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— by Ben Cosgrove

The dream is as old as cities themselves: A young man or woman, full of ambition, comes to town, hoping to make it big. And no city draws more young people willing to take a chance at the big time than New York. Entertainment, law, business — no matter what the field of study, Gotham holds out promises and challenges offered by few other places on earth.

MTV's new reality show, "Miss Seventeen," will follow 17 young women who have come to NYC to vie for an internship at Seventeen magazine. In light of the show's mission, here are several movies that take a look at what it takes to maintain one's poise, focus and — perhaps most importantly — one's sense of humor in the face of sometimes enormous obstacles.

"First Daughter" (2004)

Katie Holmes plays Samantha Mackenzie, the spirited, independent-minded teenage daughter of a guy who isn't really all that keen on her going off to college by herself. That guy, played by Michael Keaton — the man with the second-most vigorous pair of eyebrows in Hollywood — happens to be the president of the United States, so his protective feelings toward his daughter are understandable. Unwilling to leave Sam to her own devices, the prez sends a young (and handsome) Secret Service agent ((Marc Blucas from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") to keep an eye on her. Romance ensues.

"The Prince & Me" (2004)

When pre-med student Paige (Julia Stiles) meets Eddie (Luke Mably), it's clear there's a connection between the two. It takes Paige awhile, though, to learn that Eddie is actually a Danish prince, Edvard, who has left his life of European splendor for a chance to enjoy the wonders of Wisconsin. Despite the forced references to Shakespeare scattered throughout the screenplay (a Danish prince — get it?), the movie manages to paint a picture of a young, willful woman who knows what she wants and is well on her way to getting it before the fairy-tale stranger shows up with promises of riches and leisure.

"How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" (2003)

Andie (Kate Hudson) is an ambitious, talented magazine writer whose editor commands her to find a guy, make him fall for her, dump him after 10 days and then write an article about the experience. Benjamin (Matthew McConaughey) is a hotshot ad exec who bets some buddies that he can make a woman fall in love with him within 10 days of meeting her. The two meet one another (of course), and before they know it, despite all their best intentions, they're having the time of their lives.

"The Lizzie McGuire Movie" (2003)

On teenager Lizzie's class trip to Rome, the hapless girl is mistaken for the female half of an Italian pop duo. When the male half (Yani Gellman) improbably asks her to fill in when his real other half goes missing, Lizzie steps up and fulfills a destiny she didn't even know she had. The real star of the movie, however, is clearly the teacher chaperoning her kids through the Eternal City; as Miss Ungermeyer, Alex Borstein (the weird and wonderful Ms. Swan of "MADtv" fame) is a huge dose of comic relief in a movie that, occasionally, borders on too sweet for its own good.

"Uptown Girls" (2003)

Brittany Murphy and Dakota Fanning play Molly and Ray, two misfit females who manage, by the end of this movie, to figure out how they're supposed to function in the real world. Molly's the daughter of a dead rock-star dad, a selfish, wealthy, self-absorbed brat trapped in a woman's body; Ray, meanwhile, is a dour, serious-beyond-her-years kid who needs a nanny while her clueless, workaholic mom (Heather Locklear) is off trying to conquer the world. When Molly suddenly needs to find a job (her first ever), she takes on the task of watching out for Ray. Eventually, of course, the two of them end up watching out for each other.

"What a Girl Wants" (2001)

Colin Firth — one of those rare English actors who looks just as believable in 18th-century finery as in corduroys and a ratty sweater — plays a politician whose life is turned upside down when the American teenage daughter he never knew he had (Amanda Bynes) shows up in England looking for dad. As 17-year-old Daphne, Bynes spends much of the film scandalizing the cartoonishly snobby Brits who surround her powerful father; meanwhile, Firth somehow manages to come across as a rather cold fish who also happens to be utterly charming. That's acting for you.

"The Princess Diaries" (2001)

The plot of "The Princess Diaries" is the stuff of innumerable fairy tales. A young woman (of the sort that, once upon a time, was known as "a commoner") discovers that she is actually descended from royalty; she must then decide if she's to take up the crown or remain her own down-to-earth self. With Anne Hathaway as the princess, Mia Thermopolis, and Julie Andrews as her grandmother, Queen Clarisse — who tries awfully hard to teach Mia what it really means to rule — "The Princess Diaries" offers up the possibility of a third option: A person can, perhaps, take the reins of power while still maintaining the levelheaded humility that made her such an appealing character in the first place. Now there's a fairy tale.

"Legally Blonde" (2001)

Reese Witherspoon, Luke Wilson and Selma Blair star in this frothy flick, with Witherspoon playing the hyper-positive Elle, a sorority sister who, after getting dumped by her boyfriend, decides to follow him to Harvard. (That's right: Wanna go to Harvard? It's easy!) Once she arrives in Cambridge, she discovers that she has a certain gift for learning about the law — as well as a gift for teaching her fellow students about the deep rewards of consumerism and the abiding importance of shoes.

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Photos: MGM Home Entertainment

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