THE PRINCESS DIARIES
Review by Michael Jacobson
Julie Andrews, Anne Hathaway, Heather Matarazzo, Hector Elizondo, Mandy
Moore, Caroline Goodall, Robert Schwartzman
Director: Garry Marshall
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Walt Disney
Features: See Review
Length: 115 Minutes
Release Date: December 18, 2001
one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
Roosevelt said that.”
Another special lady. Like
Princess Diaries is a movie with a good heart and sweet intentions…I love the fact, for
example, that it is a true family film in every sense of the word.
Not only is it rated G, it happens to be completely free of even the
mildest of swear words, and is totally void of just about anything anyone could
find objectionable. Given the ever-increasing number of kids in my family, I
appreciate that tremendously.
what it boasts with heart and charm, it loses with unoriginality and length.
This film is essentially just another ugly duckling story off of a long
assembly line. One could go back to
Pygmalion and/or My Fair Lady, Cinderella, or even director Garry
Marshall’s own Pretty Woman for a clear cut example of the formula this
picture mimics without adding much new.
love Julie Andrews…always have, always will…and her presence in this film is
a genuine plus. She plays Queen
Clarisse of Genovia (a country supposedly between France and Spain that happens
to be an English speaking one), who comes to America to bring a bit of shocking
news to her awkward 15 year old granddaughter Mia (a charming Hathaway)…she is
the only blood heir to the throne of Genovia!
is every cliché you’d expect from this kind of movie…bad hair, glasses,
poor posture, can’t get up to speak in class without getting sick to her
stomach, et cetera. She has
to be all of this so that we’ll be effectively wowed by the Shaw-styled
transformation we know from frame one she’s going to go through.
I’ll give credit where credit is due, though…the revealing shot that
shows Mia’s new look IS impressive, and we realized the make-up challenge in
the film was not in making Mia look pretty for the final stretch, but in making
the lovely Ms. Hathaway seem effectively unattractive for the early going.
film’s strength is in the cast, which includes nice supporting bits by Hector
Elizondo as a faithful side, the funny Heather Matarazzo as Mia’s friend Lilly
(who runs a local cable show called “Shut Up and Listen”), and yet another
acting Coppola, Robert Schwartzman as Michael, Lilly’s brother and the boy who
saw Mia “even when she was invisible”.
are anchored by Andrews and Hathaway, who emit real screen chemistry and exhibit
a natural talent for comic timing. Some
of the film’s best moments are almost throwaway bits, as when Queen Clarisse
quietly cleans objects before touching them, or Mia’s unfortunate accidents
with her electric scooter. When
they team up for an important dinner party sequence, the results are truly
a shame the script didn’t have more to go on.
There’s nothing in The Princess Diaries we haven’t seen
before, and given the near two hour running time, it becomes a bit of an
exercise in patience waiting for everything we’ll have known was coming from
the get-go. The charm of the
leading ladies goes a long way in making up for the lulls, but not even they can
cover them completely.
parts of the film are awkwardly handled. It
opts for a traditional romantic choice for Mia…does she go with the less
popular boy who truly likes her, or the handsome jackass who only made fun of
her until he found out she was a princess?
I’ll bet you’ve guessed right already.
Then there is a puzzling subplot involving a pair of villains who are
introduced at about the halfway point in the film, then forgotten about until
right at the very end…were they necessary?
They don’t even make an impression, but I guess somebody figured there
had to be an antagonist.
things considered, it doesn’t add up to a successful film.
Just because it went for and earned a pure G rating doesn’t mean it
couldn’t have striven to be better. I
loved Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway immensely…I just wish they could have
been paired in a better film or given a more suitable script for this one.
As it stands, it’s amusing but not funny enough, and charming without
being winning. Mostly, it just
suffers from one too many trips to the recycling bin.
anamorphic transfer is flawless, and definitely deserving of its THX
certification. From beginning to
end, the palate of colors is warm, rich, vibrant and natural looking, with no
bleeding or distortions. Even
better is the level of detail, which shines through in the elaborately decorated
settings the film takes us through. Even
the black of Julie Andrew’s early costumes renders beautifully, with visible
texture and detail. No grain,
shimmer, or other artifacts of compression mar the beauty, and the print itself
is superbly clean and clear. Reference
5.1 soundtrack is more than serviceable. Though
most of the material is presented on the forward stage with noticeably good
panning effects, the rear stage comes into play carefully and tastefully in one
or two elaborate scenes. The
subwoofer doesn’t get a lot of attention…just a bit here and there for the
music, but for the most part, it isn’t missed.
Dialogue is clear, and dynamic range is better than average.
The sound is very cleanly presented from start to finish…no complaints.
excellent commentary tracks highlight this disc’s features, and I do mean excellent.
One features director Garry Marshall, which is as funny, fresh and
informative a listen as I’ve heard all year.
The second is even more enjoyable, as stars Julie Andrews and Anne
Hathaway sit down for a viewing of the film while sharing a proper English tea!
Ms. Hathaway impresses even Ms. Andrews with her amazing recollection of
everybody’s name associated with the film, and both cheerfully discuss making
the picture, with plenty of behind-the-scenes insights about other cast members,
Marshall, costumes and sets, and more. They even open up to one another about how each got started
in show business! This is a warm,
funny, friendly and informative track, and one of the best ones of the year.
that’s not all…the disc also features eight deleted scenes with funny
introductions by Garry Marshall (who intones that for THIS segment, DVD stands
for “Director Vas Dumb”). There
are two music videos by Myra and Krystal respectively, and a half hour
production featurette hosted by Anne Hathaway.
All in all, a great collection of extras for a family film!
- Disney is still taking the prize for making you go through the most crapola to
get to the movie on their discs.