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MOVIE REVIEW

Monte Carlo

‘Monte Carlo’ an enchanting place for Gomez and pals

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By Wesley Morris
Globe Staff / July 1, 2011

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Selena Gomez is almost 19, but she still has the face of a cookie that’s not done baking. It’s big, though not quite as big as her hair, and the cleverest thing that the makers of “Monte Carlo’’ do with both is make them suitable for a Givenchy collection from 1960-something. Honestly, the whole movie is from 1960-something. Gomez plays Grace, an angelic Texan who works her way to Paris before entering New York University and winds up impersonating a bitchy British heiress en route to the French Riviera. The location titles look borrowed from “Gidget Goes to Rome,’’ and the deluge of Muzak is sub-Bacharach.

Grace makes the trip with her older country-fried best friend, Emma (Katie Cassidy), and Meg (Leighton Meester), Grace’s uptight 21-year-old stepsister who, for some reason, is mad at Emma. They spend a few scenes bickering. Then it begins raining hunks, and out come the hugs and I’m-so-sorrys. If the score doesn’t put you to sleep, the wholesomeness would. This is the sort of movie in which if Alfred Hitchcock’s “To Catch a Thief’’ is on TV, the answer to “What are you watching?’’ is “Grace Kelly.’’

But wholesomeness in itself isn’t a crime. And were I a certain 12-year-old girl, “Monte Carlo’’ would be a giant frosted pastry, even if that pastry tastes suspiciously like Gomez’s 2009 Disney Channel Original Movie, “Princess Protection Program.’’ My favorite thing about “Monte Carlo’’ is the way it occasionally mixes some enchantment into all the obviousness. Like when the ladies’ respective beaus take them out for an evening of fun. Louis Armstrong’s “La Vie en Rose’’ plays during a fireworks show that the women watch in different states of glee. The camera gazes down at Meester who leaps skyward at a nightclub in bliss. It finds an enraptured Cassidy on a yacht and wearing No. 2 yellow.

I don’t remember what Gomez was doing. Even in two roles, she’s not yet terribly compelling as the focal point of a narrative. (The cookie’s still in the oven.) It’s smart to trifurcate the story, which is credited to April Blair, Maria Maggenti, and the movie’s director, Thomas Bezucha, and is based on the book “Headhunters’’ by the animation producer Jules Bass. Meester and Cassidy have to do things like inch along hotel ledges and race down the stairs of the Eiffel Tower. Their work is not entirely thankless. But I’m afraid some girls will leave persuaded that Gomez just has really cool babysitters.

Wesley Morris can be reached at wmorris@globe.com or followed on Twitter: @wesley_morris.

MONTE CARLO Directed by: Thomas Bezucha

Written by: April Blair, Maria Maggenti, Bezucha,

adapted from the novel

“Headhunters,’’ by Jules Bass

Starring: Selena Gomez,

Leighton Meester, Katie

Cassidy, and Andie McDowell

At: Boston Common,

Fenway, suburbs

Running time: 108 minutes

PG (mildly brief language and some kissing)

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