Feeling suffocated after years of having Secret Service agents breathing down her neck, Anna Foster, the 18-year-old daughter of the President of the United States, wants her freedom. She’s tired of losing prospective dates who are unwilling to put up with wiretaps and monitoring cameras. So, while accompanying her father on a diplomatic mission in Prague, she devises a plan to run away.
To carry out her “escape,” Anna switches clothes with another girl at a rock concert and gives the Secret Service the slip. Or at least she thinks she has. Unbeknownst to her, the good-looking twentysomething (Ben Calder) who’s willing to whisk her away on his motorcycle, is actually another one of the President’s men.
It's at this point that everyone in the theater collectively guesses the film’s outcome. Calder must feign an interest in Anna in order to do his job. Anna, on the other hand—oblivious she’s being “babysat”—comes to believe Ben is her ideal partner. Until she finds out his true identity. Then it’s splitsville for the lovey-dovey pair. But wait! Surprise, surprise. Ben has actually fallen in love with her despite his official duties. Is it too late for this happy/not-happy couple?
Although Anna is focused on running away and finding her freedom, it’s not because she dislikes or can’t get along with her parents. On the contrary, she’s close to both. And while she has a few moments in which she vents disrespect toward her dad, she never turns her back on him (or vice versa). [Spoiler Warning] Dear old dad’s perception of his daughter’s true feelings toward Ben cause him to give the advice that eventually leads to the couple’s happy reunion just before the closing credits. Meanwhile, the male-female Secret Service duo assigned to track Anna and Ben fall in love as well (a scenario that seems quite full of cheese at times). Also, to his credit, Ben at first resists Anna’s sexual advances.
Sharing a somewhat romantic moment overlooking a Venetian canal with his partner Cynthia Morales, Agent Weiss glibly rattles off a prayer of sorts that thanks Anna for running away so they could enjoy the Italian landmarks and scenery. He follows his “prayer” by reciting a Hebrew blessing that begins, “Barukh Hashem Adonai [Praise the name of the Lord]" and ends up referring to his flip intercession as “hip-hop Hebrew.” Once, while upset, Anna looks heavenward and “prays,” “Kill me now!”
The movie received its PG-13 rating for “sexual content and brief nudity.” 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—as if these troublesome behaviors were all noteworthy and regal accomplishments.
First, she gets drunk, which leads her to strip in front of Ben (rear angle camera view) and nearby restaurant patrons, then prance into a river. At this point Ben refuses to take advantage of a stark naked, drunken teen. When Anna’s father receives pictures of his daughter’s river swim, his response is angry, but still a bit mild for the deed. Later, pretending to be newlyweds, Anna and Ben are put up for the night by an Italian mother and son. Taking the pretense even farther in the privacy of their room, Anna again strips, inviting Ben to have his way with her. He refuses, holding up a blanket to block the view, and inquires, “Why are you taking your clothes off all the time?” (I had the same question!) Angrily, she flops back into bed, complaining about being a virgin, exclaiming, “Naked virgin safely in bed!” The next day she asks Ben if he refused her because he has a girlfriend or is gay—the implication is that those are the only reasons a guy would choose abstinence. Eventually, however, “love” (lust) wins out and the two share an intimate evening under the stars (the next morning Ben is seen in his underwear; Anna with the bedding held up just below her bare shoulders).
A number of the women, including Anna and Anna’s mother, wear extra-low-cut tops and other sexy outfits. Gyrating bikini-clad women dance at a large European street party. When one of Anna's dates drives up Pennsylvania Avenue and is stopped by security, he quips, “It’s not every day you come to the White House for a date—well, maybe when Clinton was in office.” Anna complains that her family wants her to “have love” but not to “make love.” In the presence of her father and visiting dignitaries, Anna yelps, “I’m gonna die before I ever get to third base—I mean, second base.” Her father shows no disapproval, but later asks his guests, “Third base is what again?”
When a friend of Anna’s is asked by the President why she pierced her tongue, she responds, “Some guys think the piercing makes for better ...” before being snatched quickly away by Anna. After Morales explains that she takes herbs to reset her jetlag-hindered internal clock, Weiss (who imagines himself a ladies man) proclaims, “I’d like to reset your clock!” Later, Morales asks Weiss if there are “actually women who say, 'Give it to me right now!'” to which Weiss sheepishly replies, “A couple of them.” Weiss talks about how love at college can’t be learned in the classroom, then adds, “Dorm maybe.” Sean Paul’s lusty “Get Busy” plays as background music for one scene.
Thinking he may have a gun, Secret Service agents jump a young man at the restaurant where Anna and a date dine. To protect Anna from possible assault, Ben belts a guy.
Crude or Profane Language
Two dozen in all. A number of misuses of the Lord’s name join three s-words, “B-llocks!,” “smart-a--ed,” “Holy crap!,” “a--hole” and other profanities.
Drug and Alcohol Content
At a diplomatic reception in Prague, Anna and a friend down two glasses of champagne (others drink there as well). Anna declares, “I love champagne.” She’s not kidding. On the same night, she drinks what appears to be beer at a concert. A bit later with Ben, who also drinks, she works on yet another pint of beer—though she's obviously already intoxicated. Other girls are seen drinking in a bathroom. The President secretively smokes cigars (“Don’t tell your mother”). An extra at a bungee jump smokes a cigarette (several drink at that same site).
Other Negative Elements
Anna lies on several occasions, beginning by telling Ben she is being chased by concert security (in actuality, they are Secret Service agents). Later, both claim to be newlyweds. Believing his daughter will soon return after running away, the President exclaims, “Without MTV and clean sheets, she’ll be begging to come home.” A situation ethics-based discussion finds Anna telling Ben that lying is sometimes good and telling the truth is sometimes bad.
Anna and Ben encounter a guy on a train who winds up stealing their money. Later, when they run into him again, they’re quick to befriend him as if what he did was really no big deal. Low on funds, they exit a restaurant without paying for their meal. Taking mortal risks simply for the thrill is applauded (while slipping to what could have been her death on a rooftop, Anna is more exhilarated than regretful).
Although we’ve seen this plot in dozens of other movies, Chasing Liberty still had the potential to be fun. But a fun premise is about all that's offered here. What the director seems to really want is for moviegoers to pity this poor girl for leading such a sheltered life that she’s missed out on the cool—rebellious—stuff teenagers are "supposed" to do. In Liberty, the icing on life’s cake can only be found inside a liquor bottle, in a river while naked, and in the act of losing one’s virginity.
In A Walk to Remember, Mandy Moore’s character takes the high road. This time around (as in her last film, How to Deal), Moore’s character takes the low road—and in typical Hollywood style, there’s no cost involved. I must admit I was hoping for better things from Miss Moore. But she seems determined to distance herself from the reasons many young Christian moviegoers first fell in love with her. Perhaps she believes she did the right thing when she insisted a body double do her nude scenes. But it doesn't really matter whose bare derriere it is that gets camera time.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Mandy Moore as Anna Foster; Matthew Goode as Ben Calder; Jeremy Piven as Alan Weiss; Annabella Sciorra as Cynthia Morales; Mark Harmon as President James Foster
Andy Cadiff ( )