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PRINCESS DIARIES, THE

SYNOPSIS:
San Francisco teenager Mia Thermopolis’ (Anne Hathaway) true identity has been kept secret by her artist mother Helen (Caroline Goodall). When Mia’s paternal grandmother, Queen Clarisse Renaldi (Julie Andrews) arrives in the US, the shy and awkward Mia is shocked to learn that she is now heir to the throne of Genovia, a tiny European principality. Given ‘princess lessons’ by her grandmother and her staff, Mia must decide whether to accept her royal role.

I don’t mind a bit of saccharine—in my films or for my tastebuds. So I was rather looking forward to The Princess Diaries, an impeccably credentialed project about a young girl who discovers she is a princess. After all, an occasional fairy tale should be compulsory escapism from the harsh reality of our every day lives. And who better to steer this vehicle, but Pretty Woman’s Gary Marshall? But Mr Marshall, what went wrong? There was I, a captive audience, wanting to escape and believe. I know this sounds harsh, but the script is tired, the characters are plastic and the entire film is a contrivance! There! I’ve said it. It’s an absolute credit to the cast that The Princess Diaries has charm at all. Julie Andrews wrote the book on etiquette and oozes star power and grace, while Hector Elizondo displays more of the same magic he displayed in Pretty Woman. Anne Hathaway is fresh and lovely as Mia; but why not cast a 15 year old in the role, or at least someone who we can halfway believe is around that age? When we meet Mia, she is a total klutz. In the flash of an eye (or the appearance of tweezers, hairdryer and hair colour), she is suddenly Natalie Portman, not only in looks, but in composure and elegance. Caroline Goodall’s arty mother is totally unbelievable and the sweet black and white pet cat is made to look stupid. But for some, the pluses may be enough. There’s no swearing (‘Shut up’ is the worst you’ll hear), and we do have the pleasure of the company of the stylish Julie Andrews and a top cast. The music is bright and breeze, and there are a few laughs along the way. It doesn’t matter that the story isn’t new; what does matter is that it doesn’t capture our hearts. Remember Pollyanna? Roman Holiday? Notting Hill? We fell in love with the characters and they made us believe. Surely that’s what good filmmaking is all about!
Louise Keller

Like the blank diary at the centre of the story, The Princess Diaries is waiting to be filled in with emotions and drama. The film is so devoid of impetus it seems endless. This is a pity, because Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway are terrific actresses, as are the supporting cast, but there is nothing a fine cast can do to salvage a drowning script and fumbling direction. Gary Marshall’s undoubted talents are not shown to best effect here. Like smudged lipstick, it’s a grotesque result of what otherwise might have been seductive fare. Ham fisted, forced and often embarrassingly contrived, The Princess Diaries is an error of creative judgement. It happens. Let’s just move on.
Andrew L. Urban

It doesn't matter how many scandals fourth rate royals like the Grimaldis of Monaco become embroiled in—Hollywood still loves a princess and is happy to feed this fantasy to impressionable young girls the world over. All the pathetic fawning and obsequiousness afforded living monuments of sanctioned inequality is present in this sugar coated gloop made in a country with serious monarchy envy. It’s weirdly appropriate that Julie Andrews, who played Eliza Doolittle on stage, gets to play Henry Higgins on the big screen as the royal matriarch and make-over artist for a potential princess. The fairy floss tone hovering over this is such that you could imagine Andrews simply walked out of The Sound of Music and found a little country to call her own and now needs a nice young girl to take over. Anne Hathaway has a delightful screen presence and it’s a shame to see her change from a gawky teenager into an over-coiffed, over-styled show-pony groomed for a life opening medical research facilities, launching submarines and having her eating disorders exposed in supermarket magazines. I know this film is pitched at the 8-16 age group but there is something very, very depressing about the values imparted here. “At least I'll be heard and I can make a difference,” says Mia, entering Princess Diana dreamland when weighing up the pros and cons of setting herself apart from the rest of humankind. To be fair there are some mildly amusing moments as the make-over takes place and Hector Elizondo scores nicely as the queen’s faithful minder who becomes Mia’s driver but the pleasures are few and far between in this unbelievably long (115 minutes) piece of G-rated Disney candy.
Richard Kuipers

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 3
Mixed: 0

Read Andrew L. Urban's

interview with ANNE HATHAWAY

Read Brad Green's SOUNDTRACK REVIEW with audio excerpts

PRINCESS DIARIES, THE (G)
(US)

CAST: Julie Andrews, Anne Hathaway, Caroline Goodall, Heather Matarazzo, Mandy Moore, Hector Elizondo

DIRECTOR: Garry Marshall

PRODUCER: Debra Chase, Whitney Houston, Mario Iscovich

SCRIPT: Gina Wendkos (screenplay) Meg Cabot (novel)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Karl Walter Lindenlaub

EDITOR: Bruce Green

MUSIC: John Debney

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Mayne Schuyler Berke

RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista International

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE DATE: September 13, 2001

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: BVHE

VIDEO RELEASE DATE: April 3, 2002







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