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The Princess Diaries

Posted in Comedy, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on March 4, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Teenager Mia Thermopolis lives with her artist mother, Helen, and her black and white cat, Fat Louie, in a remodeled San Francisco firehouse. A somewhat awkward and unpopular girl, she is terrified of public speaking and often wishes to be “invisible”. She has a crush on the popular Josh Bryant, but is frequently teased by both him and his cheerleader girlfriend, Lana Thomas. Mia’s only friendships are in the form of the equally unpopular Lilly Moscovitz and Lilly’s brother Michael, who secretly has a crush on Mia.

Just before her 16th birthday, Mia learns her paternal grandmother, Clarisse, is visiting from (the fictional) Genovia, a small European kingdom. When Mia goes to meet her at a large house (later revealed to be the Genovian consulate), Clarisse reveals she is actually Queen Clarisse Renaldi, and that her son, Mia’s late father, was Crown Prince of Genovia. Mia is stunned to learn she is a princess and heir to the Genovian throne. In shock, Mia runs home and angrily confronts her mother, who explains she had planned to tell Mia on her 18th birthday, but that her father’s death has forced the matter. Queen Clarisse visits and explains that if Mia refuses the throne, Genovia will be without a ruler (a subplot involves a scheming baron and his unsightly baroness quietly rooting for Mia’s downfall). Helen persuades a hesitant Mia to attend “princess lessons” with the Queen, telling her she does not have to make her decision until the upcoming Genovian Independence Day ball.

Mia is given a glamorous makeover, the use of a limousine and a bodyguard (the Queen’s head of security, Joe). This and Mia’s frequent absences for the lessons make Lilly suspicious and jealous, so she accuses Mia of trying to be like the popular girls. Mia breaks down and tells Lilly everything, swearing her to secrecy. However, the San Francisco Chronicle learns that Mia is the Genovian Crown Princess after hairdresser Paolo breaks his confidentiality agreement (so his work would be known), causing a press frenzy, and a sudden surge in popularity at school for Mia. In a craven urge for fame, many of her classmates (mostly Lana) bluff that they are friends of the princess to reporters.

At a state dinner, Mia embarrasses herself with her clumsiness, delighting her rivals for the crown. However, all is not lost as the situation amuses a stuffy diplomat, and the Queen tells Mia the next day she found it fun. Deciding it is time the two bonded as grandmother and granddaughter, the Queen allows Mia to take her out in Mia’s late 60s Ford Mustang convertible for the day to the Musée Mécanique, an amusement arcade. The day almost ends terribly when Mia’s car stalls a hill and rams backward into a cable car, but Queen Clarisse saves the day by “appointing” the attending police officer and the tram driver to the Genovian “Order of the Rose” (something she clearly made up on the spot), flattering them into dropping any charges. Mia sees this and is impressed with her grandmother.

Later, Mia is delighted when Josh Bryant invites her to a beach party, but her acceptance hurts Lilly and Michael, with whom she had plans (the former wanting Mia to appear on her self-made cable show, and the latter wanting her to watch his band perform). Things go wrong when the press arrive, tipped off by Lana. Josh uses Mia to get his 15 minutes of fame by publicly kissing her, while Lana tricks her into changing in a tent, pulling it away as the paparazzi arrive, giving them a scandalous shot of her in a towel. She breaks down into tears in her mother’s arms when she gets home. The photos appear on tabloid covers the following day, leaving Queen Clarisse furious at Mia. A humiliated Mia tells her that she is renouncing the throne, feeling she is nowhere near ready to be a true princess. Joe later reminds the Queen that although Mia is a princess, she is still a teenager and her granddaughter.

Back at school, Mia attempts to rescue her friendships with Lilly and Michael by inviting them to the Genovian Independence Day Ball, gets back at Josh for using her by hitting a baseball into his gut during gym class, and finally stands up to Lana when she is cruel to Lilly’s friend Jeremiah, publicly humiliating her by smearing ice cream on her cheerleader outfit and telling her that while she (Mia) might grow out of her proclaimed odd ways, she (Lana) will never stop being a jerk; the teachers do not interfere, knowing Lana deserved it. While Lilly is excited at the prospect of attending a royal ball, Michael, brokenhearted over Mia’s initial feelings for Josh, turns her down. Clarisse apologizes to Mia for being furious at her over the beach incident, and states that she must publicly announce her decision to become princess of Genovia. Mia, terrified at this large responsibility placed upon her, plans to run away. However, when she finds a letter from her late father, his touching words make her change her mind, and she makes her way to the ball. Mia’s car breaks down in the rain, but she is rescued by Joe, who had suspected she was going to run.

When they arrive, a drenched and untidy Mia voices her acceptance of her role as Princess of Genovia. Mia gets dressed up and accompanies Clarisse to the ballroom, where she is formally introduced and invited to dance. Michael, accepting an apologetic gift from Mia (a pizza with M & M candies cleverly topped to say “sorry”), arrives at the ball, and after a quick dance, they adjourn to the courtyard. Mia confesses her feelings to him, stating that even when she was constantly teased and embarrassed at school, he liked her for who she truly was. Mia shares her first kiss with Michael, while Clarisse and Joe are seen holding hands. In the final scene Mia is shown on a private plane with Fat Louie, writing in her diary, explaining she is moving with her mother to Genovia, just as the beautiful royal palace and landscape come into view below.

