Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Chasing Liberty

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content and brief nudity

Reviewed by: Brett Willis
STAFF WRITER

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
Genre:
Romance Comedy Drama
Length:
1 hr. 51 min.
Year of Release:
2004
USA Release:
______
Featuring: Mandy Moore, Matthew Goode, Mark Harmon, Caroline Goodall, Jeremy Piven, Annabella Sciorra, Béatrice Rosenblatt, Martin Hancock
Director: Andy Cadiff
Producer: Broderick Johnson, Andrew A. Kosove, David Parfitt
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Copyright, Warner Bros.
Copyright, Warner Bros.
Copyright, Warner Bros.
Copyright, Warner Bros.
Copyright, Warner Bros.
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Warner Bros.

Should I save sex for marriage? Answer

How far is too far? What are the guidelines for dating relationships? Answer

How can I deal with temptations? Answer

What are the consequences of sexual immorality? Answer

What is true love and how do you know when you have found it? Answer

Teen Qs™—Christian Answers for teenagers
Teens! Have questions? Find answers in our popular TeenQs section. Get answers to your questions about life, dating and much more.
Relationship issues
Learn how to make your love the best it can be. Christian answers to questions about sex, marriage, sexual addictions, and more.

Here’s another Mandy Moore vehicle film in which she plays an angry, rebellious teen. In her previous outing, How to Deal, her on-screen parents were messed up themselves and her character had good reason to be angry. But here, she’s Anna Foster, the daughter of the President of the United States (Mark Harmon), and her primary beef is that she can’t have a normal life like other kids her age. Rather than point out all the positives of being in that position, the film lets her harp on the negatives and seemingly tries to justify her resentment. Warning: in order to clearly warn viewers about the nature of objectionable content in this film, I was obliged to include more than the usual amount of “spoiler” information.

In a funny, but not-so-funny opening, a young boy, Grant (Stark Sands), drives up to the White House to take Anna out. After putting him through the wringer and wrecking the bouquet of roses that he brought, White House security and the Secret Service let him drive to the front door where he picks Anna up. But no matter where they go, there are Agents all around. When one of Grant’s friends says hi and reaches into his coat for a camera, the Agents jump the entire group. Grant decides he’s had enough, and won’t ask Anna out again. The implication is that it’s like this all the time. Side note: During the opening scenes, Agents refer to Anna as “Liberty” (thus the film’s title); this nickname is never explained, and falls into disuse as the film progresses.

Anna complains bitterly to her dad, and he promises that on one leg of an upcoming diplomatic trip to Europe he’ll let her go out to a dance club with only two Agents assigned to her. She and her friend Gabrielle (Béatrice Rosenblatt), the party-girl daughter of a high official, do go to the club. But when Anna sees that there are many more than two Agents stationed there, she angrily makes a break for it; asks Ben Calder (Matthew Goode), a total stranger, for a ride on his motorbike; and apparently gives the Service the slip.

As it turns out, she hasn’t really escaped; young Ben is Secret Service too. But the President decides to let his daughter have the ILLUSION of freedom, so he issues orders for Ben to continue to pretend that he’s NOT an Agent and to show her a good time, and for the other Agents to keep their distance. So now our romantic couple is off to roam around Europe, with neither of them telling the other who they really are. And while Anna and Ben heat up the screen with a slow-simmering relationship, a pair of Agents tailing them, Weiss and Morales (Jeremy Piven and Annabella Sciorra), find romance with each other as well.

The premise of this film was a risky venture in that Anna’s so-called predicament isn’t something that the audience can readily identify with. But we all wonder at times what life is like “at the top,” so stories about royalty or its American equivalent often do well.

Violence: There’s no violence to speak of. The Agents sometimes react to potential threats. In a crowd scene, Anna is accosted by some young people who recognize her, and Ben must forcibly rescue her.

Language: There are approximately forty profanities, including s* (in English and German), “hell,” “damn,” anatomical and sexual slang, oaths and curses.

Sexual content: One of the first things Anna does after “escaping” with Ben is take off her clothes and go swimming in the Danube (except it’s really not the Danube). There’s lowlight full backside nudity in this scene.

Why are people supposed to wear clothes? Is there a biblical reason? Answer

She, also, gets drunk, making herself vulnerable to Ben whom she’s just met. On another night, when alone with Ben, Anna disrobes (again, backside view only) in an attempt to seduce him. When Pres. Foster sees that Gabrielle has pierced her tongue and remarks that’s he’s going to commission a study on why girls do that, Gabrielle tries to save the government some money by explaining that it makes for better oral sex; but Anna elbows her and shuts her up.

Anna complains to her father that with all this Secret Service protection, she’ll never be able to get to “third base,” then decides to amend her remarks to “second base;” after she leaves the room, the President asks some bystanders to refresh him on what third base is. Anna and Ben end up in the Berlin Love Parade (“love” being a euphemism for “sex”). Weiss and Morales trade sexual banter; they finally fall for each other, and make out while on duty.

It seems there’s no end of contrived situations that writers can dream up in order to justify bad behavior. Ben is in a moral predicament: he’s actually falling for Anna. But aside from any sense of gentlemanly propriety that he may have, his duty as an Agent requires him to keep his distance. When both of them have their money stolen by fellow backpacker Scotty (Martin Hancock), they “have to” tell lies in order to get shelter for the night. They say that they’re newlyweds, and are put into a room together. Although Anna throws herself at him in a desperate attempt to lose her virginity, he refuses her advances and sleeps on the floor.

But later, when they’re hanging out with a bunch of backpackers and Anna is about to give herself to a musclebound hunk that she doesn’t even know, Ben finally relents. His apparent rationale (aside from jealousy) is that if Anna is determined to have illicit sex, it should at least be with someone who cares about her. Keep in mind, at that point both of them are still withholding their true identities.

The most disappointing thing to me is that at the end, the straightlaced Pres. Foster (who has done everything he’s done, including deceiving his daughter, from a desire to protect her) now decides to encourage Anna to continue to see Ben, who is no longer an Agent. This act justifies all her brattiness that resulted in her making Ben’s acquaintance in the first place.

I don’t recommend this film. It’s not explicit in content, but the message of a sexually aggressive teen girl “getting her way” is a horrible one.

Viewer Comments
Negative—I love all kinds of films and tend to be relatively laid back about movie watching, but I was rather disturbed by this film when I saw it, and would not encourage parents to let any impressionable teens see it. Why? Mandy Moore’s character, Anna, has many things in her life that are good: loving parents, a good home (the White House would be cool for most teens), she appears to have quite a bit of money, and she is given more freedom in her personal life than a lot of teens experience. In spite of all the good things, Anna throws a little fit and acts like her life is horrible (it’s not, by any stretch of the teenage imagination), and her way of dealing with “her problem” is to run away. Not only does she run away, but she does so with a complete stranger, who she eventually ends up in bed with after about three days of racing around Europe.

The premise itself isn’t too bad, after all, I knew most of that before I went to see the film, but I felt that the film dealt with the content in an unacceptable way, and presented running away as an acceptable solution to discontent in teens lives or to any problems they may face. In fact, one of the girls I saw the film with said to me the next day “My life is worse than [Anna’s]. I want to run away!” Life can be difficult enough for many teens, but movies such as this don’t help by encouraging them to give up and run away, and acting like everything will be just dandy in the end. It’s sad when a nice film premise has to be twisted to the point where it essentially undermines the value of families and facing life.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/3]
—K.W., age 22

Negative—This is what I classify as a good video movie. There is nothing about this film that warrants being seen in the theater. The story is entertaining and probably based on fact but not really worth the price.
My Ratings: [Average/2]
—Bob C., age 40
Neutral—Well, its more of a chick-flick, although it was pretty cheesy in places. It was alright I guess. Some sexual content, although I didn’t see the “naked butt” scene, maybe my tv is to small? Not the best choice for a girl’s night out movie.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/2½]
—Kriss, age 23

Comments from young people
Positive—I thought that this was somewhat a good movie. There was a couple of scenes that they could have left out but overall it was very cute.
My Ratings: [Average/3]
—Rachel, age 13
Negative—DO NOT TAKE THE FAMILY! This movie is full of bad language. I saw this at a friends house and would never recommend it to anyone. The main character is rebellious and the exact opposite of what a Christian teen should ever want to be. This movie was a drag.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/1]
—A.I., age 12
Negative—Personally, I thought this movie was kinda crummy. Yeah, the plot line was pretty good and all, but Anna seemed really immature, like she always had to have her way—even by the end of the movie, she was arguing wiht her Dad over something trivial. I realize that teenagers are apt to disagree with their parents, but she seemed to argue needlessly about everything.Also, I didn’t like the message Anna seemed to be expressing to the audience by taking her clothes off a couple times, and “throwing herself” at Ben. I mean, I thought being a virgin was a good thing?! Beyond that though, what is that kind of behaviour saying to other kids out there, that accept movies messages as “law” and look up to celebrities?-that your “square” if your a virgin? After an(unsaved) friend and I watched the movie, we talked about Anna’s lack of pride(for lack of a better word!) for her virginity, so it did open doors for discussion, but I wouldn’t resommend this movie as a good “chick flick” or anything!
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/3]
—Lisa G, age 17
Neutral—…It had an awesome story, but not so great morals. The President’s daughter runs away and falls in love with some guy from the Secret Service. I really would have enjoyed this movie more if there weren’t any nude scenes.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/3½]
—Rebekah, age 13
Positive—I really loved this movie! It was so good. Yes, while it did have one nude scene, it was in the dark and I couldn’t see anything anyway. And when it came to the sex scene nothing bad was shown. My mom watched this movie with me and even she liked it. I think that Mandy Moore did as good in this movie as in A Walk To Remember.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4½]
—Hannah, age 14

I think that the movie was very good. The chemistry between Matthew Goode and Mandy Moore was amazing. It was exciting, romantic and just an all around good movie!
My Ratings: [Good/4½]
—Lindsay Burden, age 13

Neutral—I enjoyed this film and the plot and idea was very interesting. The language isn’t bad at all and I was really enjoying it until Mandy Moore out of nowhere takes off her clothes. It was disgusting and uncalled for…
My Ratings: [Average/2½]
—Rachel Maish, age 15
Positive—I love this movie! It was a bit racy and I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone under 15 years old. I saw when I was 16 with my best friend and we loved it. It’s a really feel good movie! The music is awesome but there isn’t a soundtrack to “Chasing Liberty.” Bummer!
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—Macy, age 17
Movie Critics
…almost instantly forgettable despite the sunny presence of teen queen Mandy Moore…
—Megan Lehmann, New York Post
…defies description. It’s either tediously pointless or pointlessly tedious…
—Bill Muller, The Arizona Republic
…several obscenities and profanities as well as implied premarital sex leaves it with a slightly negative acceptability rating…
—Mary Draughon, Preview Family Movie and TV Review
…Sadly, Anna’s idea of the liberty she is chasing involves getting plastered, swimming nude and losing her virginity. She pulls off all three in a matter of a few days…
—Bob Waliszewski, Plugged In
…The most troublesome message …isn’t Anna’s behavior or language… It’s Anna’s speech about truth. “Telling the truth isn’t always good,” she says to Ben. “And lying isn’t always bad. Good things can come from lying.” The film spends 120 minutes hammering this message…
—Annabelle Robertson, Crosswalk
…Harmon is singularly unconvincing as the President… he recklessly endangers his daughter’s life and his country’s fortune…
—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times