Movie Review

The Princess Diaries

Reviewed by: Douglas Downs
STAFF WRITER

Better than Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
7 to Adult
Genre:
Comedy
Length:
1 hr. 51 min.
Year of Release:
2001
USA Release:
August 3, 2001
Relevant Issues
Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway in “The Princess Diaries”
Featuring: Anne Hathaway, Julie Andrews, Hector Elizondo, Heather Matarazzo, Caroline Goodall
Director: Garry Marshall
Producer: Whitney Houston, Debra Martin Chase, Mario Iscovich
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures

Once upon a time, there were clean movies that the entire family could enjoy. The parents and grandparents could round up the kids and head off to the local cinema for a fun afternoon of entertainment. That is the almost unbelievable tale that we tell this generation.

This is not the case today. We now must check the water for sharks and other dangerous predators. The movie industry today has divided families in many ways. We now have very few films for children, films (supposedly) made for teens, and the preconceived belief that adults need R-rated entertainment. How did we ever end up there? Where are those happy days?

Director Garry Marshall (“Pretty Woman”, “Runaway Bride”) is trying to remember. He is now a grandfather and wanted to make a film that his grandchildren could enjoy. I suppose that we could hope for more directors (who are grandparents) to follow suit. Mr. Marshall took old scripts of the classic TV series “Happy Days” and rubbed it on his face (that will work). He also filmed much of the movie on the same sound stage that they used for “Mary Poppins”. To try and make this blend of Hollywood magic complete, he cast Julie Andrews in the part of a queen and Hector Elizondo (who has been cast in every Marshall film) as the queen’s right hand man and limo driver, Joe.

Larry Miller, Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews in “The Princess Diaries” “The Princess Diaries” is formulated straight from the standard Disney play-book. They even introduced the film with a sort of Hall of Fame clip recounting their past princesses. Disney, of course, takes credit for giving us the first princess in the character of Snow White. My only caution at this point is that we do not nurture a Cinderella mentality with our children. We should not lead them to believe that a certain person has the key to their happiness. This counselor sees many on that endless search. They believe the key is hidden somewhere, out there. Trust me, God is not that unfair. He longs to guide us into life-long fulfilling relationships. I know I am thankful for my more than 24 years of marriage.

That being said, “The Princess Diaries” is more like “My Fair Lady” meets “Anastasia”. Yes, the plot is your typical story with some of the usual sugarcoating. Garry Marshall does do a wonderful job with the material. It is sort of like joke telling. We enjoy a good joke teller even if we have heard the joke several times before. This time the story is about 15 year old Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway, TV’s “Get Real”). Mia is convinced that she is invisible. Her appearance is unkept; she is lousy at sports, and fearful of public speaking. Mia embodies many of the typical feelings that teen girls struggle with in a glamour-driven culture. Mia lives with her artist mother (Caroline Goodall). Her mother is divorced and her father died in an accident. This part of the story is rather thin, but script is focused on Mia becoming a princess and not on her relationship with her mother. Together they live in an abandoned fire station.

Anne Hathaway in “The Princess Diaries” Our ugly duckling is invited to have tea with a visiting grandmother. She is the mother of her late father and the two have never met. Mia discovers at this meeting that her grandmother, Clarisse Renaldi, is the Queen of a small European country known as Genovia. The queen reveals to Mia that she is the last living blood heir to the throne. This information begins to turn our teen’s world upside down. She must now choose between the clutsy and geeky life she now lives or accept royalty. Her decision also will affect the political outcome of that tiny country.

We get to view her life in high school. We get to meet her friends Lilly Moscovitz (Heather Matarazzo) and her brother (who has a crush on Mia). We encounter Josh Bryan (Disney’s current popular teen hunk, Erik von Detten). He is the one that Mia dreams of sharing her first romantic kiss with. No plot would be complete without the school teasers, which are led by cheerleader Lana (singer Mandy Moore). Her adversaries are the usual shallow and stereotypical characters.