REVIEW:

I’ve been writing reviews here for nearly 10 yrs and one of the films that I get the most flak for not reviewing is The Princess Diaries. There is no reason for me not reviewing this film before this morning. It just happens to have slipped through the cracks up to this point, but since I was able to watch the whole this for the first time in forever, allow me to share my thoughts on this film.

What is this about?

The life of gawky Mia Thermopolis changes drastically after learning she’s the heir to a European principality’s throne. But as her royal grandmother schools Mia on conducting herself with gracious disdain, she ends up at odds with her best friend.

What did I like?

Introducing Anne Hathaway. Today, she is viewed as one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood, but when this was released in 2001, no one knew who Anne Hathaway was. I must say, for an introductory film, she knocked it out of the park, giving a performance that is not only scene stealing, but hints at the great actress she will turn into in the coming years. On top of that, she has some nice chemistry with Dame Julie Andrews, who is playing her estranged grandmother. More on that shortly.

Real teens. We’ve seen teens portrayed ad nauseam in TV and movies, but I think this is one of the few films where they actually felt like teenagers act (or acted at the time). There is no random kid who seems to have unlimited amounts of money, but still goes to high school. Mia and her friend are social outcasts for the most part and, while they aren’t popular, they aren’t getting pranked, ridiculed, or something more life altering (see Central Intelligence). All in all, with the exception of Mandy Moore’s head cheerleader character, who is in the same vein as her character from Saved! btw, none of the teens we meet are cartoonish caricatures.

Can she be my grandmother? No matter what your age, chances are Julie Andrews had a part in raising you, be it as Mary Poppins, Maria von Trapp, or just her normal, warm-hearted self. Those were characters she made popular in the 60s, though. Fast forward some 40 years and here she is as a grandmother. I can’t help but wish she was mine, though. She is firm but fair, regal, elegant and did I mention she’s Julie freakin’ Andrews?!?

What didn’t I like?

Joe. After Mia first meets the Queen and is told she is a princess, she runs out. The next couple of scenes seem oddly cut, as Queen Clarice asks Joe to keep an eye on her and he introduces himself as “…the head of her security, not a chauffeur and a babysitter[sic].” For a character that plays such an important role throughout the film, his introduction felt…I dunno…underwhelming because of how that was cut. It wouldn’t have been so bad, except that is the only time in the entire film the editing was so choppy.

Papa, can you hear me? I have never read the book this was based on, so my familiarity with these characters hinges strictly on what I see on film. I’m sure more than a few viewers feel the same way. This brings in to question the legend of Mia’s father. Throughout the film, especially around the time Queen Clarice shows up, everyone starts mentioning the accident, but that is all we know. Obviously, giving graphic details about what happened would have brought the film down, but just a little information would have been nice like, I don’t know, what kind of accident that took his life and inadvertently put all this pressure on young Mia’s shoulders

Makeover. One of the big problems people have with makeovers, in movies especially, is that the person being made over is obviously drop-dead gorgeous in the first place. Take She’s All That for example. Rachel Leigh Cook is a total cutie, and even though they stuck a thick pair of glasses on her and shoved the poor girl in some baggy overalls, it didn’t hide the fact that she was a total hottie. This was even mentioned in the film! With Anne Hathaway, they did something very similar, giving her some “Groucho Marx meets Brooke Shields” eyebrows, unkept curly hair, and an all around geeky look. Anne was still developing into the beautiful creature she is today, but she was still extremely gorgeous back then, and it was obvious, despite attempts to hide it.

Final thoughts on The Princess Diaries? Well, first off, this is one of those squeaky clean family films that Garry Marshall excelled in making. The introduction of young Anne Hathaway as the titular princess was actually a pretty good idea. As we’ve seen her career take off from this film. I wonder where the other actresses who were considered/audition for the part are today. There is very little negative that I have to say about this picture. Do I recommend it? Yes, very much so! This needs to be on your list of movies to watch before you die! Check it out, if you haven’t already!

5 out of 5 stars

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She’s All That

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Romantic with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 24, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Zach Siler (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) is the big man on campus at his California high school, as he is a soccer player, class president, and an honor student. At the outset of the film, his popular girlfriend, Taylor (Jodi Lyn O’Keefe) dumps him for a faded reality TV star (Matthew Lillard) whom she met on spring break. Although he is hurt by Taylor’s rejection, Zach consoles himself by saying that Taylor is replaceable. Zach’s best friend, Dean (Paul Walker), disagrees. They make a bet on whether or not Zach can turn any girl into prom queen within six weeks. While walking around the school, Dean picks out Laney Boggs (Rachael Leigh Cook), a morose but highly responsible art student, as his choice for Zach.

