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IN SHORT: Fun flick for all ages, though targeted young. [Rated G. 120 minutes]
Since the movie poster goes to such efforts to blare: "From the Director of Pretty Woman and Runaway Bride" we will honestly report that Garry Marshall's follow-up to Bride falls dead center between the pair. It is a much better movie than Runaway Bride, but it's a harder sit than Pretty Woman. But that may be because we're not teenage girls, the target of this flick, and they all were dancing their way out of the movie theater where Diaries screened, all wanting to see the flick a second time.
Set in current day San Francisco, Princess Diaries is the story of Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway), a tenth grade student at the exclusive Anthony R Grove High School. She majors in "invisibility," with a minor at losing her lunch when called upon to deliver a speech before her debating class. Mia is a klutz. She is also dowdy, bespectacled, frumpish -- nothing BMOC boy toy Josh Bryant (Erik Von Detten) would ever dream of kissing. Of course that thought would give cooties to Mia's best friend Lilly Moscovitz (Heather Matarazzo), who is very happy to be part of the "B" crowd. Lilly's brother Michael, a student and part time car mechanic, has eyes for Mia He's helping restore a clunk of an old Ford Mustang she owns -- free labor -- but Mia is oblivious. Mom's (Caroline Goodall) a painter. Dad's been dead for two months, although he hadn't been much of a dad for her lifetime, sending presents and letters but no truly personal interaction. Mia is told that her grandmother has arrived in town and that she is to "take tea" with the old lady.
That Old Lady turns out to be Queen Clarisse Renaldi (Julie Andrews) of Genovia, a small country nestled between France and Spain. The arcane laws of royalty have dropped on Mia's head what every little girl is supposed to want, the chance to become a Princess. But with the title comes the job of Ruler of the country -- Grandma Queen can't rule because she married in. Mia, actually Amelia, is the only one with royal blood, and thus the only one who can take the crown. And to this outstanding offer to escape high school, Amelia immediately jumps up and down and says . . .
No. No way. nuh-uh. Fuugeddaboutit. She is mad at her mom for keeping the secret for fifteen years. She is mad at Grandma Queen for messing up her life. She is mad that she is the last hope for Genovia (and probably that she has no twin brother to save her butt, but that's a different story). All Mia wants is to finish tenth grade, as quietly as possible. So a deal is cut. She will take "Princess training" after school and, after presentation at the Genovian Independence Day Ball, may decide whether or not to step up to the throne.
It's a typical Garry Marshall type movie. Take a plain Jane and fix her up into a pretty woman. Doesn't matter what you call it or what place you set it in, it has become a pastry puff of a movie smothered in current soundtrack songs running almost nonstop throughout the thing. Hector Elizondo, who appears in all of Marshall's movies, has a large role as the Security Chief assigned to look after, and sometimes counsel. Larry Miller prances in as Janos, the stylist designed to changed Brand Z to new and improved Brand A. In the meantime, no mention whatsoever will be made of her status to the parasites of the Press.
Uh, yeah, right. When it does, Vice Principal Gupta (Sandra Oh) bends over backwards and all the A-crowd start doing the reevaluation thing. And then enter the paparazzi. Mia's life goes to hell. But enough about the teens. Let's talk about Julie Andrews.
Would you like a definition of a Zen state of Perfection? It is Queen (or legally, Dame) Judy Andrews. The woman is radiant. Everyone in our audience, from us old farts down to the teengirls, was raving about the return of Mary Poppins to the big screen. Yes, she doesn't play Poppins. She doesn't even pick up an umbrella and she did many fine roles after Poppins, but Julie is what she is in our hearts. For 99% of us, we'd guess that would be "beloved"
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Nine Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Princess Diaries, he would have paid . . .
The Princess Diaries really for the kids. But it's perfectly enjoyable, though pushing the envelope on length for us geezers
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