by Laura Kyle
It seems as though directing brings out adept actor Forest Whitaker's softer side. He is the man responsible for directing films like HOPE FLOATS, and WAITING TO EXHALE. His acting roles are a far cry from these so-called chick flicks, and now he's added another one to the lot: FIRST DAUGHTER. This is the kind of movie some will label adorable, and others will merely roll their eyes at.Katie Holmes is, you guessed it, the First Daughter. It's election year, and she is moving from the White House to a university in California, and all she wants is a normal life outside the media scrutiny and tense political climate. When a forbidden romance is sparked between her and the dorm hall Residence Advisor (Marc Blucas), troubles ensue. Her President Dad is played by comeback king Michael Keaton. Just when you think Keaton has disappeared, he pops back up and wastes his acting abilities on yet another trite little excuse of a film (think back to Jack Frost).
"You will not be asking for seconds."
First Daugher was not completely void of charm though. The glimpse into the life of a First Daughter, while portrayed as essentially an over-the-top fairytale where the President has enough time to be the greatest dad of all-time, is occasionally interesting and authentic. Also, there are a few novel plot turns and quite a bit of intelligent humor. The biggest strength of First Daughter is Holmes, who gives a thoughtful and original performance, and although her character is sugary sweet, she manages to come off as somewhat relatable.
But just when First Daughter fools you into believing it is going to be more than a genre film requiring little of it's audience, it trips and stumbles into the same, familiar traps which keep a movie from being a film. Whitaker never goes beyond the surface of his PG subject material, even though it seems he wants to every now and then, and he certainly never goes beyond bland, uninspired filmmaking. It's as though Whitaker recalled all that is stereotypically romantic, like two lovebirds in a canoe, and thought "well, I have to put that in my movie now!" He couldn't simply have the two young adults fall in love, he had to spell it out in big, obnoxious letters, as if the moviegoer wasn't expecting it as soon as he or she sat down to watch First Daughter. One could hardly expect a brilliant script though, from writers like Jessica Bendiger (Bring It On), Kate Condell (Legally Blond 2), and Jerry O'Connell (star of "Kangaroo Jack").
Holmes' co-star Marc Blucas, playing her love interest, never feels even the least bit real. He might as well have been replaced with CGI, because all that was necessary for his role was a handsome face and corny lines. Which is too bad, because Blucas is not a bad actor.
What is the most disappointing about First Daughter, is that there is so much talent backing it up. With the exception of the TV series Dawson's Creek, Holmes has admirably steered clear of everyday pedestrian projects, unlike her competitors who have fallen victim to them, and she has pulled it off gracefully. Blucas is probably capable of a lot more than First Daughter required of him, and the rest of the cast is solid. Not to mention, there is not a lot of doubt about the skill of actor/director Whitaker. Despite the story of First Daughter, Whitaker almost makes you ignore the movie's lack of substance and fall in love with it. Or maybe it was Michael Kamen's score and the soundtrack, which included two different versions of The Way You Look Tonight, that did that?Perhaps the biggest problem FIRST DAUGHTER encounters is that it's theme that even the richest and most pampered of us have it rough, is tiresome and of little concern today. And FIRST DAUGHTER'S idea of great freedom leading to great responsibility is one we'd rather hear from more captivating and clever cinema, like in SPIDERMAN. What makes FIRST DAUGHTER hard to forgive, though, is that it accomplishes no firsts in moviemaking and is as forseeable as they come.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=10795&reviewer=369
originally posted: 09/27/04 06:49:16