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The Princess Diaries (2001)

She rocks. She rules. She reigns.

Directed by:

Garry Marshall

Rating: 5/10

Running Time: 114 minutes

US Certificate: G UK Certificate: U

On DVD

Safe, snoozy chick-flicks and fam-coms are what New York director Garry Marshall has carved a very successful career out of. Ever seen ‘Overboard’? That’s one of his. Or ‘Pretty Woman’? That’s his too. How about ‘Beaches’, ‘Runaway Bride’ or Raising Helen? His, his and his. Getting an idea now of the sort of stuff he makes? Well, ‘The Princess Diaries’ is another one.

It stars a frumped-up Anne Hathaway as Mia Thermopolis, an awkward, bushy-haired schoolgirl with a major confidence problem and an almost-as-large set of eyebrows. She’s fairly content with her life of hanging around with similarly-geeky pal Lilly (Heather Matarazzo) and being ignored by pretty much everyone else, until Granny Clarisse (Julie Andrews) turns up to share a secret that’s guaranteed to change her life forever. You see, it turns out that our Mia is actually the long-lost Princess of Genovia, a makey-uppy European nation supposedly famous for its pears and located somewhere between France and Spain (Andorra then, surely?).

The Genovians need someone to reign supreme once Granny snuffs it, and Mia fits the bill – or at least she will do once she’s discovered make-up, a dress-sense and a set of garden shears for those brows.

The whole thing’s about as formulaic as it gets, with our newbie-to-nobility being taught the ways of Royaldom, whilst at the same time trying to keep up with her classmates (among them teen pop pixie Mandy Moore) in the popularity and puberty stakes. Oh, and there are a couple of predictably handsome love interests for her to choose from as well, natch.

In short, it’s a dull-fest, which means that bags of credit are due to Hathaway whose sparky comic performance in the lead role is all that makes the string of cut-and-paste clichés bearable. In this, her first big screen role, she shows herself to be a likable and talented actress whose presence alone is enough to drag a poor, forgettable film up to a level where it’s developed an impressive fanbase and has even been deemed worthy of a 2004 sequel. Hopefully though, once that one’s out of the way, she’ll concentrate on doing considerably bigger and better things.

It's Got: Mandy Moore nudging her way onto the soundtrack with a bafflingly unnecessary live performance of ‘Stupid Cupid’ in the middle of the film.

It Needs: Some sort of explanation as to why the Queen of Genovia talks with what is clearly an English accent.

DVD Extras ‘A New Princess’ featurette, deleted scenes, audio commentaries, a couple of music vids, and a trailer for the DVD release of ‘Beauty and the Beast’. All in all, it’s a pretty good package. DVD Extras Rating: 7/10

Alternatives:

King Ralph, The Prince & Me, What a Girl Wants

Summary

Only Hathaway saves it from being a throwaway.

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