Zach approaches Laney in the attempt to transform her into Prom Queen. His first encounter with her is a failure, when she pointedly ignores his attempt to start a conversation. While Zach’s younger sister (Anna Paquin) gives him advice on how to woo Laney, Laney’s brother (Kieran Culkin) continuously talks Zack up to Laney. Zach is eventually successful in getting Laney to invite him to a lounge that is frequented by artists and performers. It is here that Laney performs a contemporary and interpretive play while Zach is forced to stay and watch. When the play ends, he gets up to leave but is invited to take the stage. At this point, he improvises and acts with the hacky sac in his pocket. Laney is amused by his acting and the two begin to see each other socially. After Laney becomes more comfortable with Zach and his friends, Zach’s sister convinces Laney to submit to a make-over. At a party, showing off her new look, Laney is humiliated by Zach’s ex-girlfriend, Taylor, but Zach follows her and tells her that, when you let people in, sometimes you let the bad in with the good.

Meanwhile, Dean decides to pursue Laney sexually. He asks her to the prom. When Laney gives a less than enthusiastic response to the request, Dean reveals the details of the bet to Laney in public, to her great embarrassment. Laney is so upset that she storms out of the cafeteria and vows not to go to the prom. Zach ends up attending the prom with his sister, while Taylor drives herself to Prom having thought Zach was still interested in her. On prom night, Dean shows up at Laney’s house in a tuxedo; Laney reluctantly changes clothes and goes to the dance with him.

At the prom, Dean brings out a key to a hotel room and tells his male friends that he’s going to get ‘lucky’ with Laney that night. Laney’s best friend, Jesse, (Elden Henson) overhears the conversation and runs to tell Zach, who has been elected as Prom King. Realizing that Laney and Dean have already left, Zach attempts to try calling every hotel to see if Dean Sampson had ordered a room. To no avail, he decided to go to Laney’s house and wait for her to come home.

When Laney arrives at her house Zach is waiting for her. Laney then explains how she fought off Dean’s advances, deafening him with her rape alarm, and left him at the hotel. Zach reveals his true feelings for Laney and how she taught him valuable life lessons. He asks for forgiveness and the chance to have something more than just a friendship, which she grants readily. Laney tells Zach that she is considering art school; Zach then tells her that she has inspired him to pursue a career in performance art.

At the graduation ceremony, Zach had to do the bet that was promised. The promise was to go nude at the stage of the ceremony. After having his name called, Zach heads up while carrying a soccer ball to cover himself and later tosses the ball to Laney.

REVIEW:

This film always dumbfounds me. By all accounts, I shouldn’t like it as much as I do (with the exception of the plethora of eye candy that is almost always on the screen), yet it holds a special place in my heart.

Freddie Prinze, Jr. makes his character, Zach Siler, a guy that all the girls want to be with and the guys want to be….a sentiment that is mentioned early on in the film. This pretty much sums up most roles Prinze has done, but something about Zach makes him the best of his characters.

…a bit of ironic foreshadowing, if you will. Milo Ventimiglia has a small cameo appearance as one of Siler’s lackeys. How odd to have Peter Petrelli working for Siler (Heroes reference for those that don’t get the irony here)

Rachael Leigh Cook is the real star of the film, as she starts off the film as a geeky, ugly duckling, that turns into a beautiful swan. The only problem with this is that even under all that ugly duckling covering, she still didn’t look half bad. This is a problem I have with many makeovers that happen in films. Filmmakers don’t “ugly up” the person enough, but that’s just a personal issue, I suppose. Performance wise, she makes Laney a strong, independent woman who is afraid to let anyone in. Theoretically, she shouldn’t be likable, but the way Cook portrays her, the audience likes her.

Paul Walker is the de facto villain of the film. He is the instigator of the bet, and it is quite obvious he’s jealous of Zach. As the film progresses and it seems as if he’s going to lose, he attempts to sabotage Zach and Laney by planting the seeds of mistrust and bringing out the bitch in her. Can we say douche?

Anna Paquin, Gabrielle Union, Usher, Matthew Lillard, and Kieran Culkin all have small but noticeable roles. Paquin is Zach sister who is responsible for Laney’s makeover. I would have liked to have a bit more of her character, but beggars can’t be choosy, right? Union is one of Taylor Vaughn’s friends who decides it better to side with Laney and not get yelled at or deal with attitudede 24-7. Culkin is Laney’s little brother who appears to idolize Zach. Usher is the campus DJ, and Matthew Lillard is indirectly responsible for the whole movie as he is the one who Taylor breaks up with Zach for.

An intersting bit of trivia is that this film helped the song “Kiss Me” by Sixpence None the Richer gain immense popularity. I’m sure little red dresses also went up in sales, as well.

This is quite the entertaining film. With the exception of a few choice words, it is actually family friendly (given the subject material and whatnot). Guys will love looking at the hot girls and girls will be drooling over Freddie and maybe the other guys. If I have one negative thing to say, though, it is that they glance over a couple of things like the death of Laney’s mother and Zach’s relationship with his dad. These appear to be major parts in these characters’ lives, but I understand the reasoning behind them being excluded. No need to make this film all long, drawn out, and serious. It is lighthearted fun and takes you back to high school.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars