The Princess Diaries
Directed by Garry Marshall
Review by Matt Heffernan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In this season of fading Hollywood blockbusters, a little family film is holding its ground, keeping its audience despite the lack of any talking apes, dinosaurs, or kung fu choreography. It's the first G-rated live-action film to receive wide release this year, and its success should hopefully make the studios realize that this market exists. For now, let's take a look at what it's about.
Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway) is a 15-year-old girl who goes pretty much unnoticed by everybody except her mother (Caroline Goodall) and her best friend, Lilly (Heather Matarazzo). She and Lilly claim to be content with their outsider status at school, purposefully avoiding cliques and fashion trends.
Her days of anonymity end, however, when she discovers that she is a princess, and heir to the throne of Genovia. Her late father, whom she barely knew, never told her of her royal lineage. Now her formerly estranged grandmother, Queen Clarisse Renaldi (Julie Andrews), must teach her how to look and act like a princess in just a few weeks time, in order for her to come out at a royal banquet, and eventually rule the tiny European country.
I did not expect to like this film, despite the presence of Andrews, who is an old favorite. I expected Disney to condescend as usual, dumb down the material to the point of absurdity. Instead, they have given us a smart, fresh comedy that doesn't talk down or rely on low humor.
The key to this film's success is the star-making performance of Hathaway, who manages to shine in the presence of Andrews, Hector Elizondo, and indie favorite Matarazzo (Welcome to the Dollhouse). She perfectly captures the role of the American Everygirl with charm, humor, and elegant beauty. Director Garry Marshall made a fine choice in her and in this film, which makes good use of his comic sensibilities.
Sure, there are some silly plot points, like a Boris-and-Natasha scheme to take over Genovia, but in all, The Princess Diaries is an excellent choice for a family night at the movies. Just keep the pre-schoolers at home, please (at my screening, I nearly throttled a couple of inconsiderate parents, whose toddler incessantly screamed).
For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
The Princess Diaries (2001)
Video Pick of the Week
Guide to Star Ratings
Review © 2001 Matt Heffernan