The Princess Diaries


Directed by: Garry Marshall
Written by:Gina Wendkos
Starring: Julie Andrews, Anne Hathaway, Hector Elizondo, Heather Matarazzo, Mandy Moore, Erik von Detten
Released: September 23, 2001
Grade: B

It’s simple entertainment aimed at 13-year-old girls but the sentimentality accompanying any film directed by Garry Marshall is usually too much to swallow.  Marshall’s previous credits include Beaches, Pretty Woman, The Other Sister and The Runaway Bride so excuse me if find his unadventurous technique somewhat of a bore.

Based on the novel by Meg Cabot, The Princess Diaries could also be called a teen adaptation of My Fair Lady.  Mia Thermopolis (Hathaway) is the “ugly duckling” with her frizzy hair, big glasses and noticeable braces.  She wants to be popular and wants the heart of the school’s sporting heartthrob Josh (Detten) but doing so has made her oblivious to the affections from her best friend’s brother, Michael (Robert Schwartzman).

Out of the blue, Mia gets a call from her grandmother (Andrews) whom she has never met.  Meeting for tea, Mia a bombshell is dropped.  Her grandmother is Queen Clarisse Renaldi of Genevoia which makes Mia a princess and since her father’s death, the sole heir to the throne.  One can imagine the shock but the Queen’s revelation is understood when Mia is told she must decide whether she will move to Genevoia to take on her princess responsibilities.

When the media catch wind of a princess living in San Francisco, Mia is headline news and the envy of all at her school.  Combined with a beautifying makeover, Josh finally gives her the attention she deserves but has popularity changed the real Mia?

The fictitious story is harebrained and predictable but the occasional funny line adds spice.  Five minutes in, I knew how the film would end and I’m sure most of the young teenagers in the audience were the same.  Fluffy Disney films are ideal entertainment for such an audience but I’m so frustrated by the incredibly safe line they take.  Ultimately, these “fairy tale” films are all the same.

Having not seen Julie Andrews on screen for some time, her selection of this project and subsequent performance was questionable.  I expected more than a poncy British accent and quaint sense of humour.  Looking back, none of the cast left a lasting impression.

It’s not my kind of film so I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt but don’t go to The Princess Diaries expecting anything more than the usual Disney shtick.