The Princess Diaries

"OK"

The Princess Diaries Review


Ah, the good ol' heavy glasses and frizzy hair -- Hollywood's hackneyed, telltale token of a plain girl due to have her life transformed by a makeover. Every generation of American girls gets a version of this tale thrust upon them, and this year's model is Disney's "The Princess Diaries," the story of a private school outcast who discovers she's heir to the throne of an obscure (read: fictional) European monarchy.

But this isn't your grandma's glass slipper flick. Our heroine is Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway from Fox TV's "Get Real"), a brainy, affably wry San Francisco teenager who is none too sure she even wants the crown when the grandmother she's never met comes for a visit and reveals -- surprise! -- she's the queen of Genovia.

"My expectation in life is to be invisible, and I'm good at it," Mia proclaims at the beginning of the movie. But while she skeptically contemplates accepting or renouncing her royalty -- and the responsibility and exposure that would come with it -- Mia does acquiesce to getting the "Pygmalion" treatment from her grandma (the oh-so-apropos Julie Andrews) during daily visits to the Genovian consulate.

Of course it isn't long before Mia's secret is out, what with her conspicuous new look (straight, shiny locks, plucked brows, makeup and contact lenses) and the limo driver/bodyguard/father-figure confidant (Hector Elizondo) that sticks close to her at grandma's insistence. Suddenly she's the school's "it" girl, a boy magnet and a local media darling -- and she's just not sure how to cope.

"The Princess Diaries" is a refreshingly -- but not aggressively -- reformist fairy tale that doesn't talk down to its audience or try too hard to be kiddie-hip like Disney's "Parent Trap" remake. Writer Gina Wendkos ("Coyote Ugly") peppers the screenplay with realistic adolescent wit ("Just in case I'm not enough of a freak already, let's add a tiara!" Mia grouses). Director Garry Marshall, working from his "Pretty Woman" template, plays up the fresher humor (fashion-handicapped Mia trying to put on pantyhose in the back of a limo as it goes up and down San Francisco hills) and exercises relative moderation in the less creative comedic moments (Mia's klutziness at a state dinner).

But the film does suffer from "It's Just A Kids' Movie" Syndrome, the major symptom of which is transparently lazy storytelling that prevents "Diaries" from fully realizing its potential. It's frequently narrated by inane fake "news reports" and is positively perforated with petty but nagging plot punctures -- many of them relating to how the ludicrously nonsensical Genovian political structure bends to accommodate the story and locale. These holes could have easily been patched if Marshall had cared enough to make the effort.

More significant complaints: Mia actually looks better before her makeover (afterwards she's totally generic). Central characters are unevenly drawn (supposedly insecure Mia seems perfectly self-confident 50 percent of the time). Personality traits are often highly contrived (Mia goes indoor rock-climbing and petitions to save the Spotted Owl). And Marshall pads the run time unnecessarily with irrelevant and self-contained asides, like a cable car crash and a scene in which bubble gum pop singer Mandy Moore (making her acting debut as the catty, blonde cheerleader from central casting) badly lip-syncs to her own cover of Connie Francis' "Stupid Cupid."

Couldn't this stuff have been cut so we could get to the inevitable royal ball and gorgeous gown climax 20 minutes faster?

For the most part, the movie's warm, smart and romantic elements outnumber its annoying shortcomings, and the three lead actors are winsome enough to carry "The Princess Diaries" though its rough patches. Hathaway finds a charmingly flustered core to her inconsistent character and brings it to the forefront. Andrews is ideal as the primly regal queen who isn't afraid of her footloose side. And Elizondo adds an extra touch of humanity with some droll observational humor and fatherly advice.

Had Marshall aimed a little higher and tried a little harder, "The Princess Diaries" might have been a movie that anyone could enjoy without having to lower themselves to that "it's just a kids' movie" mindset. But even with its flaws, it is a movie that young girls will likely remember fondly and vividly as they grow up.



The Princess Diaries

Facts and Figures

Run time: 115 mins

In Theaters: Friday 3rd August 2001

Box Office USA: $107.8M

Box Office Worldwide: $165.3M

Budget: $37M

Distributed by: Walt Disney Pictures

Production compaines: Walt Disney Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 47%
Fresh: 53 Rotten: 60

IMDB: 6.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Amelia "Mia" Thermopolis, as Königin Clarisse Renaldi, as Lilly Moscovitz, as Michael Moscovitz, as Joe, as Lana Thomas, as Helen Thermopolis, as Josh Bryant, as Vice Principal Gupta, Patrick John Flueger as Jeremiah Hart

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Colossal Movie Review

Colossal Movie Review

It's rare to find a movie that so defiantly refuses to be put into a...

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

It's unlikely that Guy Ritchie could make a boring movie if he wanted to. This...

Snatched Movie Review

Snatched Movie Review

It doesn't really matter that the script for this lively action-comedy is paper thin: teaming...

Jawbone Movie Review

Jawbone Movie Review

Boxing movies aren't usually this thoughtful. Sure, there are plenty of punchy moments in the...

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Scottish filmmaker Gillies MacKinnon (Hideous Kinky) remakes the 1949 Ealing comedy classic, although it's difficult...

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Master filmmaker Ridley Scott is back to continue the story 10 years after the events...

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

A fictionalised account of real events, this drama is reminiscent of Peter Morgan's work in...

Advertisement
Sleepless Movie Review

Sleepless Movie Review

In remaking the 2011 French thriller Sleepless Night, the filmmakers have dumbed down both the...

Unlocked Movie Review

Unlocked Movie Review

By injecting a steady sense of fun, this slick but mindless action thriller both holds...

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

A seriously impressive feature directing debut with a star-making central performance, this period British drama...

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

It was never going to be easy to match the impact of 2014's Guardians of...

The Promise Movie Review

The Promise Movie Review

The director of Hotel Rwanda, Terry George, turns to another humanitarian horror: the systematic murder...

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.