I liked most of the film. The comedy was cute, fresh, and overall funny. Anne Hathaway does a great job playing off of the strengths of the seasoned actors around her. She even got to use her own pet cat in the film. “The Princess Diaries” is a fairly safe G-rated ride, with a few curves in the film. Garry is, after all, trying to be “all things to all people”. It wouldn’t hurt if teens would buy into his charm. I like stories that show the struggle to “just be yourself”.

Younger children may find a film about high school life boring. My age suggestion is 7 and up. The soundtrack includes most of the ZOOG-Disney favorite music stars.

I really hope “…Diaries…” is successful. That would send a positive message to Gina Wendkos (“Coyote Ugly”), who adapted Meg Cabot’s novel and other grandfather/directors that we want more of this type. I almost feel like a bird watcher who has found a rare breed. In spite of some of the films weaknesses, it needs our support. The last G-rated release, “The Trumpet of the Swan,” barely made it to a few screens. wouldn’t it be great if this film beat “Jurassic Park III,” “Planet of the Apes,” and “Rush Hour 2” at the box office? Go ahead and “be a stone in David’s sling”.


Viewer Comments
…My wife and I put our trust in the “G” rating and took our 10-year-old home-schooled daughter to view this film. Call us naive, but we weren’t expecting the stage to be set with an unpopular, comely girl’s voyeuristic drooling over a princely jock’s public deep-throating of a beautiful cheerleader. And were shocked when this same jock moments later strip-danced for us atop his school desk (purportedly “only the vaguest of innuendoes,” according to Focus). Hey, with that out of the way, the rest of the moral violations and godless values seem as innocent as, well, Disneyland. This film is not appropriate for teenagers living in Christian households, let alone prepubescent children. While it’s downright deceitful for the MPAA to put a G rating on this PG film, we find it shameful that Christian parents and organizations have wrapped their arms around this worldly muck and heralded its worldly merits to our children. How lovely to have this blatant in-your-face reminder of the dangers of living in and of this world, and of the esteemed “socialization” that our daughter is missing out on by being schooled at home.
—Kevin Owens
…Content Notes: No profanity, and no deaths. There’s a lot of bad attitude and some mean talk and pranks from several characters. Sight gags, as Mia’s awkwardness often causes her to fall down, break things, or slightly injure others (including a couple of crotch hits). A snotty “in-crowd” couple, Josh and Lana (Erik Von Detten and pop singer Mandy Moore), are shown smooching on school grounds as Mia fantasizes about being in Lana’s place (later, she changes her mind about that). At a beach party, Lana performs a bump-and-grind version of “Stupid Cupid.” There are a couple of gay references, which should go over the heads of younger viewers. My 9-year-old daughter, who is part of the primary target audience, liked this film a lot. (Besides clicking with the central character, she loves Julie Andrews and watches “The Sound of Music” about once a month.) Is the film worth seeing, beyond the political consideration of supporting the few G-rated film that are made? I’d say yes. The acting and the technical aspects are good; the conflict elements are handled well. It isn’t perfect, but it touches on a lot of important issues and could serve as a discussion-starter for several topics such as personal relationships and what’s really important in life… So, just how far-fetched is this story? In ordinary terms, extremely so. There are only so many tiny kingdoms in the world with deficient royal bloodlines. But in another sense, something like this has happened to millions of people. Everyone who is joined to Jesus Christ is very special. In our relationship to those around us, we become ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20). Although an ambassador respects the laws and customs of the host country and tries to foster good relationships, he never forgets what his real home is. “For our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20). But even beyond that, we are joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17). If we overcome, we’ll be allowed to sit with Jesus on His throne (Rev. 3:21), judging the world and even judging angels (1 Cor. 6:2,3). that’s heavy stuff; but if the Bible is true, it’s all real.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
Brett Willis, age 51
