Princess Diaires, The (USA; 114min.)

directed by: Garry Marshall
starring: Julie Andrews; Anne Hathaway; Hector Elizondo; Heather Matarazzo
Bruce says: "Should you suddenly find yourself having to entertain pre-teen girls, I recommend renting this film. It really isn’t a horrible film; nor is it a good one. With the exception of PRETTY WOMAN, director Garry Marshall has a career of making films I prefer not to see. Why did I bother with this one? Well, I was curious about Heather Matarazzo (whose performance in WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE will never leave my mind), Julie Andrews and Mandy Moore. It also happened to be the most acceptable common denominator for a disparate group.

"Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway) is the prototype invisible teenager. With her frizzy hair, glasses and gleaming braces she is the type no one notices. Boys accidentally sit on her, thinking they had an empty seat. Pretty sad, very lonely. Her only friend is Lilly Moscovitz (Heather Matarazzo), another girl so invisible they could be bookends.

"One day Mia’s mother (Caroline Goodall) announces to Mia that her paternal grandmother (Julie Andrews) is in San Francisco and would like to see her granddaughter. What Mia’s mother never told her was that her absentee father had been a Prince. Her grandmother has come to groom her in new role – that of Princess of Genovia, a tiny European principality – in hopes that she will agree to rule the country. Dutifully, Mia goes to the Genovia consulate. When she arrives she asks if her grandmother wants to discuss her braces, Ms Andrews replies that the issue at hand is 'much bigger than orthodontia.'

"Mia is in turmoil not knowing what to do. She simply wants to be a normal teenager, a status already denied her. 'I refuse to move and rule a country,' she complains. She tells her cat, 'You’re so lucky you don’t know who your parents are.' When the cat gets out of the bag that she is a true princess, her schoolmates ridicule her all the more. Befriended by the royal Genovia chauffeur (Hector Elizondo), he tells her 'No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.' Wonderful advice for any teenager. There is one subplot involving Lilly’s TV Teen Talk Show and another involving Mia’s interest in the school jock and Lilly’s brother’s interest in Mia.

"There isn’t a single surprise in the film. This film is best and funniest when it doesn’t try so hard. Certain scenes, such as Mia trying to change out of her school uniform and into something more princesslike in the backseat of the limo, bordered on forced slapstick. THE PRINCESS DIARIES would have benefited if Marshall had aimed for gentle laughter rather than thigh slapping guffaws. When I think back to that brilliant opening scene in WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE with Heather Matarazzo walking into the school cafeteria, holding her lunch tray and weighing her seating options, I realize that glossy filmmakers like Marshall have no sense of teen alienation and anxiety. The acting in THE PRINCESS DIARIES is certainly decent but nothing compared to what I’d hoped to see. Then again, I should have known better.

"If those pre-teen girls you must entertain have already seen this film, cheer up; THE PRINCESS DIARIES 2: THE ROYAL ENGAGEMENT is due in theaters summer of 2004. 2.5 cats"