The Princess Diaries


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

A gawky teenager in San Francisco is informed by a neat little lady with an Italian name that she's not the insignificant nobody she thinks she is, but the future queen of a European principality. She says she doesn't want anything to do with it.

There are traces of Pygmalion about the story, not to mention the original Fair Lady (Julie Andrews) in the role of Queen Clarisse of Genovia. In every other respect the film demonstrates an innate vulgarity when it comes to imitating the trappings of royalty. The unctuous snobbery does not appear to contain a hint of irony.

Mia (Anne Hathaway) is 15 and has a Greek name. It's all very confusing. She lives with her mom (Caroline Goodall) amongst artistic clutter in one of those perfectly designed movie loft conversions. She takes a scooter to school and keeps bumping into things. She has a best friend (Heather Matarazzo from Welcome To The Dollhouse) who talks a lot and a secret pash for the best looking boy in class (Erik Von Detten) who doesn't notice her.

The Queen has a chauffeur (Hector Elizondo) who drives Mia around town in a stretch limo ("Is your mother dating an undertaker?") and acts as fairy godfather. When the music's right and noone is looking, she gives the Queen a spin across the parquet. He's the perfect servant, respectful, discreet and always there when you need him.

Mia, on the other hand, puts her galumphing foot in everything. Subtlety is a foreign land to her. She's neither witty, nor vivacious. Clarisse brings in outside help for the fine-tuning and so an effeminate hairdresser with a Mediterranean accent is let loose on her frizzy mop, resulting in pop-up glamour and bye bye boyfriend-blues.

The transformation of this accident-prone pillock into a girl of character, capable of accepting the responsibilty of royal duties in a country she has never known, is the job of the Queen and Julie Andrews sets about it with determination, reminiscent of those years as a nanny who could fly and a governess who climbed every mountain. She remains quintessentially English, polite but firm. She doesn't burst into song, although that would have been a pleasant release, and there are moments when you wonder whether she's rehearsing for Her Maj in The Diana Spencer Story.

"I'm late for my meeting with my guidance councillor," trills Mia.

"I'm late for my meeting with Spain and Portugal," retorts Clarisse.

If you're late for the movie, don't worry. You haven't missed anything.

Reviewed on: 19 Dec 2001
Share this with others on...
The Princess Diaries packshot
A 15-year-old highschool girl in San Francisco discovers that she is an European princess.
Amazon link

Director: Garry Marshall

Writer: Gina Wendkos

Starring: Julie Andrews, Anne Hathaway, Hector Elizondo, Heather Matarazzo, Mandy Moore, Caroline Goodall, Erik Von Detten

Year: 2001

Runtime: 114 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: US


Search database: