Last Holiday

Cast:
Queen Latifah as Georgia Byrd
LL Cool J as Sean Matthews
Timothy Hutton as Matthew Kragen
Giancarlo Esposito as Senator Dillings
Alicia Witt as Ms. Burns
Gérard Depardieu as Chef Didier
Jane Adams as Rochelle
Michael Estime as Marlon
Susan Kellerman as Ms. Gunther
Jascha Washington as Darius
Matt Ross as Adamian
Ranjit Chowdhry as Dr. Gupta
Michael Nouri as Congressman Stewart
Jaqueline Fleming as Tanya
Kendall Mosby as Anton

Summary:
While “Last Holiday” offers a few good laughs, it is too unoriginal to really set it apart from other light comedies.

Story:
This is a remake of the 1950 film originally starring Alec Guinness in the Queen Latifah role (there’s a sentence I never thought I’d say).

Georgia Byrd is a quiet, unassuming, church-going woman living in New Orleans. She also works at a local department store where she sells cookware and has a crush on fellow salesperson Sean Matthews. Unfortunately, she has many dreams and aspirations, but she never follows through on them. She even lists them all in her book of “possibilities”.

One day after hitting her head at work, she gets terrible news at the hospital – she has a terminal disease and only has a couple of weeks to live. Depressed and upset that she didn’t live her dreams, Georgia finally breaks out of her shell. She tells off her boss, quits her job, and decides to head to Europe to blow all her savings and meet world famous Chef Didier, her idol.

Once in Czechoslovakia, she discovers a world that she only dreamed of. While treating herself to expensive clothes, fine food, and a luxury hotel, she attracts the attention of corporate mogul Matthew Kragen. Kragen is at the hotel wheeling and dealing with a couple of senators and believes that Georgia is there to steal business away from him. He soon goes out of his way to one-up her, but nothing can ruin Georgia’s last holiday.

“Last Holiday” is rated PG-13 for some sexual reference.

What Worked:
I have to admit that I wasn’t too excited about seeing “Last Holiday”. I like Queen Latifah well enough, but this film wasn’t all that interesting to me. Upon seeing it, the film was better than I expected, but it wasn’t much more than a light comedy aimed at women. I wasn’t the target audience for the film.

“Last Holiday” does offer up a few good laughs. When Georgia finally breaks out of her shell, she starts doing and saying all the things you’d like to in real life. She smashes the cell phone of her boss. She tells off a guy on an airplane that keeps leaning his seat back on her. She blows all her money without thought of consequence. These moments are some of the best in the film.

Queen Latifah proves again that she’s capable of carrying a film. She holds her own with the entire cast, she’s an “everywoman” that ladies identify with, and she demonstrates her adeptness with comedy. I can’t think of many actresses that could pull off this role. Latifah also shows she’s willing to go over the top as she goes snowboarding, base jumping, and gets a bodywrap at a spa. She has no fear of letting people laugh at her.

Latifah also surrounds herself with a good supporting cast. Gérard Depardieu stands out as Chef Didier, the particular French chef who becomes enamored with Georgia. Susan Kellerman also offers up a lot of laughs as the stuffy hotel host Ms. Gunther. She has some of the funniest lines as the film draws to a close. The guy that really steals the show is Ranjit Chowdhry as Dr. Gupta. He’s hyperactive, conflicted by his job, and generally creates some of the biggest laughs in the movie. While the other cast members are notable, they don’t get roles that are as flamboyant or funny. They include LL Cool J as Sean Matthews, Timothy Hutton as Matthew Kragen, Giancarlo Esposito as Senator Dillings and Alicia Witt as Ms. Burns.

The Czech setting offers a beautiful and unique background for the film. If you are looking for a fairytale European setting, it works well. New Orleans also is shown and seems positively drab in comparison (which Georgia even seems to note at one point). It’s not the best tourism ad for the flood damaged city, but what can you do.

What Didn’t Work:
While “Last Holiday” is good enough for a few light chuckles, it could have been better. First of all, Georgia is kind of boring. Before her transformation, she’s quiet, shy, and unassuming. It’s hard to see why Sean Matthews would be so attracted to her (besides her cooking). When Georgia finally does break out of her shell, she’s still rather reserved. She doesn’t go over the top in the way that Latifah takes her in other parts of the film.

There’s also nothing that’s really unique about this film. It’s your standard story where the uncultured American goes to Europe, is dazzled by its beauty and riches, then charms everyone with their down-home American goodness. You saw it in “The Princess Diaries 2,” “The Prince & Me,” “First Daughter,” and more. It has been done to death and “Last Holiday” doesn’t have anything new to offer.

And unlike many chick flicks, there’s not a lot here for guys to enjoy. There’s only so many times you can watch Latifah get massages, eat gourmet cuisine, and dress in fancy clothes before you’re checking your watch.

The Bottom Line:
Unless you’re a really big fan of Queen Latifah, I recommend waiting to see “Last Holiday” until it comes out on video. Even then only watch it if you’re in the mood for a light comedy.

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