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The Prince & Me (2004)

The Prince and Me

This fairy tale is about to get real.

Directed by:

Martha Coolidge

Rating: 5/10

Running Time: 111 minutes

US Certificate: PG UK Certificate: PG

Country: Czech Republic, United States

From ‘Cinderella’ to ‘Sleeping Beauty’, fairytales have always been full of pretty young women elevated to a life of luxurious royalty when they meet a Prince Charming – and despite the cautionary real-life story of Charles and Diana, little girls still dream of being swept off their feet and out of their ordinary lives by a prince who recognises the true princess in them. This oldworld fantasy has been fed by recent films like ‘The Princess Diaries’ and What a Girl Wants – and now in ‘The Prince & Me’, a slight (in every sense) variation on the theme.

In case you miss the fairytale connection, the film opens in Copenhagen, birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen, where Edvard Valdemar, a young playboy and reluctant heir to the Danish throne, flees palace life for a small Wisconsin university where he hopes to find ‘wild college girls’ and anonymity. There, accompanied by his incongruous valet Soren (Ben Miller), ‘Eddie’ meets unromantic, studious Paige Morgan (Julia Stiles), who could not care less about him and is not afraid to tell him so. Needless to say it is love at first sight for Eddie, who learns valuable lessons in responsibility, hard work, and the way that ordinary people live – and Paige gradually comes round to Eddie too as he teaches her about Shakespearean poetry and letting her hair down. Yet when Eddie’s true identity is revealed, Paige finds herself in line to be a future queen, and wonders what place there is on the Danish throne for an independent-minded American country girl like herself.

When it comes to the clash of the old with the new, the aristocracy with the working class, and the fairytale with the real, ‘The Prince & Me’ sends out something of a mixed message. For while it updates, and even subverts, storybook notions of royal life by showing all the crusty protocols and burdensome duties that must be observed by the monarchy, at the same time the film readily continues to peddle the girlish fantasy of a life of designer clothes, a vault full of jewels, and a perfect prince who will be allowed to put everything on hold for true love. The film has a responsible, feminist side which shows that some things, like independence and an education, are more important for a girl than dreams of a crown and a palace – but in the end, rather than have the courage of following this idea through to its logical conclusion, it instead suggests that if a girl is patient and determined enough, she can be herself and queen to boot. In other words, ‘The Prince & Me’ wants to have its Danish and eat it too, and cannot finally resist subscribing to precisely the kind of childhood myth that it has otherwise tried to debunk.

The film is overlong, and of limited appeal to anyone but a young female audience – but it is redeemed from romcom hell by Julia Stiles, an actress with far more grace and poise than any princess, and capable of bringing substance to even the frothiest of cliché-bound romance. If you see ‘The Prince & Me’, see it for her – even if you wonder why, after playing Ophelia to Ethan Hawke’s ‘Hamlet’, she has lowered herself to a far less challenging Danish prince like this one.

It's Got: A bartender who, on hearing that Eddie can speak Flemish, wonders if there is a country called Flem; a race on modified lawnmowers; a farmboy who reckons, when he hears that Helena Christensen and a member of Metallica are from Denmark, that "thats gotta be the coolest country in the world"; Ben Miller as a valet who discovers himself via an XBox; and the ever excellent Julia Styles, making the whole thing seem worthwhile.

It Needs: To be shorter, and to have less of a mixed message.

Summary

Just your average farmgirl-to-princess fairytale, with a would-be feminist twist, and a performance from Julia Styles for which she deserves to be crowned.

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