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This issue's selected FeatureOur Film of the Month and moreNews from this issueContents of this issueHow to Buy this issue

Also recommended – Dec 2001

From Jan 2002
Film Review

4 Stars - RecommendedTHE PRINCESS DIARIES

Film Review Hotline

Film of the Month: The 51st State
More December Recommendations

Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway

Official site (Disney)

STARS Anne Hathaway, Julie Andrews, Heather Matarazzo, Hector Elizondo, Mandy Moore, Caroline Goodall
DIRECTOR Garry Marshall
SCREENPLAY Gina Wendkoss
CERTIFICATE U
DISTRIBUTOR Buena Vista
RUNNING TIME 1hr 55mins
OPENING DATE December 21

It's easy to be prejudiced against certain types of film, especially those that wear their colours on their sleeves as blatantly as this, Disney's latest live-action teen comedy. If you think you know exactly what to expect from it, chances are it delivers on all counts. Strange, then, that a film one might expect to find nauseatingly twee, a film with Whitney Houston as executive producer no less, should turn out to be so enormously enjoyable. Despite fulfilling, in this reviewer's case at least, all the criteria for abject loathing.

Young Mia Thermopolis (Hathaway) is a gawky, bookish schoolgirl being brought up by her single mother in San Francisco. Despised by the in-crowd, she and her best friend Lily (Matarazzo) are social outsiders, and rightly proud of it. Mia's stable, if eccentric, life is turned upside down by the arrival of her estranged grandmother (Andrews), who breaks the news that she is, in fact, the princess of a conveniently non-specific European state, Genovia. Which is nice.

Or so you'd think. Because not only is Mia suddenly alienated from her friends, it seems that despite a training course from her disapproving Granny in the art of being royal, she's simply not very good at being a princess. And so she must learn who her true friends are and how to pass herself off as royalty in time for a crucial diplomatic ball… No prizes for guessing how it all turns out.

With a plot that never strays from the straight and narrow, just how does The Princess Diaries pull it off? For starters, there's a charming performance from Hathaway, who, despite never quite convincing as a Plain Jane, bluffs her way through to the inevitable make-over with an endearing clumsiness. Secondly, there's a whole welter of parallels with Princess Diana which are so shameless that, while they might fly straight over the heads of the younger members of the audience, will induce wry smiles in the oldies, if not actual gasps at the brazen satire on display.

Finally, and most importantly, there's a bravura demonstration of how to dominate the screen from Julie Andrews, who simply screams ‘class' from the moment she appears. Clearly having a whale of a time turning the tables on her stage role from My Fair Lady, sailing through every scene with effortless grace, it looks as though Andrews is about to secure herself a whole new generation of fans.

No, it was never going to be high art. Yes, it's a piece of fantasy-fulfilment for young ladies of a certain age. And if despite this, a curmudgeonly male reviewer can find it entertaining, there's every chance you will too.

Ben Woodhams

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Reviews © Visual Imagination Ltd 2001. Not for reproduction.

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4 Stars; Recommended
THE 51st STATE (Film of the Month) • released December 07

FULL DETAILS AND REVIEWS OF ALL THESE AND MORE IN THIS ISSUE

5 Stars; Excellent
THE BELIEVER Dec 07
BLUE VELVET Dec 14
KANDAHAR Nov 16 (ICA),
Dec 07 (Nationwide)

4 Stars; Recommended
À MA SOEUR Dec 07
HARRY POTTER & THE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE Nov 16
MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS Dec 07