Movie Review: Wayward First Daughter

By Chris McGeachy

When you look at the repertoire of Forest Whitaker’s roles, compared side-to-side with his directorial portfolio you have to wonder how in the hell someone involved with films like Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai and Platoon could also be responsible for cinematic atrocities like Sandra Bullock’s Hope Floats and the dismal Waiting to Exhale. But Whitaker’s directorial past shouldn’t be held against him. He and his new film First Daughter deserves another chance, don’t they? After the end credits start to roll you’ll think differently, you soft hearted bastard.

Whitaker’s star, Katie Holmes, had a few reservations performing in this film because it shared the exact same premise as the Mandy Moore film Chasing Liberty and didn’t want to star in a Mandy Moore wannabe-which early drafts of the script pointed to. So, Whitaker and his writers were posed with the problem of coming up with a fresh and different story, that was more than just some flimsy excuse to tug at heartstrings.

Samantha MacKenzie (Katie Holmes) may be a young girl setting off for college, but unfortunately her father is the President of the United States of America (Micheal Keaton). To make matters worse, it’s election year and the shroud over a post-9/11 society makes Sam a liable terrorist target. Life isn’t all wine and cheese for the First Daughter as Sam learns the meaning of family, freedom and following her dreams throughout this unmotivated and bland film.

Is First Daughter all bad and fit for the bin then? No, in fact Whitaker does some good things with the film and the story shows some moments of Zen between the drab and almost pre-programmed dialogue. The film opens with a cleverly edited montage of the heroine’s life as Whitaker’s voice narrates through the opening credits. In fact, based on the opening, for a brief moment, First Daughter sheds the typecast lineaments of the tired coming-of-age story, but it soon falls into that same pattern we’ve all witnessed a hundred times before in a hundred different films of the same mediocre caliber.

There are few saving graces in the story, particularly how Sam deals with her father’s overprotective nature, secret service men, and rabid paparazzi. Unfortunately, these moments of inspiration come too few and far between to keep anyone’s interest throughout. First Daughter becomes what Katie Holmes feared, another film to be lumped in with the likes of all the other She’s All Thats and Chasing Libertys out there.

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