Rated PG, 120 min. Directed by Forest Whitaker. Starring Katie Holmes, Marc Blucas, Amerie, Michael Keaton, Margaret Colin, Lela Rochon Fuqua.
An absolutely mystifying descent into treacle from Ghost Dog himself, First Daughter both looks and feels like a Hallmark Movie of the Week, replete with a tortured young protagonist and a clueless dad who just can’t seem to let go of his little girl and let her live her own life, dammit. First daughter Samantha Mackenzie (Dawson’s Creek’s Holmes) is a study in glaciality, so firmly has she been molded since birth to assume the mantle of the political lifestyle. Sure, she’s not the incumbent in the White House, but she is quick to spiel off pro-Dad (Keaton) sound bites when challenged and resist the temptations of her freshman collegiate year. As is so often the case, however, girls just want to have fun, and so when Samantha hightails it to a university 3,000 miles away from D.C., she promptly loosens up with the help of attitudinal roomie Mia (Amerie) and drops the stuffy CNN-approved wardrobe and spin. To a degree, it works, and after a chance encounter with her new resident adviser James (Blucas), she also begins a whirlwind romance that ends up jeopardizing all manner of people. The film’s big plot twist is a doozie and I won’t reveal it here; suffice it to say that there’ve been less histrionic affairs on All My Children, and once it occurs, First Daughter feels less like a romance than a sham, cardboard characters and all. What Forest Whitaker is doing directing this pap is anyone’s guess, but he’s certainly mastered the art of the match-cut (there are at least three painfully obvious ones in the first hour alone). The director of Waiting to Exhale and Hope Floats has done better than this almost every time out of the gate, both behind and in front of the camera, and the strangely false-feeling world of First Daughter is disastrously bland and unappealing from the start. It’s as if Whitaker’s film had been kidnapped by rival editors on its way to the theatre, recut to appeal to the broadest possible demographic (politically oriented Dawson’s Creek fans who enjoyed Marc Blucas as Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Riley and the writing of Sliders’ Jerry O’Connell, perhaps), thus ensuring that it appeals to no one at all. Holmes and Blucas fail to strike even the smallest of sparks, and a romantic nighttime sequence set at a gorgeously lit amusement park had me wishing Farley Granger from Strangers on a Train would turn up and strangle someone all over again, preferably O’Connell. Stupendously dull and infuriatingly obtuse, this is the cinematic equivalent of unflavored gelatin, bland and tasteless, but much less beneficial for your nails.
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