A few winning ways for `First Daughter'

September 24, 2004|By Deborah Hornblow | Deborah Hornblow,HARTFORD COURANT

Combining elements of The Princess Diaries and the life and times of Chelsea Clinton with a whiff of Audrey Hepburn style, First Daughter is an intimate peek at a president's only child (Katie Holmes), a young woman who longs to be just like everybody else. Mandy Moore's first kid in this year's Chasing Liberty solves the problem by going AWOL for a few days.

Holmes' Samantha Mackenzie chooses the less rebellious path of attending college in California, where her one great aspiration is to blend in. But from the moment Sam arrives at the university, to the tune of the school band's "Hail to the Chief," she knows she cannot hope to be treated as an ordinary student. So, like Princess Mia in The Princess Diaries, Sam must weigh the benefits of being first daughter - manicures aboard Air Force One, chauffeured rides everywhere and Vera Wang ball gowns - with the responsibilities of her so-called "genetic limelight."

Adding to Sam's challenges are two career-politician parents (Michael Keaton's President Mackenzie and Margaret Colin's first lady) disinclined to feel sympathy when she complains about her station in life.

When Sam meets her dorm's residential adviser (Marc Blucas), she at last gets a taste of freedom and a more ordinary life, but her feelings and her behavior affect her in ways that are not always helpful to her father's re-election bid.

Holmes is both sweet and graceful as Sam and Blucas is earnest and athletic as the RA who finds himself in a compromising position. And Keaton and Colin bring human dimension to the prez and his wife.

All in all, First Daughter is cute in spots, romantic here and there, but overall, not destined to score high in the polls.

The Hartford Courant is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

First Daughter

Starring Katie Holmes

Directed by Forest Whitaker

Rated PG (language, alcohol use)

Released by 20th Century Fox

Time 104 minutes

Sun Score **

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