The Michigan Daily discovered in April 2005 that several articles written by arts editor Marshall W. Lee did not meet the newspaper’s standard of ethical journalism. Parts of these stories had been plagiarized from other news sources. Although the article below has not been found to contain plagiarism, the Daily no longer stands by its content. For details, see the Daily’s editorial.

Eston Bond
So what are you gonna do now that your film career is over? (Courtesy of 20th Century Fox)

 

In the spring of 2004, after the contrived and convoluted Mandy Moore dud “Chasing Liberty” was slammed by critics and ignored by audiences, 20th Century Fox and producer Jeffrey Downer decided to delay the release of their similarly themed “First Daughter” until the fall. If only they had pushed it back a bit further, perhaps 30 years or so, maybe this schmaltzy, lumbering snooze-fest would have had stood a chance as a midnight movie, with drunken rowdy cross-dressers clad in blue bikinis screaming obscenities at a smirking Katie Holmes. Hollywood, however, lacks this kind of prescience.

The movie, which stars Holmes as a precocious and dutiful teenage first daughter leaving the White House behind for a fictional California college, is all heart and no head, making its points slowly and laboriously as Holmes and co-star Marc Blucas (TV’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) plod through 100 minutes of predictable romantic comedy. The movie is directed by Forest Whitaker, the once-inspired actor of such superb films as Jim Jarmusch’s samurai-gangster flick “Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai” and David Fincher’s “Panic Room.” Unfortunately, in recent years Whitaker appears to have found a comfortable niche directing heavy-handed romantic duds like “Waiting to Exhale” and “Hope Floats.”

Katie Holmes, who proved to be a lovely and charming actress in 2000’s “Wonder Boys” and last year’s indie hit “Pieces of April”, stars as Samantha Mackenzie, an 18-year-old beauty who has spent her entire life as a good, sweet, devoted daughter, smiling loyally at the side of her parents (Michael Keaton and Margaret Colin) as they campaign for public office. Now it is time for Samantha to go off to school and she enrolls at the University of Redmond, 3,000 miles from the nation’s capital, in hopes of experiencing college life as “just a normal girl.”

Surprise, surprise, things don’t work out quite as expected and miserable Samantha begins to rebel against the watchful eye of her secret service detail, sneaking about campus with her fun-loving, handsome resident advisor (Blucas). Holmes and Blucas fall madly in love over the course of what appears to be a single afternoon, and their romantic misadventures entail a mind-numbing procession of staged “spontaneous” collegiate moments. One example: At James’s insistent urging, Samantha reluctantly agrees to eat popcorn and chocolate candies together, at the same time. “It’s disgusting; I like it!” she enthuses.

The film’s surprise twist, which won’t surprise anyone (even those who didn’t see the exact same device used in “Chasing Liberty”), leads to a formulaic third act in which Samantha must become depressed, resolute and then depressed again before she can finally find herself. Even worse, the movie ends on a muted, melancholy note, leaving Samantha alone and the audience unsettled; after dolling out nearly two hours of hackneyed clichés, the film denies its audience that final upbeat cliché which they have earned.

In the lead, Holmes blithely grins her way through the film, underlying each unconvincing moment with wide-eyed enthusiasm. The script (penned by comedic actor Jerry O’Connell and unknown Jessica Bendinger) is especially poor, and the supporting cast of cut-and-paste characters — Blucas, Keaton and newcomer Amerie Rogers as the bitchy, man-hungry roomie with a “you go girl!” tenacity —often seem adrift in a world of two-dimensionality.

This film is a disastrous assertion of Hollywood’s willingness to ignore and repeat its own mistakes, and one can only hope that the lovely Katie Holmes will escape the film unscathed and return to more intelligent adult fare.

 

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars.

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