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It is five years since American teenager Mia (Anne Hathaway) learned she was a princess and heir to the throne of Genovia, a tiny obscure nation in the middle of Europe. Now, after graduation, she and her best friend Lilly (Heather Matarazzo) move into the Royal Palace with her grandmother Queen Clarisse (Julie Andrews), ready to assume the throne. But the law states she must be married within 30 days, so the hunt is on for a suitable suitor. Lord Andrew (Callum Blue) is an obvious choice, but Mia finds herself attracted to Lord Nicholas (Chris Pine). But Nicholas's ambitious uncle Viscount Mabrey (John Rhys-Davies), has plans for his nephew to claim the throne for himself.

Review by Louise Keller:
What a treat to see Julie Andrews gracing the screen again, and even singing a song. The scene in which Andrews sings is Princess Mia's bridal shower slumber party, when princesses from far and wide don their pjs and do girlie things like mattress-surfing down slide-like ramps in the palace. Andrews looks fabulous and is every inch the royal matriarch Queen Clarisse who guides her beautiful, wilful granddaughter with the same worldly wisdom, she passed on to 16 year old Lisl in The Sound of Music nearly 40 years ago. The vocal-chord operation that went tragically wrong in 1998 has left a noticeable huskiness in her speaking voice, but this diva has changed very little and wearing silky blue pyjamas adorned with a chiffon wrap, delivers the duet (with hip-hop teen star Raven) in Rex Harrison style.

The Princess Diaries 2 has more charm than the original, and director Gary Marshall concentrates not only on the squiring of Anne Hathaway's Mia, but on the understated romance between Queen Clarisse and Joseph, her head of security, charismatically played by Hector Elizondo. Elizondo is as comfortable playing Joseph as he was confidante to Julia Roberts' Pretty Woman, alerting staff in muted tones when his charges 'the eagle' and 'the swallow' are approaching. Hathaway is delightful as the princess who not only has acquired poise and confidence, but retains spontaneity and zest for life. Hathaway (a mix between Natalie Portman, Keira Knightley and Judy Garland) gallops wholeheartedly into the spirit of the rebellious modern princess who wants her chance to make a difference as a ruler.

Never mind that the storyline could jump straight from a page of a fairy tale, the film has plenty of heart and its characters are highly likeable. There's Mia's raucous best friend, energetically played by Heather Matarazzo, the amusing curtseying maids (who give a memorable rendition of Frère Jacques with saucepans on their heads), Callum Blue's Lord Andrew (Mia's very British fiancé) and tall, dark and handsome Chris Pine as Lord Nicholas (Prince Charming). The fact that Andrew, who talks without moving his lips as an anti-paparazzi tactic, is a decent character and not a cad, works in the film's favour; it's just that there are no fireworks when they kiss. Mia's kissing scene with Nicholas is another story, however, first they end up as wet as the lilies in the fountain, followed by a romantic rendez-vous in a picturesque outdoor setting.

The fictional country of Genovia (shot entirely in Southern California) is European in flavour (imagine a cross between Switzerland and Italy) allowing rich, ornate production design, beautiful gowns and Chopard jewellery. Girls will love Mia's palace suite, complete with remote control that operates the draws of sunnies, jewels, shelves of shoes and rack upon rack of frocks. And there's a three-level pastel pink scratching post with castle-like décor on the top level for Fat Louis, the royal black and white pussy cat, who is royally obedient as he reclines on a velvet cushion.

Visually plush, The Princess Diaries 2 is an enjoyable royal excursion. It's uplifting, funny, bright and lively, and the presence of sparkling Julie Andrews is the diamond in the tiara.

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(US, 2004)

CAST: Julie Andrews, Anne Hathaway, Hector Elizondo, John Rhys-Davis, Heather Matarazzo, Chris Pine

PRODUCER: Debra Martin Chase, Whitney Houston, Mario Iscovich

DIRECTOR: Garry Marshall

SCRIPT: Shonda Rhimes, Meg Cabot


MUSIC: John Debney


RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Melbourne, Brisbane: September 16, 2004; Sydney, Adelaide, Perth: September 23, 2004

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