The Princess Diaries is the one summer movie we should all be behind. If not purely for the fun it is, then to show Hollywood that G-rated films can be big hits too. The film is wonderful. My husband and I both saw it and truly enjoyed every moment. The main conmlaints I’ve heard (and only at this site, mind you) are (1) The girl going from ugly duckling to glamor girl in a film supposed to be about inner beauty and (2) the G-rating being pushed. I disagree. The movie is not just about awkward people are pretty too, but about how shallow people can be. When Mia is beautiful to look at, she is popular, but it is not a good and awesome thing for her. I believe that message is not shown enough and I applaude it here. As far as questionable scenes—where? Even though the site and write-in reviewers refer to there being some verging on inappropriate scenes, they fail to give specifics. Do they mean when she is kissed in a beach shed by a guy who is using her for his owe 15 min of fame and she is not at all happy about it, or when 3 cheerleaders let the press photograph her in a towel (a large and very covering towel, I might add) to embarass her—again showing popularity is not any better than invisibility. I hope not, because these are scenes that end up showing Mia’a strength. This film is great and is enjoyable for all ages. Parents and Grandparents can have a great time with the children in their lives and the movie even open doors for intelligent, important topics all too ignored by most of Hollywood today.
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 4]
—C. Ford, age 23
This is a cute, feel-good film that is for the most part suitable for teen-adult. It wasn’t realistic, but I wasn’t expecting it to be. It had a lot of good, clean humor without being corny, except for one seen in which the grandmother (Julie Andrews) sweet-talks a police officer out of punishing the granddaughter (Anne Hathaway) for driving without a license. That seen was over-the-top corny. It definitely pushed its “G” rating to the limit, and I was disappointed by that. Parents should be advised that there are several short scenes of passionate teen kissing, as well as worldly music and values throughout. I would not advise taking children to see this film.
My Ratings: [Average / 3]
—Lacey, age 19
I actually loved this movie. I am 23 and my husband is 28. We went to see this on a date and both had a great time, simply because for once we were able to go to the theatre without being assaulted by murders, swearing, drugs, indiscriminate sex and other moral offenses. The soundtrack went really well with the teenage theme (not to mention being good in general), the costumes were perfectly done, and the story was not entirely unbelievable. One caveat: Many of the young castmembers tend to “overact” and much of the language is exaggerated, although I suspect they will improve with time. I highly recommend this movie for just about everyone, but especially families and young teens. Absolutely lovely to watch.
My Ratings: [Good / 4]
—Amanda, age 23
I enjoy movies that develop characters with moral character. The friendship built between Mia and Ally was very real. They dealt with real feelings and hurts. I also appreciated the way the mother and grandmother were shown respect by Mia. Although, Mia disagreed with her mother she still dealt with the situation maturely and with respect. It was refreshing to see good acting in a movie with little plot and action. I would love to see a follow-up or a TV sitcom develop out of this. Way to go Disney with a quality movie.
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 4]
—Bob, age 49
I just have to say that I loved The Princess Diaries. I couldn’t wait for this movie to come out and I was there on opening night with my mom (who doesn’t care for teen films, but was ready to pay money to let Hollywood know that she fully supports G rated films). I thought the movie was excellent and my mom ended up enjoying it a lot too. I was perfectly comfortable through the entire film (nothing bad to really point out) and would love to see it again. Please take your children, teenagers, spouses, and anyone else you can think of to this film and let’s all show Hollywood that we will give box office support if they are willing to make more movies with a G rating!
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
—Scarlett, age 22
I thought that this movie was excellent. My wife and I took our 7 year old daughter to see it. I thought it was an excellent story. My wife and I laughed in parts of it, and parts were very emotional. It had good messages on influence and encouragement. And there was no profanity. Please see this movie, and they may make a sequel!!
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 5]
—Bill Boylston, age 42
Wow!! Excellent, Excellent, Excellent! I should have known that Julie Andrews would only do a quality movie! My whole family loved it (even the boys!) There was so much humor and not one thing to be embarrassed for my children to see. We will go see it again in the theater and we will definitely own this one when it comes out on video/DVD.
