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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Monte Carlo

By
Kurt Jensen
Source: Catholic News Service


Katie Cassidy, Selena Gomez and Leighton Meester star in a scene from the movie "Monte Carlo."
"Monte Carlo" (Fox) is the flimsiest of teen-girl romantic fantasies based on the sturdiest of ancient tropes, the mistaken-identity plot.

While Selena Gomez, the Disney Channel star at the heart of this overly long but inoffensive enterprise, is no comedic actor, her devoted fans are unlikely to notice.

Director Thomas Bezucha, who co-wrote with April Blair and Maria Maggenti, wisely supports Gomez—in the central role of recent high school grad Grace—with Katie Cassidy as pal Emma and Leighton Meester as stepsister Meg—then sets the trio loose on misadventures in Paris as well as in the principality of the title.

The three girls from a small town in Texas have scrimped and saved for their dream vacation in the City of Light, which, predictably enough, turns out to be the stereotypical low-budget nightmare compounded of bad hotels and a breathless sprint through the sights.

Accidentally separated from their tour at the Eiffel Tower, the friends are drying out from a rainstorm at the nearest luxury hotel when they discover that Grace is a dead ringer for one of the upscale hostelry's current guests, British socialite Cordelia Winthrop Scott (Gomez again, with an accent that slides around like her lip gloss).

The ingenues abroad have only to walk out the door again for this resemblance to launch them on Cordelia's intended trip to Monte Carlo, where an expensive necklace is to be auctioned off for the benefit a school for impoverished children in Romania.

Doing the right thing early on would, of course, kill the plot and the opportunities to stay in a roomy hotel suite, dress up, meet handsome fellows, loll on the beach, and all that good stuff. The girls know there's a moral quandary involved, but it's such a fun time—and for such a fine cause as well.

"It's stealing!" Meg reflects out loud. "It's seizing the moment," Grace replies. And that's about as profound as the ethical debate ever becomes.

On the plus side, the soundtrack includes Louis Armstrong singing all the lyrics to the Edith Piaf classic "La Vie en Rose," to the lush strains of which we stroll toward the happiest of happy wrap-ups.

The film contains some mild sensuality. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II—adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG—parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

*****
Kurt Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.





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Junipero Serra: In 1776, when the American Revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. 
<p>Born on Spain’s island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom—first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero’s desire was to convert native peoples in the New World. </p><p>Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero’s left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross—sometimes life-threatening—for the rest of his life. For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there. </p><p>Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two <i>conquistadors</i>—one military, one spiritual—began their quest. José de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived. </p><p>Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra’s death. </p><p>Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans. </p><p>Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts—a move that has brought cries of “injustice” from some moderns. </p><p>Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn. He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988. Pope Francis canonized him in Washington, D.C., on September 23, 2015.</p> American Catholic Blog Hope and faith can outshine the darkness of evil. However dense the darkness may appear, our hope for the triumph of the light is stronger still. Though violence continues to stain us with blood, the shadows of death can be dissipated with one act of light.

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