The princess diaries directed by Garry Marshall, written by Gina Wendkos, based on the book by Meg Cabot, produced by Whitney Houston, Debra Martin Chase and Mario Iscovich, with Anne Hathaway, Julie Andrews and Hector Elizondo. A Buena Vista Pictures release. 120 minutes. Opens Friday (August 3). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies. Rating: NN
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It's the same premise that drives Walt Disney's new teen film. The Princess Diaries stars Anne Hathaway as Mia Thermopolis, a nerdy girl who lives with her artist mom in San Francisco. Her life's turned upside down when her grandmother (Julie Andrews) arrives and proclaims that she's the Queen of Genovia and Mia's the royal princess. Misfit Mia gets a make-over, becomes a beautiful young lady and must decide whether to return with Grandma to the tiny nation.
This latest Pygmalion tale is given a young, urban spin by giving Mia not just a new look but also false friends and ravenous media attention.
But what a wasted opportunity. Mia's physical transformation, the most enjoyable part of the movie, is played out too quickly. And the interaction between Andrews and Hathaway isn't nearly intense enough.
Director Garry Marshall takes the safe road, filling the movie with scenes of Mia tripping over her own feet. One shouldn't be surprised by his choices; this is the man who gave us Pretty Woman (the hooker's Pygmalion), Runaway Bride and Frankie & Johnny. Marshall likes to show seemingly unattractive woman discovering their true beauty, although Julia Roberts, Michelle Pfeiffer and Anne Hathaway aren't exactly swimming in the ugly gene pool.
The film's highlight is Andrews, who's shied away from film roles since her medical problems became public. (She's lost her singing voice, and here we hear her speaking voice cracking during long speeches.) She works hard to get through some scenes, making her turn as a regal and graceful queen even more poignant.