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The Princess Diaries (2001)

The Princess Diaries movie poster.jpg

What a delight this is, another sweet-natured comedy from the house of Garry Marshall, late, lamented, etc. Striking the balance of humour with taste is a challenge for most filmmakers but he never seemed to hit a bum note, as it were. Thus we have in this adaptation of the Meg Cabot novel (in the days before YA was all violent vampiric dystopias) a hairy half Greek geek Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway) living in a converted San Francisco firehouse with her alt-lifestyle mom (Caroline Goodall) and going to high school with BFF Lilly (Heather Matarazzo) where the mean girls led by Mandy Moore hold sway. Right before she turns Sweet 16 she’s summoned to a meeting with her utterly charming grandmother (Julie Andrews) who it turns out is Queen of Genovia, a small European principality – and she’s the Crown Princess and heir to the throne following her father’s death! Well! Isn’t it every little girl’s dream to don pretty pink dresses and a tiara? Not Mia! But there are cool handbags and a chauffeur Joe (Marshall regular Hector Elizondo) who’s a combo of Shaft and Fairy Godmother and Mia gets a makeover that has her secret crush, Lilly’s brother Michael (Robert Schwartzman) in a semi-swoon. This was the movie that properly introduced Hathaway to the world and it was all because Garry Marshall showed audition tapes to his granddaughters who told him she had the best princess hair (it was supposed to be Liv Tyler!). Mia has misgivings about such responsibilities and the rivals for the crown are delighted by her public displays of clumsiness which the press cover relentlessly. She needs to make a decision and even Fat Louis her delightful cat can’t make it for her as the future of Genovia hangs in the balance …  People who loved Cabot’s book (possibly that included Whitney Houston who co-produced) took issue with some of the changes including from NYC to San Fran but it makes for terrific tween (and older!) light entertainment with a nice uncredited cameo by Larry Miller. If cars are your thing there’s always that fabulous Ford Mustang to enjoy. And who doesn’t want to be the Queen?! You too shall go to the ball. Cinderella makeover movies rock!

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About elainelennon

An occasional movie-watching diary.

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