The Princess Diaries (U)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner01/02/2002

Two out of five stars
Running time: 120 mins

At the San Francisco high school where she studies, Mia Themopolis (Anne Hathaway) is just another student. With her fright wig hair and eyebrows like Groucho Marx, she’s not the most socially adept pupil in her class. She lives happily with her bohemian mum in a converted San Francisco fire station.

All this changes when Queen Clarisse Renaldi of Genovia (Julie Andrews), a fictional European state, marches into her life to inform her that she is, in fact, a princess of that very country. Cue makeover.

So, out goes social exclusion, nerdy hair and lunch at Burger King, and in comes TV cameras, a glamour crop and palace banquets as she prepares herself for the regal life.

This Pygmalion lite story starts brightly enough but soon becomes bogged down in cliché, as the writers run out of ideas on how to move on from the basic premise. There’s a beach party, the ‘decent’ boyfriend who gets dumped by her highness, the geeky friend who feels betrayed, and similar situations familiar from a thousand movies.

The San Francisco location provides an interesting backdrop but you begin to feel that this is merely a substitute for fresh ideas. There are the occasional good one-liners but these come as such a surprise that you have to remember how to laugh.

If anything, this resembles a teen flick from the fifties when aging executives desperate to cash on the ‘youth’ market, produced hopelessly out-of–touch movies like The Princess Diaries. Ironically, one of the best features of the film is a star from an adjacent period: Julie Andrews.

She lights up the screen here with her presence, so much so that you half expect her Queen to burst into ‘The hills are alive…’ Hector Elizondo is also excellent as Joe, a sort of chauffeur cum-factotum, while Anne Hathaway exhibits a gawky charm as the eponymous princess. They all deserve a better script than is evident here.

What starts as a feel-good movie quickly degenerates into a feel-bored movie, not least because at two hours it’s at least thirty minutes too long. This is a pity because although the story is a familiar one it can still be effective given the right treatment.

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Content updated: 25/09/2018 21:54

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