like an indie movie vibe was desperately desired. Imagine a Wes Anderson movie for the under thirteen crowd. It doesn’t really work, but the screenwriters (adapting from the novel Headhunters by Jules Bass) and director Thomas Bezucha deserve a lot of credit. Monte Carlo manages to be more interesting than it needed to be.
The problems, however, start very early as the story sets up the relationships between Grace (Selena Gomez), Meg (Leighton Meester), and Emma (Katie Cassidy). Grace and Emma are friends, despite Emma being several years older than the fresh out of high school Grace. They have planned a trip to France, but Grace’s parents reveal they are sending her stepsister Meg along. Having only been stepsisters briefly, Grace and Meg don’t like each other but they’ll have to tolerate each other. During their initially disastrous trip, they cross paths with a stuck-up British debutante named Cordelia. She is a dead ringer for Grace.
To enliven their trip, Grace decides to impersonate Cordelia. The three girls live the high life, jetting off to Monte Carlo where they flirt, party, and prepare to infiltrate a climatic charity auction. The real Cordelia is impossibly spoiled, treating everyone equally bad. But the good-natured Grace begins to win over people who thought they despised Cordelia. But Cordelia’s aunt Alicia (a criminally underused Catherine Tate) begins to put two and two together. Things grind along in predictable fashion – which is the weakest aspect of Monte Carlo: seriously unimaginative plotting. But the trio of leading ladies performs admirably, especially Gomez in the dual role of Grace/Cordelia.
Given the lush European setting, one would expect Monte Carlo to be a knockout on Blu-ray. It isn’t. For whatever reason, the movie has a rather dated look. It’s flat and murky instead of vibrant and distinct. Fine detail is lacking, with textures disappearing into black crush. The colors seem to blend into each other, a golden-toned wash of drabness. It’s not flat-out terrible, but just not what audiences have come to expect from Blu-ray. I thought the high definition interviews and featurettes actually looked arguably better than the movie itself.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is much better, without being anything really noteworthy. The dialogue all sounds fine. Outdoors scenes and crowd scenes are satisfactorily enveloping, with lots of ambience from the rear channels. The energetic pop tunes sound great, with a nice fat bass sound. Michael Giacchino’s original score – a jaunty, romantic creation that is one of the best elements of the movie – is also well placed in the mix, with crisp high end.
Special features include a short selection of deleted scenes, one of which is utterly essential to defining Cordelia’s character and should not have been cut. Otherwise, the features are very fluffy, including a handful with titles like “Gossip with the Girls” and “Ding-Dang Delicious: The Boys of Monte Carlo” are relatively self-explanatory. These features may very well interest Monte Carlo’s target audience more than the movie itself.