A review of  The Princess Diaries” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: G for good for everyone

Run Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

 

Clean-cut, G-rated entertainment is hard to come by these days.  It’s easy to suspend, or at least relax, critical capacities in the name of good wholesome fun.

The fact that Julie Andrews is attached is a red flag for congeniality.  Andrews is Clarisse Renaldi, Queen of Genovia, a small, proud country nestled in the nether-region between France and Spain.  She’s also a grandmother to unsuspecting San Francisco fifteen-year old Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway), who attends a local private school and suffers the quintessential pains of adolescence.  When Mia’s mom and grandmamma drop the information bomb – you may be a gangling teen but you’re also Amelia Gionette Thermopolis Renaldi,  Princess of a powerful nation – Mia’s reaction is a typically un-royal “Shut up!”  Family pressure is applied, and Mia reluctantly agrees to take “princess lessons” in order to be officially presented at Genovia’s Annual Independence Day Ball.

Clichés can be charming, too.  Nothing fresh, but nice and easy on the gray matter.  Joseph, a kindly driver/security guard with a wisdom beyond his position (the comforting Hector Elizondo  updating his “Pretty Woman” gig), teen buddies with bruised feelings when their “princess” dumps them for a popular crush, and a myriad of clumsy-but-cute rags-to-riches vignettes.  It’s Pygmalion (and “Pretty Woman”, “My Fair Lady”, “She’s All That”, etc.) for the folksy set.

It’s terrific to see Andrews onscreen again – pure dignity and perfectly aged beauty. I’m happy to report the re-appearance of both the trademark pixie cut and sparkling blue peepers.  Hathaway is a nice counterpoint to her decorous grandmother, playing the gawky card with well-timed finesse. Her transformation is truly lovely, as is her growth into a young woman with the power to affect change. A subtle romance between Clarisse and Joseph lends an ever-so PG thrill.  The dreary ABC Afterschool Special-ness dissolves into sunny, gorgeous views of the city and the genuine warmth of people living their lives and caring for one another.  For princess fans of all ages.