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June 2002                                                       SITE MAP   SEARCH
The Princess Diaries
cast: Anne Hathaway, Julie Andrews, Hector Elizondo, Mandy Moore, and Caroline Goodall

director: Garry Marshall

114 minutes (U) 2001
Disney VHS rental
Also available to rent on DVD

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Robin Landry
This is a movie you want to like and it works on a certain level despite the obvious messages being sent, and the broad based characters littered throughout the story. The flaw in this charming movie is that it's too cute for its own good. To call it predictable doesn't do justice to a film where you know what's going to happen by the end of a movie that's probably too long for its target audience.
   I wish that those in charge of making movies would realise that the young people they're aiming to entice, even the prepubescent girls this movie is targeted at, might get bored watching screen lives being played out in such clichés. While being popular is what most teens probably strive for, wouldn't it be nice if once hitting the jackpot of popularity like Mia Thermopolis (Ann Hathaway) does, when it's discovered she's a real-live princess, is she could keep her head and her old friends and just flow with it? Or Mia could get even with all those mean popular kids who now faun all over her. But that would make this a horror movie, wouldn't it?
   Despite the obviousness of the story, Hathaway is beautiful and charming with a gut laugh that makes you think immediately of Julia Roberts. Her grandmother's (Julie Andrews) magic wand - this is a 'Cinderella story' after all - is that of a hilarious ego-driven hairdresser who uses a pair of tweezers and a curling iron to make Mia gorgeous. Andrews, as Queen Clarisse, has graduated from her own role in as Liza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, to the role of Professor Higgins and she does a splendid job of it. She's every inch a lady in every situation her granddaughter can find to put her in. Even when Mia's car crashes into a trolley, Clarisse turns the situation around making the police and trolley driver into knights in shining armour. (It doesn't hurt that the police officer's name happens to be Arthur.)
   Joseph (Hector Elizondo) the limo driver, the same actor that director Garry Marshall used in Pretty Woman as the concierge, is just as charming in his role as a substitute father for Mia and an elegant commoner who puts the dance back in Queen Clarisse's step. All ends well after Mia begs forgiveness of all the friends she's alienated in the name of being popular and she decides to take the job of princess in order to get her views out to a wider audience. I kept wondering why Mia would want to make up with her supposed best friend, Lily (Heather Matarazzo). While Lily does apologise for saying mean things to her best friend after Mia's makeover, it didn't feel sincere to me. My prejudice could have come from the fact that Lily never showed anything but the mean, self-centred big-mouthed side to her character. How could Lily not be jealous of her best friend Mia when by just being a princess Mia would be able to fulfil Lily's lifelong ambition to have a soapbox for all of her weird ideas?
   I don't know if it was intentional on the part of the makers of this movie that being a princess was more a job description than a birthright, but that's how it seemed to me. Hopefully Mia will get a thorough education before she starts making any new laws in Genovia. Does this sound like the beginnings of a sequel or what?