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 4]
—Katie Brown, age 33
I went with two of my friends to see this movie we are all sixteen and a bunch of my friends older and younger couldn’t wait for it to come out. Let me say we weren’t disappointed those of us that saw it loved it! There was hardly any objectional material and the movie was fresh and funny. I hope Hollywood comes out with more movies this innocent and well done.
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 4½]
—Kathryn, age 16
This was one of the best movies I’ve ever seen! It was a funny and sweet movie that most girls will love! There was nothing offensive in the movie and I often found myself almost falling outta my chair laughing! This is a movie everyone will love and I recommend it to everyone! :)
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 5]
—Rachel, age 15
I thought that this was a very good movie. It had no cursing no sexual content and was just very enjoyable. it’s not one of those movies that you have to pay real close attention to so it makes it easy to watch. it’s nice to finally be able to see a movie with my mother that doesn’t make me uncomfortable because of a sex scene. Anyone who can sit through a movie will enjoy this. Oh if you were a fan of Runaway Bride pay close attention cuz I believe I counted three for sure maybe four people from that movie in this one. Their obvious characters so don’t look too hard. Again this was a very good and cute movie that the whole family can enjoy.
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 4]
—Sara, age 15
I thought this movie was the best that I’ve ever seen. It has nothing offensive and I was laughing through the whole thing! I really enjoyed it and I would recommend it to anyone who likes a cute, funny movie!
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 5]
—Justine Nuck, age 13
I REALLY enjoyed this movie. I was very suprised that Disney offered a VERY clean movie. No bad language or offensive material. My 6 year old enjoyed it as much as I did. It is a definite feel good movie with enough laughs to keep you feeling lighthearted. I left feeling that maybe Hollywood is beginning to realize that wholesome movie’s are still worth making! Fun ride that is definitely worth the ticket price!
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 5]
—Sheilah, age 29
I’ve been to see the movie “The Princess Diaries” twice in the last two days as I had to go with my two nieces at two separate times. I really found this movie to be a breath of fresh air and it’s really great to see a film with no swearing including no using of God’s name in vain. One exception is the nun who uses God’s name, but it does not seem disrespectful. I am very sensitive about that and it was not offensive to me. It was quite obvious that the age group of approx. 11-14 were getting the most enjoyment from the film. My 13-year old niece really liked it as well as myself (but I like teeny-bopper movies). Another teen about the same age was talking on her cell phone *giggle* commenting that the movie was good to one of her friends. So, it seems to be a hit with that age group which is really great! I thought the acting was very good, particularly from Julie Andrews. It was thoroughly amusing and entertaining with a bit of romance thrown in. I also liked that Michael, the nice boy who is the major love interest, liked Mia, BEFORE she had the make-over job, so he liked her for what was inside. So, it was less superficial in that way which made a good impression with me. Michael’s hair looked a cross between the Beatles and The Osmonds. Does this mean that the 60’s-70’s hair-do is back? (smile) I was informed that it is referred to as “a shag” nowadays. Memories! :-) Oh, I forgot to mention that my niece who is almost 7 enjoyed the movie as well, but it was not as interesting for her as my older niece. My adult sister who accompanied us enjoyed it as well. My 2-year old nephew enjoyed parts of it, but fell asleep! A great movie for pre-teens, teens and adults who are young at heart!
My Ratings: [Good / 3½]
—Kathy, age 41
Okay, so I liked this movie. It was funny, heartwarming and really clean. There were a few things that did bother me. At first, the movie tries to send a “it’s not who you are on the outside” message, but abandons that completely once this ugly little ducking realizes she can quickly be an uncomfortable swan of a young girl. That doesn’t mean this film isn’t fun though, and Julie Andrews is as lovable as ever. The film does push its G rating to the limit, but in the end, I think the G was right. There are a few scenes that look like they could go wrong, but are settled before anything happens—and young children won’t even catch any of the hints. Bottom Line: Fun family entertainment.
My Ratings: [Good / 4]
—John W., age Teen