Selena Gomez’s innocuous and inconsequential new travel comedy Monte Carlo wears its aspirations on its summery, floral-patterned sleeve. Not only can you spot Alfred Hitchcock’s 1955 To Catch a Thief playing on a hotel television in the background of one scene, but everything from the tony Côte d’Azur setting to a case of missing jewelry to a late-night romantic rendez-vous backlit by fireworks is meant to evoke the classic caper and its breezy spirit. Gomez’s character is even named Grace — you know, as in Grace Kelly. It’s no surprise to find out that the baby-faced actress is no Ms. Kelly (compare Justin Bieber to Prince Rainier at your own leisure). But while both Gomez and the film sorely lack the effortless charisma of their exemplars, they’re not entirely without their own charms.
Grace and her traveling companions, Emma and Meg (played by Gossip Girls Katie Cassidy and Leighton Meester), have left their home in Podunk, Texas for a one-week tour of Paris. And before you can say either ”hot dang!” or ”sacré bleu!” they find themselves embroiled in a sub-Olsen Twins scenario of lookalikes and mistaken identities. Pretending to be the haughty socialite Cordelia Scott Winthrop (also played by Gomez, with some vague approximation of a posh accent), Grace infiltrates the raised-pinky domain of the European elite, a sparkly world of polo, charity auctions, and handsome French boys with even handsomer bank account figures.
It’s all very silly and contrived, but it’s also airy and agreeably laid-back, not unlike a decent vacation. A pitch-perfect score from Lost’s musical maestro Michael Giacchino calls to mind those older Riviera-set films, even if his notes are often — and unwelcomely — interrupted by a series of forgettable pop songs. When the plot’s more farcical elements start snowballing and the girls’ playful fraud turns to accidental grand larceny and kidnapping, there’s enough comedic energy to carry us through to the requisite happy ending without feeling like we’ve been run too hard through the cliché mill. Monte Carlo is undoubtedly a trifle, but it’s still kind of nice for a summer movie to try charming us instead of just bludgeoning us into submission. C+