||read the review
Review by Dustin Putman
1½ stars out of 4
The makers of "The Princess Diaries" should have quit while they were
ahead. That 2001 family film wasn't groundbreaking, but it was harmless,
well-meaning, and lightly enjoyable without talking down to anyone
in the audience. Young girls, of course, adored it, imagining what
it would be like if they could become real-life princesses themselves.
Where there's money to made, however, there's unnecessary sequels
to churn out, and "The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement" is not
only something the world could have lived without, but also embarrassingly
inferior to the original.
Five years have passed since Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway) discovered
that her grandmother, Clarissa Renaldi (Julie Andrews), was queen
of the fictional foreign country of Genovia and she herself was expected
to become the direct heir to the throne. Now having graduated from
college, Mia's world is again put into a tailspin when Clarissa proposes
that it is time for her to pass down the royal duties to her granddaughter.
There's just one hitch: the courts have long since ruled that a princess
must be married before she is allowed to become queen. With only thirty
days to find a husband, Mia finds herself in something of an arranged
courtship with the bland Lord Andrew (Callum Blue), whom she has no
romantic feelings toward. Meanwhile, she begins a forbidden love-hate
relationship with the dashing Sir Nicholas (Chris Pine), whom she
can't help but be won over by even though she isn't sure if his intentions
are honest and pure, or a shallow last-ditch effort to become king.
Saccharine-obsessed director Garry Marshall is on a roll this year,
having made the insufferable "Raising Helen" and now "The Princess
Diaries 2: Royal Engagement," a cloying dullard of a movie that stinks
of desperation. Almost everything that worked in the predecessor--the
good-natured humor, the placement of a fairy tale story within the
confines of the real world, the likable characters and relationships--is
second-rate this time out. For one, the premise is as stale as a month-old
loaf of bread, sure to cause a sense of déjà vu for anyone who saw
2004's "The Prince & Me" or 2003's "What a Girl Wants." Second, for
a romance and dialogue-heavy, G-rated Disney film, there is some confusion
as to who, exactly, the target audience is. Young boys will be bored
beyond comprehension, young girls will not be able to relate to Mia's
predicament the same way they did in the first picture, and adults
will be able to see right through director Marshall's cutesy, sugar-heavy condescension.
No cliche is left unturned in Shonda Rhimes' (2002's "Crossroads")
pitifully trite screenplay, right down to the daffy maid sidekicks
who are there for unfunny comic relief and a climax that has Mia moralizing
on a television broadcast as viewers at home smile and nod in acknowledgment.
There is also the obvious dilemma of who Mia will choose as her suitor--the
boring guy everyone expects her to marry or the exciting, passionate
hunk--which could be solved in five minutes had the characters been
written with any sort of practical intelligence. And, to top it off,
there is a thoroughly unconvincing version of the stomach-churningly
overdone "slow clap" scene (there's no actual clap, but you'll know
it when you see it) that seems to find its way into just about every
bad feel-good movie. When all else fails, director Garry Marshall
opts for throwaway shots of animals looking adorable and little children
doing precocious things because, heck, they're just so darn cute.
It's enough to make the viewer want to vomit so they have a valid
excuse to walk out of the theater.
The point-of-no-return nadir arrives midway through, as Julie Andrews
and Raven (as Princess Asana) perform an out-of-the-blue, lip-synched
duet at a slumber party for the sole reason that they both are singer-actresses.
It is a scene right out of "The Twilight Zone," making no sense within
the story and acting as a flimsy excuse to have them stretch their
vocal cords. The appearance of Raven (currently popular on TV's "That's
So Raven") in such a throwaway role probably has a lot to do with
her being under commission with Disney.
Speaking of being under contract, there is likely no other reason
why the lovely Anne Hathaway (2004's "Ella Enchanted," an infinitely
better family fantasy) has returned to this role of the often clumsy,
always bright-eyed Mia Thermopolis. At 22, Hathaway is too old, too
smart, and too talented to be playing the pratfall-inclined ingenue
in such juvenile fare as this. As grandmother Clarissa, Julie Andrews
manages to keep most of her dignity, a large feat when she is asked
to surf down a slide on a mattress. Also making a return appearance
for no logical reason is Heather Matarazzo (2004's "Saved!"), as Mia's
outspoken best friend, Lilly. Supposedly, Lilly has traveled to Genovia
to spend the summer with Mia, but they barely say two words to each
other throughout the entire film, as Matarazzo is asked to stand on
the sidelines and spout one-liners. Finally, newcomer Chris Pine shows
alluring promise as the nice-guy, bad-boy Sir Nicholas, Mia's requisite
love interest, and young Abigail Breslin (2004's "Raising Helen")
has an effective cameo as an orphan Mia befriends.
Despite a positive message about staying true to yourself, "The Princess
Diaries 2: Royal Engagement" spits on the memory of its agreeable
2001 precursor by having no interests outside of making a few bucks
for the studio. Before stepping into the filmmaking arena again, Garry
Marshall should take a look at what his latest projects have become:
sickening, syrupy, dumbed-down products unable to even approximate
the behaviors and emotions of actual human beings. "The Princess Diaries
2" may have no objectionable material parents will find offensive
for their young children, but just about every viewer will be offended
by the patronizing hooey stuffed down their throat. This isn't just
a low-rent waste of time. At nearly two long hours that could have
easily been trimmed to 85 minutes, the experience is close to excruciating.
Copyright © 2004 Dustin Putman