PRINCESS DIARIES 2: ROYAL ENGAGEMENT
**** (out of 5)
August 11, 2004
Anne Hathaway as MIA THERMOPOLIS
Julie Andrews as QUEEN CLARISSE RENALDI
Hector Elizondo as JOE
John Rhys-Davies as VISCOUNT MABREY
Chris Pine as NICHOLAS MABREY
Callum Blue as ANDREW JACOBY
Directed by: Garry Marshall
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
I admit I’ve been a little late on getting this one out, so many other reviewers have already had their shot. Since I already know what I’m going to say about this film, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to see what’s already being said about it. I normally don’t do this, but in the case of “Princess Diaries 2,” I took a peek at what other people have to say.
I was actually quite surprised at what I saw. With the exception of few folks, by and large the film is getting lambasted by the critics. And the general consensus is basically this: I know this movie has been made for a specific demographic that is going to eat it up, it’s still crap.
And to this, I have to say, what’s wrong with a movie made for a specific demographic that will eat it up? Was anyone really expecting any sort of high art from a movie like this?
The major studios – and Disney in particular – are at their most honest when they make these movies. And when I’m heading into a darkened theater filled with screaming pre-teen girls, I know exactly what to expect. That’s why I’ve always been very kind to movies like “The Lizzie McGuire Movie” and “What a Girl Wants” even if it isn’t my usual faire.
“Princess Diaries 2” takes off five years after the first film. Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway) has just graduated college with a degree in international diplomacy and is heading back to Genovia, where she is a princess. She’s preparing to succeed her grandmother (Julie Andrews) on the throne. However, some folks in the government object to her goal, and they dig up an ancient law that says a woman cannot become queen of Genovia without being married.
Cut to the wild goose chase for Mia to find a husband. Unfortunately, the only person in all of Europe that she’s attracted to is Sir Nicholas Mabrey (Chris Pine), the next in the bloodline to take the throne. It doesn’t help matters that Nicolas and his uncle Viscount (John Rhys Davis) have been trying sabotage Mia’s chance to be queen.
Every few years, someone crops up in the media bemoaning the fact that so many R-rated movies do well. Similarly, there’s always someone out there saying that there should be more G- and PG-rated films made (and even then, I hear these people complain about the content of some PG-rated films). I’ve always hated this argument because I feel that there’s nothing wrong about having a solid market for harder core films out there. Why should films like “The Matrix” and “Boogie Nights” not be made just so someone who doesn’t watch them anyway can be happy with more carbon copies of the latest Disney cartoon.
Historically, with the exception of animated movies, a G rating on a film was as poisonous as an X rating (or the current NC-17 rating). A G rating means it’s sanitized. A G rating means there’s no pizzazz. A G rating means it’s no fun.
“Princess Diaries 2,” like its predecessor, is rated G – but that hardly matters. It’s a good family film without trying too hard to be one. Oh sure, the characters are very basic, the situation has been seen before and you can practically write the script from frame one. But that doesn’t stop it from working. And a lot of its spirit comes from director Garry Marshall. He’s brought back practically every actor from the first film to reprise their roles – including bit parts for his own daughter and Larry Miller.
Additionally, there are scores of references to other Garry Marshall films, including “Runaway Bride” and “Pretty Woman” (although the audience might miss the “Pretty Woman” references because it’s about as old as its key demographic, and parents aren’t as likely to show a movie about a hooker to a gaggle of girls at a slumber party).
The bottom line is that I liked “The Princess Diaries 2.” I thought it was a sweet film with a lot of heart. Anne Hathaway is commanding in her performance as Mia, and she’s well on her way to becoming a beautiful actress whose not afraid to take chances or make herself look silly. Julie Andrews seems right at home aside Hathaway, and this is the first chance we’ve had to hear her sing since her crippling throat surgery years ago.
Sure, there are shameless Disney marketing tricks, like forcing a cameo for the overtyped, undertalented Raven. However, once you get past those, it’s still a nice little movie. Oh, and the teenage girls are gonna love it. So, it doesn’t matter what we say out there, this should spawn a “Princess Diaries 3” sometime in the near future.