Saturday, March 23, 2013

Movie Review: The Princess Diaries

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Entertaining story brought to life by great acting
Cons: None, really
The Bottom Line:
A fun family film
Real characters, great acting
All entertaining

From Geek to Princess

I freely admit that I am hopelessly addicted to "kid" movies. Yes, they may be a bit formulaic, but they are often fun entertainment. So whenever a family movie preview comes across my path, I pay attention. And that's how this gem of a film crossed my path. I went to see The Princess Diaries with my roommate at the time, and both he and I loved it.

15-year-old Mia Thermopolis is just hoping to get through school. She is geeky and awkward with frizzy hair and an inability to speak in public. Honestly, she's mostly invisible and likes it that way. Then her grandmother comes to visit and reveals a secret. Mia is really a princess and next in line for the throne of Genovia, a small European country. Now Mia must learn to act like a princess while dealing with her new found popularity and fame. Does she want the throne? Can she rule? Will she hurt her friends in the process?

This is a fun movie. Rewatching it recently, I was struck by how realistic it was. Well, realistic for a fairy tale story anyway. Mia goes through many emotions over the course of the movie, all of which exactly what a girl in her shoes would go through. There's shock, enthusiasm, and fear. And her growth is quite noticeable and believable.

Along the way, there's a great story that moves along nicely and keeps your interest. Granted, the ending wasn't a shock to me the first time I watched it. But I cared about the characters, so I enjoyed journeying with them to the outcome. Along the way, there's lots of humor. Mia's stumbles and bumbles are quite hilarious. And as Mia's grandmother, Queen Clarisse, loosens up, she provides some laughs as well. As I said, the drama, especially the romantic sub-plot, is fairly predictable, but I was quite drawn into it as well.

The cast does a fantastic job of bringing their characters to life. Newcomer Anne Hathaway is perfect as Mia; you completely buy her transition from ugly duckling to beautiful princess. Julie Andrews brings believability to her roll as Queen Clarisse. She's both royal and human; I can't imagine anyone else in her role. Other standouts are Heather Matarazzo and Robert Schwartzman as Mia's friends. Mandy Moore and Erik von Detten have roles as popular students. They are fine, but I usually forget they are in this film. Finally, there's Hector Elizondo as Joe, Mia's limo driver, body guard, and princess trainer. He steals a few scenes with his dry delivery of some funny lines. It's a smaller part, but it really makes the film.

Frankly, this movie is a modern rarity. It's one of the few G rated live action movies to be released in recent years. But it proves that a movie can be rated G and still be highly entertaining.

The movie has had a couple different DVD releases over the years. I bought it when it first came out, but I've found the single disc edition to be quite nice. The widescreen picture looks great and the full surround is perfect. There's a fun behind the scenes featurette, 8 deleted scenes with interesting if somewhat over done commentary by Gary Marshall, and two audio commentaries. The first features director Gary Marshall and the second features a tea party/commentary with Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway.

Pre-teens girls are the target audience of this movie, and they'll love it. But don't let that stop you. The Princess Diaries is a movie that will entertain anyone willing to give it a chance.

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