Release Date:  January 9, 2004

Rating:  PG-13 (for sexual content and brief nudity)

Genre:  Romantic Comedy

Director:  Andy Cadiff

Actors:  Mandy Moore, Matthew Goode, Mark Harmon, Caroline Goodall, Annabella Sciorra, Jeremy Piven and Martin Hancock

Review:  Is she, or isn’t she a Christian? That’s the question many will be asking after seeing Mandy Moore’s latest film, "Chasing Liberty." Certainly, her skinny-dipping, premarital sex, lies and the abundant sexuality in the film will leave many wondering about this popular star’s alleged faith.

Anna Foster (Mandy Moore) is the cloistered daughter of President James Foster (Mark Harmon). Anna longs for freedom, but with the Secret Service – and a very concerned father – watching her every move, dating is out of the question. Dad finally agrees to a night out supervised by just two agents, during their presidential visit to Prague. But, at the last minute, he changes his mind and sends out a contingent. Furious, Anna ditches her guards and takes off.

Fortunately for Daddy, the Vespa-riding hunk Anna escapes with just happens to be a British Secret Service agent. So the President gives the young man an assignment: keep an eye on Anna and keep his identity a secret. The only problem is, Anna has her eye on the guy, and she’s one very determined young woman.

OBJECTIONABLE CONTENT: "Chasing Liberty" 

 • = Mild  •• = Average  ••• = Heavy  •••• = Extreme
Adult Themes:   
Drugs/Alcohol Content:  ••
Language/Profanity:  ••
 Sexual Content/Nudity:   
Violence:     N/A

On the surface, this film is a teen romance that young girls and parents can relate to – and great European scenery. Despite her tendency to strip naked and seduce guys she barely knows, Moore’s character is hardly a wild child. She doesn’t smoke or use drugs, and only drinks once in the film (although she does get drunk). She curses, but infrequently. Not a bad movie for her adolescent fans, right? Think again.

Like most romantic comedies, "Chasing Liberty" embraces a Romantic worldview. That doesn’t mean it’s filled with candles and roses. It means that the film buys into the mindset that humans are essentially good and noble, and that civilization (by which Rousseau, the “father” of Romanticism, meant Christianity) corrupts humans. According to this view, we are controlled by our “heart” and emotions, and not by our intellect or logical mind. 

“Our eyes locked. We connected for like 30 seconds. You can’t let a moment like that pass!” says one of Anna’s fellow travelers, illustrating the film’s premise. This lonely young man has devoted his life to pasting stickers of the Bionic Man around the world and persuading others to do so as well. That way, he explains, people will know we are all connected when they see them. Pretty sad, huh? But, after Anna and Ben’s inevitable breakup, she does look up and see one of those stickers. Soon after, the pair is reunited.

It’s a small exchange (and a silly symbol), but one that preaches the message that we are, essentially, alone in this world – without hope or meaning – until we connect with other humans. The view is not without merit, but believers know that in order to have successful relationships, we must first “connect” with our Creator, who teaches us how to love others. We simply cannot do it on our own.

“I don’t want to think! I want to live!” Anna says, telling us that the two are mutually exclusive. And in her case, maybe they are. After all, she couldn’t be using her head when she gets drunk, slips off her clothes and skinny dips – in public. And she can’t be thinking “long term romance” when she strips and begs Ben to make love to her on their second night together. I guess it’s just “living” when the couple “falls in love” after only three days, then has sex.

The most troublesome message in "Chasing Liberty," however, isn’t Anna’s behavior or language, as disappointing as they are – or even the Berlin Love Parade, portrayed in all of its orgiastic decadence. It’s Anna’s speech about truth.

“Telling the truth isn’t always good,” she says to Ben. “And lying isn’t always bad. Good things can come from lying.” The film spends 120 minutes hammering this message, with a plot (including Anna’s love for Ben) that is founded upon lies. Just think: if they hadn’t all been lying, the couple would never have met – and they are ‘destined’ to be together. Thank goodness for lies!

Even from an artistic standpoint, the film isn’t very good. It suffers from sitcom sexual innuendos at every turn, including small ones, like a bar named the Marquis de Sade, to big ones, like the secret agents who engage in funny but often sexual bantering. The only thing missing was the canned laughter. Stilted dialogue, improbable situations, cheesy caricatures and crashing cymbals (when they kiss) had me rolling my eyes again and again.

If you still have doubts about Moore’s Christianity after seeing "Chasing Liberty," you might be convinced with her next film, "Saved," coming out in March. In it, she plays “the perfect Christian girl” who uses her personal relationship with Jesus to take advantage of everyone.

Meanwhile, don’t go chasing this one to the box office.