The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement

Although there is no real reason for its existence, The Princess Diaries 2:  Royal Engagement is here.  And it seems to know so also, because the movie just meanders from one place to another, without anything really happening.  Yes, the main target audience is young girls, and they will undoubtedly eat the film up, but this is no excuse for making a bad movie.  This is more Disney combining two of their recent strategies.  One, they take successful films and milk unnecessary and inferior sequels from them.  Typically, these sequels are for their animated films, but it was only a matter of time before live-action had its day.  Second, Disney is shying away from high budget, high-risk films and focusing more on intermediately priced films that, given a moderate success, can reap a decent amount of profit.  Aside from these reasons, there should be no Royal Engagement.

The Princess Diaries was a nice surprise.  It wasn't much of a film, but it was enjoyable for what it was.  The sequel takes place five years after the first, with Mia's (Anne Hathaway, Ella Enchanted, Nicholas Nickleby) graduation from Princeton.  She is now to move to Genovia, where her grandmother Queen Clarisse (Julie Andrews, Shrek 2, The Princess Diaries) will let her assume the throne on her 21st birthday.  A wrinkle occurs when they discover that under an old Genovian law, Mia must be married, else she gives up the throne to the next person in line.  This person is the hunky Nicholas Devereaux (Chris Pine), whose uncle, Viscount Mabrey (John Rhys-Davies, The Return of the King, The Two Towers) has eyes on the throne.  So Mia has about a month to fall in love and marry, else everything she hoped for disappears.  What is a girl to do?  Well, according to the screenwriters Shonda Rhimes (Crossroads) and Gina Wendkos (The Princess Diaries, Coyote Ugly), there's a lot of partying, trying on clothes, and innocent flirting.

The big conundrum for Mia is now whether to marry for love or for duty.  She courts the handsome Andrew Jacoby (Callum Blue, Young Blades), but there is no real chemistry.  And that pesky Nicholas keeps lurking around the corner.  She's obviously attracted to him, but he is after the throne.  Meanwhile, Clarisse is still continuing her muted romance with Joe (Hector Elizondo, Raising Helen, How High), her security guard.  Years before, Clarisse had much the same dilemma as Mia, and she chose duty.  Director Garry Marshall (Raising Helen, The Princess Diaries) pulls out all the stops in trying to entertain little girls, but this means that anybody with half a brain will probably fall asleep or roll their eyes in exasperation.  This movie is nothing more than a flight of fancy; a modern-day fairy tale for girls, but the way that Marshall goes about making it is almost a little too insulting.  He insists on overplaying lame jokes, having everybody overact, and having Hathaway trip and act clumsy like she did in the first.  A little goes a long way, but there is way too much of everything here.  Fortunately, Andrews and Hathaway are fun enough to watch, even it they are hamming it up for the camera.

The production quality is not that great either.  The Princess Diaries 2 has a very direct-to-video look to it, mostly from the generic looking Genovian sets.  Genovia is supposed to be a small Monaco/Andorra-like country in Europe, but there is a surprising amount of diversity and everybody speaks American English.  Hmm.  The attempts by the script to create a governmental conflict will just confuse anybody willing to think.  Is Genovia a monarchy?  Or a figurehead monarchy?  Why is the government so unwilling to let Mia ascend the throne (aside from providing a plot)?  Can't Clarisse change the law?  Why doesn't she even try?  The one highlight going into the film is getting the chance to see Andrews sing again.  This is her first time singing on film since her vocal surgery some years ago, when it was unclear whether she would ever sing again.  Well she does, and Marshall ruins it in the spirit of corporate synergy by having her duet with Raven (Dr. Doolittle 2, Dr. Doolittle), of the Disney Channel.  That's just wrong.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.
2 hours, Rated G.

Back to Movies