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Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt
The Princess Diaries
In a summer filled with water-downed sequels and mindless action flicks, it is refreshing to succumb to the sweetly innocent charms of Disney's latest family film, The Princess Diaries.
A modern-day fairy tale set in the kingdom of San Francisco, our fair maiden is fifteen-year old Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway), a book-smart but socially inept dorkette with a head of Felicity Porter hair and eyebrows to rival Frida Kahlo's. Not exactly an A-lister, she glides through life as invisibly as she possibly (clumsily) can.
Her provincial life (a two-story SoMa loft with her bohemian artists mother; the typical traumas of a high school sophomore) is turned upside-down with the unexpected arrival of her until now absent paternal grandmother, Clarisse Renaldi (the positively luminous Julie Andrews), who reveals some surprising details about her granddaughter's lineage: Mia is next in line to the throne of the small European country of Genovia.
But before Mia can be crowned Her Majesty, she must be schooled in the ways of royalty, including a complete make-over that transforms this "ugly duckling" into a swan, a swan not entirely prepared for all the attention suddenly being paid to her, both at school and from the world at large.
Television veteran Garry Marshall (The Odd Couple, Happy Days) directs in his usual pedestrian style: he lacks solid visual composition skills and tends to fail in economizing his storytelling. A good twenty minutes should have been shaved off this film, the better to achieve an overall narrative flow.
But what Marshall lacks in filmmaking technique, he makes up with his expert handling of his actors, as evident in his biggest film hit to date, the similarly-themed Pretty Woman, which made a star of one Julia Roberts.
Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway
While it is too soon to tell if she will shine as bright as her predecessor, newcomer Anne Hathaway makes an impressive film debut in the challenging role of the new Princess Mia. She pulls off the "normal kid" aspects of her character unironically, and maintains her na├»ve charm throughout her royal transformation.