Princess Diaries 2, The
The Princess Diaries 2: The Royal Engagement delivers the same bland adolescent fluff and feel-good family values its predecessor provided, as the princess heads off to Genovia to assume her royal responsibilities. No high drama here, folks, but thankfully it doesn't have one ''mean girl'' in it.
Princess Diaries 2 picks up about five years after the first movie, as Mia (Anne Hathaway)--no longer a 16-year-old ugly duckling but now a self-possessed college grad--is ready to assume her role as princess of Genovia. Bringing her quirky American sensibilities with her, she moves into the Royal Palace with her beautiful, wise grandmother, Queen Clarisse (Julie Andrews)--but soon discovers she'll be ruling the little European country, famous for its pears, sooner than she thought when the Queen announces her retirement. It's all a tad overwhelming, but the capper is that according to Genovian law, in order to take the crown she also has to be married--with Genovian parliament giving her only 30 days to find a prospective groom. What, you say? An arranged marriage? That's just so politically incorrect. Suddenly, Mia is wading through a parade of suitors who'd all like to be her king when all she wants to do is marry for love. Of course, there are also factions plotting against her in the form of Viscount Mabrey (John Rhys-Davies), a blowhard royal who wants his nephew and native Genovian, the hunky Lord Nicholas Devereux (Chris Pine), to take the throne. Ah, but is Lord Nicholas really as greedy for the crown as his uncle? Maybe so--until he sees how beautiful, kind and ultimately capable Mia is at ruling Genovia. This could get interesting--but it doesn't, not really.
Hathaway continues to exude that same fresh quality as Mia, with the ever-expressive face and affinity for physical comedy. She is certainly appealing to watch on-screen, yet, somewhere in all that cheerful perkiness, one wonders if Hathaway is just itching to be a bad girl--to really get down and dirty, to play, say, an ice pick-wielding femme fatale or even a prostitute with a heart of gold. But alas, the young actress has pigeonholed herself into these sugary-sweet roles--and it might be difficult to break out the mold once the real acting bug bites her. Julie Andrews should give Hathaway some advice--she's been there, playing the Mary Poppins and Maria Von Trapps of the world. The talented British actress has never really shed that wholesome image, not entirely (even her raucous, semi-nude appearance in her husband, Blake Edwards' S.O.B. didn't quite do it) and in Princess Diaries 2, she once again plays a woman with spunk, who's very classy but also terribly proper. Oh well, guess it really isn't a bad way to be. As an extra bonus, Andrews also sings in the film--which, to all of us fans who've followed her battle with throat problems, is a true delight (even if the musical number she sings in is rather gag-producing). The rest of the PD2 cast could have been plucked from anywhere, save for Heather Matarazzo, who happily reprises her role as Mia's quippy best friend, Lilly Moscovitz.
Director Garry Marshall is a giant sap. Most of his films, while usually comedic in some fashion or another, have tended towards the maudlin, including The Other Sister, about a mentally disabled girl who finds love (sniffle); Beaches, about a woman whose best friend dies (sob!); and this year's tear-jerker Raising Helen, about a jet setter who has to stop her life to raise her dead sister's kids (oh, stop it already). Now, it's Princess Diaries 2, a follow-up to the original syrupy, feel-good comedy. To his credit, Marshall is a master at the genre--and doesn't make any excuses if the eyes roll at all the sentimentality. The first Princess Diaries worked well because it was about an ordinary girl who is transformed into a fairy tale princess. With PD2, Marshall has taken the basic romantic comedy structure of a girl meeting a boy, who don't get along at first but realize they love each other in the end, and applied it to the princess-turned-ruler idea. The film flows smoothly, even if you can tell what's going to happen every step of the way--and how refreshing it is to have a film aimed at adolescent girls that doesn't have a mean-girl clique anywhere in the vicinity. Speaking of vicinities, where the heck is Genovia anyway? You can never quite tell what sort of mythical European country it's suppose to be, with accents ranging from French to British to very American--but it's still awfully pretty to look at.
What can you say about fluff like Princess Diaries 2? While the film certainly isn't thought provoking, it still provides some healthy, wholesome entertainment to an age group that probably needs it the most.