10 December 2004 | colettesplace
Princess Mia grows into her power, adding bite to this tween rom com
What does it mean to be a princess? Besides wearing tiaras and twin sets, dancing at balls
attracting fame and fortune simply for being beautiful? A princess is stuck forever in extended adolescence she only has the trappings of power. Symbolically, at least, a queen has real power, and does not necessarily need to be beautiful.
For hundreds of years, fairy tales have filtered through our consciousness to involuntarily fuel our dreams. In the last century, what began as cautionary tales to lecture children have been sugar-spun into a Disneyfied notion of desire. But with Disney's latest, Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, the recent trend of recasting fairy tales to reflect modern ideals continues, albeit with a gentler hand than yesteryear's feminists.
Simply, it's not enough to be a princess anymore. Although ostensibly a conventional tween romantic comedy, Princess Diaries 2 features a heroine who is more independent than Drew Barrymore's character in Ever After (1998) and less frustrated than Julia Stiles' Mary Donaldson clone in the The Prince and Me (2004). And, even better, in Princess Diaries 2, there are no handsome princes, just boys on the side.
I'm not a fan of much of director Gary Marshall's work although Pretty Woman's a classic, Runaway Bride, Raising Helen and the original Princess Diaries are very ordinary films. But in this enchanting sequel, he and screenwriter Shonda Rhimes give us a character who's not just beautiful, klutzy and funny. Mia Mignonette Thermopoulos Rinaldi is growing into her power.
Princess Diaries 2 begins five years after the original at Mia's 21st birthday party. After the schemings of John Rhys Davies triggers an ancient Genovian law, Mia has one month to marry, otherwise she will forfeit the throne. As two very different suitors court her, Mia relies on her now affectionate relationship with her grandmother, Queen Clarisse (Julie Andrews), to guide her. Meanwhile security chief Joe (Hector Elizondo) woos the Queen.
There are hackneyed moments, the worst of which is a pajama party featuring dozens of little princesses who are designed to reflect their aspirant audience. Although enjoyable, this scene serves no dramatic function, except perhaps to showcase Julie Andrew's expertise in mattress surfing. The change in Queen Clarisse's character is also unexplained she's transformed from being an acerbic biddy in the first film to being the dream grandmother. However, this film is entertaining, humorous and has a positive message. The cast and characters are also strong, particularly Anne Hathaway as Mia, and there's plenty of chemistry between her and Nicholas (Chris Pine). Heather Matarazzo and Fat Louie the cat also make brief appearances.
Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement improves on the original, and will be a particular hit with its target audience: tween and teen girls. But this film's got enough substance to appeal to an older audience
if you let it. ***/***** stars.