When daddy is president

Mandy Moore tries hard, but she's no Zoey Bartlet.

The title "Chasing Liberty" emerged from a Hollywood squabble. The tiff broke out when Warner Bros. and Twentieth Century Fox both developed projects called "First Daughter" for early 2004, each about teenage presidential daughters yearning to shape their own lives outside the White House.

Warner won the skirmish for a January release date - the competing movie has been bumped until later this year - while Fox retained the rights to the "First Daughter" title.

That's why this week's teen pic is called "Chasing Liberty" instead.

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but the inverse is also true: An unfunny romantic comedy has an unpleasing aroma no matter what you call it - even if Mandy Moore does give her all as Anna, the young woman who can't wait to stretch her wings beyond the West Wing.

The movie starts with Anna's dream date picking her up at the White House, where even the flowers he's brought are torn apart by snoopy Secret Service agents. How's a girl going to have a love life when she's under more guards than the average jailbird?

Bent on freedom, Anna escapes from the agents who always trail her. She's helped by a handsome young Englishman, not guessing he's also a Secret Service guy.

This means the affection she develops for him - as they hop from gondola gliding to bungee jumping on a European spree - is unlikely to be returned.

"Chasing Liberty" may find some fans among female teens. But even they may decide the project cares more about quick profits than real entertainment value, since the signs are hard to miss. While one hates to accuse Hollywood of something as crass as product placement, one can't help wondering why a posh Venice restaurant would serve our heroine Pepsi in a can rather than a sparkling glass.

Here's hoping the other first daughter film won't turn out to be second-rate, too.

Rated PG-13; contains vulgarity and innuendo.

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