First Daughter

As improbable as it seems, this is the second movie this year about a President's daughter who tries to express her freedom and falls in love with somebody who is more than he seems. Even more improbable is that one of the person's credited with the story is Jerry O'Connell (Kangaroo Jack, Burying the Cow). When compared to Chasing Liberty (which is essentially the same movie), First Daughter is marginally better due to two things; Katie Holmes and the fact that it is relatively (key word) more realistic. Otherwise, it is just as formulaic and predictable as the latter, but moves along quickly enough that it's hard to care.

The election is looming, and Samantha Mackenzie (Holmes, Pieces of April, The Singing Detective) is off to fictional Redmond University. She has lived all her life under the unkind spotlight of the media (they always mock her clothing choices) because of her dad, current President Mackenzie (Michael Keaton, Quicksand, A Shot at Glory). Samantha is hoping that time away at college will help her escape the media spotlight and get some well-earned independence. No such luck. The media glare is still there, and they are just as mean as before. Things get a little better with her hip roommate Mia (singer Amerie), and even better when she meets James Lansome (Marc Blucas, The Alamo, View from the Top). Spending time with James is great. James helps her sneak out and have fun, and she can be herself when she's with him.

Holmes is usually great. One of the interesting things about her is that she can pick any movie she wants to star in, but has made it a point to pick projects that focus on her acting. So what exactly made her choose this film? She is extremely likable, and director Forest Whitaker (Hope Floats, Waiting to Exhale) plays to this, but Holmes seems unnaturally bored a lot of the time. It's actually pretty eerie how calm she is. But she is a better actor than Chasing Liberty's Mandy Moore. The Samantha character is sick of putting her father's career ahead of her own aspirations, but feels an obligation to do so. The few times that First Daughter touches upon this, screenwriters Jessica Bendinger (The Truth About Charlie, Bring It On) and Kate Kondell (Legally Blonde 2) succeed. However, these small moments of clarity are jammed between typical romantic comedy scenes.

The romance between Samantha and James is surprisingly dull, because every step they take obvious. Even more obvious is who James actually is, and what will happen when Samantha finds out, and what will eventually happen after this. Everything has a bland, generic look to it, from Holmes' preppy wardrobe, to her 'cool' friend, to the generic looking sets, to, well, just about everything else. The father/daughter scenes are pretty painful to sit through, since everything between Holmes and Keaton seems so contrived. Then, there's Chelsea Clinton and the Bush daughters. Aside from some drunken antics from the latter, most were able to attend college quietly. Here, people scrutinize every inane aspect of Samantha's life. A film like this needs to have some grounding in reality. Whitaker portrays it as a fairy tale, but it's a tad too far-fetched to be believable.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 44 minutes, Rated PG for language, sexual situations, and alcohol-related material.

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