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Walt Disney Studios
Official Site
Director: Gary Marshall
Producers: Debra Martin Chase, Whitney Houston, Mario Iscovich
Written by: Gina Wendkos
Cast: Anne Hathaway, Julie Andrews, Hector Elizando, Heather Matarazzo, Mandy Moore, Larry Miller

Rating: out of 5

There is no greater wasteland in American cinema than that of the teen film. Itís a genre that, for some reason, absolutely mystifies most filmmakers. Oh sure, there are a few that rise above the crop, AMERICAN PIE being the one that springs immediately to mind. But for every one of those, you have countless others, most of them starring Freddie Prinz Jr., that are only topped in sheer suckiness by the one that immediately follows it. Itís sad really, because the ones that ARE good can make you remember high school fondly and forget about all the beatings. That alone is worth the ticket price.

Iím happy to say that the new Disney release, THE PRINCESS DIARIES, fits nicely into that category. I must admit, the thought of seeing a movie about princesses wasnít exactly giving me goosebumps. Nor was the thought of seeing said movie in an auditorium filled with 13-year-old girls. But I braved it and, to tell the honest truth, Iím not entirely disappointed that I did.

The story is fairly standard, as far as fairytales go. The lead girl, Mia, played smartly by newcomer Anne Hathaway, is your basic ugly duckling. Popularity eludes her, not that she cares all that much, and for the most part, she remains pretty much invisible. Cue Julie Andrews, playing Miaís grandmother, who is queen of Genovia, a fictonal country roughly the equivalent of some far-flung Greek island. As it turns out, Mia is a princess and must return to her homeland and retain her birthright. Of course, Mia is understandably freaked and there is much soul-searching to be done.

Now, I should say for the record that THE PRINCESS DIARIES isnít the greatest teen movie ever made. Itís hokey in parts and not just a little predictable. However, those things are outweighed by the sheer charm and talent of its two leading laides, Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews. I was beyond shocked at how much I enjoyed Hathawayís performance in this movie. She, at 18, already has near-flawless comic timing and an ability to convey emotion that some of our Hollywood Elite have yet to master (ahemÖ Sharon StoneÖ cough). I couldnít believe that this was her first movie, so after doing a bit of digging, I disovered the source of her talent. Sheís a robot. Okay, maybe not, but she IS in fact a big deal on Broadway, having appeared in a plethora of plays and musicals, making her good match-up for former stage legend Julie Andrews.

Andrews is also great here. Itís been a while since she graced the screen and I had forgotten what a classy lady, not to mention talented actress, she was. I was worried when I saw her name attached to this because I was afraid that, given past teen film experiences, she would end up doing some kind of wacky rap or riding a Harley covered in pudding. Fortunately, she remains the picture of elegance and dignity, even while arm-wrestling a robot on a boardwalk. And Iím not kidding about that.

All in all, the movie was an enjoyable experience, but I should point out that it received a half star demerit for one minor casting infraction. Mandy MooreÖ ah, where do I begin. Cute, yes; decent voice, okay sure; actressÖ oh no, no, no. Itís obvious she was cast in the movie based solely on album sales (she even has what Iím sure was a contractually obligated musical number) and her presence is nothing but a detriment to the film. Playing the bitchy cheerleader is not a hard role for anyone with moderate talent, but Moore manages to bungle even that, coming across as a violently broad cartoon of petty villainy. Her very presence on the screen made me uncomfortable and I am now calling for the public burning of her SAG card. She also loses points with me because the song that she sings in the movie has been lodged firmly in my brain for the last three days and shows no sign of leaving. Iím singing this, unwittingly, in front of people, some of them girls, and itís making me want to give up on life and go live in the mountains somewhere.

But enough of that. Sheís not in the movie enough to do it any permanent, scarring damage and the two leads more than make up for the sucking black hole of non-talent that she leaves behind. So, as far as the movieís quality is concerned, Iíd definately say itís better than most teen-related fair on the market. Itís worth seeing simply because, if there is justice in the world, the name Anne Hathaway will someday ring with the clarity of Julia Roberts. Teen girls will love this, parents will be pleased and, apparently, 21-year-old film critics will like it too.

óClint Davis

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...

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