First Daughter

(2004)  1/2 Pg
105 min. 20th Century Fox. Directors: Forest Whitaker, Armand Mastroianni. Cast: Katie Holmes, Marc Blucas, Amerie Rodgers (II), Michael Keaton, Margaret Colin.

The precocious Michael Keaton plays the President, fetching Katie Holmes plays his daughter (read "princess"), and strapping Josh Blucas plays the "prince" who's ripe for picking in First Daughter. Though you might think this Forest Whitaker film (yeah, you read that right) has more going for it than the other 274 cookie-cutter fairy-tale comedies of the last five years, you'd be wrong. After blinking in a game of chicken with Warner Brothers' Chasing Liberty (president: Mark Harmon, first daughter: Mandy Moore, prince: Matthew Goode), First Daughter spent nine months on Fox's hallowed Shelf of Terminally Uninspired Movies; now, no feather-laden apparatus can wipe the dust from this terminally uninspired snoozer.

Surely I needn't tell you how this goes, but here goes nothing (and I mean nothing). Oh, to lead a blissfully normal life! When first daughter Samantha Mackenzie (Holmes) leaves her White House nest for the supposedly greener pastures of college, she finds her Secret Service contingent determined to cramp her style (quel surprise!). Though they're under Daddy's orders, the agents pull back, giving Sam and her sassy new roomie Mia a chance to indulge in some PG-rated hijinks (Zut alors!). Sam promptly makes goo-goo eyes with her Resident Adviser James (Blucas), who's smitten against his better judgement (Mon dieu!). Can it be long before James reveals that he's been hiding a big secret from Sam? (Someone get me a Patrice Leconte movie and a side of freedom fries, stat!)

First Daughter's total creative bankruptcy and blatant disregard for reality make the movie an easy target for critics but catnip for lots of romantic comedy junkies, so if you're in the mood, don't let me stop you. The byplay between Keaton and Holmes and Holmes and Blucas is mushy-sweet in a comforting bad-movie way. At the word-of-mouth screening I attended, the general audience all gasped in unison at the big "reveal," which the preview (not to mention acts one and two of the movie) have done little or nothing to hide. But I'm a critic—a critic named Groucho, no less—and if the movies have taught me anything, it's that I've gotta be me. Oh, yeah, and I've got to stop going to see movies like First Daughter.

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