The Princess Diaries

There is nothing exceptional about The Princess Diaries, based on Meg Cabot's novel, a familiar journey into the ugly duckling genre, but it should still appeal to little girls everywhere, especially amidst a glut of vulgar teenage gross-out comedies. The film combines every girl's dream of transforming from an ugly duckling into a beautiful woman, and being a princess. It is a pleasant trip, but not anything special. If anything, it is a chance to see film legend Julie Andrews and charismatic newcomer Anne Hathaway play off each other. Andrews (On Golden Pond, Relative Values) is Clarisse Renaldi, Queen Genovia, a small country in Europe.

Mia Thermopolis (Hathaway, of FOX's underappreciated and now defunct Get Real) is Renaldi's granddaughter, but has no knowledge of her royal blood. Mia's mother Helen (Caroline Goodall, The Mists of Avalon, Harrison's Flowers) kept the secret from her so she could have a normal childhood. Now, Mia's father is dead, and unless Mia assumes the throne, the Renaldi family will lose the throne. However, since this is a comedy, none of these political issues matter to director Gary Marshall (Runaway Bride, The Other Sister) and writer Gina Wendkos (Coyote Ugly, Jersey Girl). They focus on Mia, an unpopular girl with no manners or poise, wild hair, hairy eyebrows.

Mia and her friend Lilly (Heather Matarazzo, Company Man, Scream 3) revel in their status as outsiders. They mock the superficiality of the popular crowd, all while Mia pines over the 'cute guy' while ignoring Lilly's brother Michael (Robert Schwartzmann, The Virgin Suicides, Lick the Dog), the 'not as cute but still cute' guy who likes Mia for who she is. So Clarisse and her assistant Joe (Hector Elizondo, Runaway Bride, The Other Sister) have their work cut out for them when they decide to teach Mia how to be a princess.

Most of the humor in The Princess Diaries revolves around Mia's attempts to act like a princess. She is klutzy and apparently has no social grace whatsoever. Mia wants to remain a regular teenager, and at some point must decide between an ordinary life and one in the spotlight. There is no real secret as to what she chooses. There is no real secret to anything in this movie. It is pleasant but not extraordinary. All Marshall needs to do is set the autopilot, and everything will take care of itself. Nothing is in any way offensive, it all channels the message of self-affirmation and individuality.

Haro Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 50 minutes, Rated G.

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