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updated: 7/1/2011 1:06 PM

'Monte Carlo' packs mixed moral message

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  • Emma (Katie Cassidy), left, Meg (Leighton Meester) and Grace (Selena Gomez) get involved in a case of mistaken identity in the comic romance "Monte Carlo."

    Emma (Katie Cassidy), left, Meg (Leighton Meester) and Grace (Selena Gomez) get involved in a case of mistaken identity in the comic romance "Monte Carlo."

  • Video: "Monte Carlo" trailer


Of all the filmmakers who worked on "Monte Carlo," only composer Michael Giacchino actually gets what the movie should be: a crazy Blake Edwards farce where nutty things happen (like lightning striking a character or two) and all the cast members are in on the joke.

That's why the best part of Thomas Bezucha's wilted romance is Giacchino's music -- a bouncy, brassy, ebullient score that would feel right at home in any of Edwards' wacky "Pink Panther" movies from the 1960s and 1970s.

By turning "Monte Carlo" into a broad farce, Bezucha could sidestep the moral dilemmas his movie and characters try to ignore -- hey, aren't the three female leads lying, cheating and stealing for their own benefit? -- and pump up the film's woefully deficient humor quotient.

The story -- entirely revealed in TV commercials and theatrical trailers -- involves three young Texas women who go to France, where one of them gets mistaken for a rich and snooty, look-alike heiress.

Graduating senior Grace (Selena Gomez) has been saving money for years for the trip. Her considerably older best friend Emma (Katie Cassidy) plans to go with her, despite that her longtime boyfriend Owen (Corey Monteith) wants her to stay home.

At the last moment, Grace's dad (Brett Cullen) insists that Grace's nasty, pessimistic stepsister Meg (Leighton Meester) go with them.

Once in Paris, the Texas girls (only Emma bothers to muster a Southwestern accent) miss their tour bus.

Lost, they walk around until they arrive at the swank Hotel de Paris where the paparazzi go crazy shooting photos of Grace, believing her to be Cordelia Winthrop Scott, an heiress of apparently low moral stature and zero empathy for anyone on earth.

The hotel personnel, thinking Grace to be the heiress, give her a suite and all of the real Cordelia's considerable luggage: Oprah Winfrey-level grab bags stuffed with shoes, cosmetics and a rare diamond necklace.

"It's stealing!" Grace shouts, hoping that someone will talk her out of being honest. Someone does.

"It's seizing the moment!" Emma replies.

Good enough! The con is on!

"Monte Carlo" follows the three women for several days from Paris to Monte Carlo where Grace, utilizing her most effete and scowly British accent, pulls off being Cordelia to almost everyone.

Especially the young and hunky men they meet, such as Aussie traveler Riley (Luke Bracey) who fancies the sour Meg, and the hotelier's son Theo (real Frenchman Pierre Boulanger) who connects with Grace/Cordelia.

How long can Grace keep up this charade?

Where the heck did the real Cordelia go where she could be oblivious to someone impersonating her at highly publicized charity functions?

What will happen when good ol' country boy Owen arrives in Paris, looking for his Emma in the City of Lights?

Here's the big question: Don't French cops ever arrest anyone? Ever? Even with formal charges and a confession?

"Monte Carlo" would have been a much better farce instead of a good imitation of a bad Disney family film from the 1970s.