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THE PRINCESS DIARIES

Directed by Garry Marshall (2001, Walt Disney Pictures)
Starring Julie Andrews, Anne Hathaway, Hector Elizondo, Heather Matarazzo, and Mandy Moore

A teenaged girl attempts to decide if she wants to be princess, after discovering that she was born royalty.

 

 

3 stars

June 16th, 2002, on DVD  
   

ery cute, and entertaining, and the parts that are meant to be funny -are funny!

There was some great character development in Mia, as she grows from this very shy and reserved, unpopular girl, to someone who has enough confidence to finally make up her mind, and give the grief that she's been getting for who knows how long.

I understand the need for Mia to look horrendous at the beginning of the movie, with her frazzled hair, and her hideous glasses. We have to understand why she is teased so much. She hangs around with her friend Lilly, who has "ugly hair" and a strong personality. In short, these two don't conform. But Mia is a follower, and it is because of her looks, I think, that she is not liked -and not necessarily because she follows Lilly. Lilly is disliked because she has strong opinions, is an environmentalist, and expresses them on a cable TV show of her own!

But it is unfortunate that Mia only looks terrible while at school. When she ties her hair back to go rock climbing, wearing her contact lenses (or perhaps some kind of thin-rimmed glasses might have the same effect), she's gorgeous. And so when she gets the complete make-over, I was not surprised in the slightest that she was beautiful. Of course, this was somebody else's version of Beautiful, because I found she was wearing way too much make-up. As that settled down later in the film, I have to conclude that it was the over-enthusiastic hair stylist ("you broke my brush") who became over-enthusiastic with the make-up, as well.

Julie Andrews does a terrific job at being a Queen. She absolutely was royalty, from her assessing scrutiny of her grand-daughter, to damage control when word leaks out that Mia is actually a princess. My reaction was similar to Mia's when Clarisse starts mollifying first the school principal, and then later the policeman and streetcar driver. And I loved it when those two reappeared at the end of the film!

Mia goes through growing pains, as any teenager would. She does not have enough experience being her own person to see when people were using her. This is wonderfully expressed by her mother, who wonders why Josh has taken a sudden interest in her, and Mia just brushes it off. Her mother lets her make her own mistakes, even if they are so very painful, and she has to console her daughter later. I think that was terrific!

Because Mia just wants to fit in, and the disaster at the beach shows her how naive she really is. She is oblivious to Lilly's brother's crush on her, just as Josh was oblivious to Mia's crush on him. But this is a Disney movie, so they do, of course, get together by the end, and her leg "pops", raising up as they kiss, and flicks on the fountains and lights! Sappy, but fun, as well.

Being a Garry Marshall film, we had a comedic dinner party, which was more animated and often funnier (because it was longer) than the similar scene in Pretty Woman. I love the look on the Asian consulate's face as the grapes fall from the sky! This is of course after Mia makes her first dinner gala a complete failure by lighting an arm on fire (somebody else's), breaking a glass by clinking it for a speech, and causing a huge comedy routine by chasing a grape under the table. Incidentally, I didn't think the "evil" baron and his wife were particularly funny, except for his hilarious line about putting his wife on a postage stamp!

But it is the emotional core of her friends that brings her through. Lilly, especially, supports her friend, even after being stood up, and kept in the dark for so long. It is Lilly, and a letter from Mia's deceased father, that make up her mind to become a princess, so that she can help influence the world, something particularly important to her activist friend.

Anne Hathaway was really terrific in her part. I hate to characterize her in terms of other people, but at times, I saw some Natalie Portman in her, at other times, Claudia Christian, but most of the time, her facial expressions, especially her eyes and wide smile, reminded me of Julia Roberts, which is fitting considering the similarities to Pretty Woman. She was beautiful, once she got rid of the sideways frazzled hair (I liked the straight hair best, but the all-back frazzled hair was still nice), and took control of herself (for some moments, anyway), and she was a great actor, as well as reactor.

Mandy Moore gets to play the bad girl, who is constantly teasing Mia, who has great coordination, is a cheerleader, is extremely popular, and is dating Josh. Quite a difference from A Walk to Remember (I prefer her as a brunette). She is delightfully evil, but not in an extreme way. She gets to do some singing, too, and professes to the media that she and Mia have been best friends forever! But after the whole movie of getting the upper hand on Mia, it's deliciously rewarding to see Mia smother the girl's chest with ice cream as a come-uppance.

Hector Elizondo was also terrific as Joseph. He was more than just a chauffeur (didn't he start out as a chief of security?); he became a confidant, and a firm supporter of Mia's abilities. It was wonderful to see him back in a similar role to the one he played in Pretty Woman.


As for the DVD, I found it both very rewarding and frustrating. The frustration was over once the disc was in the player for a few minutes, but we are forced to go through not only the usual warning signs, but also a Disney logo, and the beginning of a "coming soon" selection, before the menu button even starts to work. And after each deleted scene, we are taken back to the main menu, for some reason! But the menus are really nicely animated.

And the extras are worth it. The deleted scenes were very interesting (select the "view all" option), mostly because of the commentary by the director. The behind the scenes featurette was wonderful, as well, about half an hour showing us the making of a princess. It had some really interesting stuff, including how much fun it can be to make a movie. Each section of this segment is introduced by the beautiful Anne Hathaway.

I don't think I've ever sat through so much of a Director's Commentary in one sitting! I went through nearly half the movie again, listening, completely fascinated, to Garry Marshall speak about the movie. He is such a terrific speaker, making you think that he is only talking to you, giving you special secrets that nobody else knows. And he was very passionate, talking about everybody and everything. Here we learned that they used four different cats, one for carrying, sitting, moving, and the "trick" of sitting on the envelope. And every time the cat would appear, he would break from his commentary to point it out! This guy must be a complete ball to work with. His target audience is obviously a young person, but he never quite talks down to the viewer. As I mentioned, it took half the movie before I finally got tired of it -and not for any lack on the director's part. I was just not interested in watching the movie a second time the next night! This, of course, means that I need to get the Pretty Woman DVD, just to listen to his commentary on that one!


The movie was light, and a lot of fun. The actors were really good at what they were doing. If the plot was a little predictable, who cares? It was also logically drawn from one point to the next. I did wonder why the Queen of Genovia was celebrating the country's independence in the US instead of at home, though... The sets were great, though, and the comedy was funny. We can't ask for much more.

 
   

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