The Princess Diaries

Review Date:
Director: Garry Marshall
Writer: Gina Wendkos
Producers: Whitney Houston, Mario Iscovich
Anne Hathaway as Mia Thermopolis, Julie Andrews as Clarisse Renaldi, Hector Elizondo as Joe
A clumsy, nerdy 15-year old girl with glasses and little confidence in herself is told by her grandmother that she is actually the princess of a small European country called Genovia. She must then decide whether or not she wants to accept this new life as the princess of a country of which she knows nothing, or continue her “invisible” existence among millions of other San Franciscans. In the meantime, her granny shows her the ways of a princess.
Despite two decent performances from Anna Hathaway and Julie Andrews, this harmless, recyclable comedy by Garry Marshall can’t help but deliver the same old thing, in the same old way, with little spark and even less believability. Stacked with one-dimensional characters, this movie makes sure that the best friend is also nerdy and jealous when her buddy gets the nod as the princess, the cheerleaders are bitchy, the “cute” guy in school is mean at first, then nice, then mean again (those are his true colors, you see) and the good “guy” friend is the one who really loves the lead character. Wow…haven’t seen that before. Another thing that really turned me off to this film was the number of obvious “set-up” scenes, created entirely for the purpose of a laugh or a point, without much credibility to back them up. When Hathaway is a “nerd” at the beginning of the film and trying to be a soccer goalie, she can’t stop any of the balls being kicked towards her. Obviously, she’s not a good athlete, right? Wrong! She’s receiving about 10 soccer balls tossed towards her at the same time! What kind of idiotic practice session is that?? (I know it was created for a laugh, but still!) And what about the first time that Hathaway finds out that she’s going to be a princess. How would any 15-year old girl, in her right mind, react to that news? With exuberance beyond belief, right? I mean, how many girls do you know who don’t fantasize about being princesses? (or guys, for that matter 🙂 Well, apparently not this one…as she plays the old “it’s not for me” card. Unfortunately, I wasn’t buying.

And last, but definitely not the least of unbelievable moments for me, came during a scene in which Hathaway’s character accidentally backs her car into a San Fran tram, causing major damage, and without a driver’s license to boot. So what happens? Not much. Her “queen” mother essentially bullshits her way out of any responsibility and teaches kids that as long as you’re rich and powerful, you can drive without a license, crash into trams and get a lift to your next destination in a cop car afterwards. Blech. Pretty idiotic. But thankfully, the whole movie isn’t all that “Disney”. It certainly does send the good message about the “inside” being more important than the “outside” and about kids feeling more comfortable with themselves, but I personally, didn’t really learn anything new in here, and I really doubt that anyone else will either (unless they haven’t seen any movies before). It is however, harmless, and packed with MTV tunes whenever moments start to drag, and the proverbial Marshall acting tag-team of Larry Miller and Hector Elizondo are back to play their respective goofy, over-the-top and steady right-hand man characters, once again. But give it up to both Hathaway and Andrews for sparking some chemistry within all of the trite, and to the next door neighbor for being the only real “comedic” element in a film which relies more on clumsiness and pratfalls to get laughs, then actual well-written humorous dialogue. Not for me, friends.

Oh yeah, it’s also pretty funny to see how unbelievable some of the G-rated dialogue is in this movie, like when one of the high school girls purposely slaps a cone of ice cream on another girl’s dress, and the only thing that the latter chick can say is “You are a freak!” No honey, what you meant to say is, like most “real” high school kids: “You f-in’ bitch!” But that’s not Disney and that’s not “wholesome”, so let’s pretend it doesn’t exist. Ugh. Whatever. Too saccharine for my taste.

(c) 2021 Berge Garabedian