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:: The Princess Diaries

The premise of a young, awkward girl finding out that she is really a princess seems to be aimed perfectly at the early teenage girl market. It’s a chance for them to see their fantasy lived out. However, Garry Marshall, director of “Pretty Woman” and “The Runaway Bride”, has taken a promising idea and squandered it by piling cliche upon cliche and topping it off with well worn gags, which could only be new for the under-fives in the audience.

Anne Hathaway plays Mia Thermopolis. We know she’s geeky because her hair is frizzy and she wears glasses. We are not supposed to notice that she looks like a model until the ubiquitous make over sequence when the hair is straightened, the glasses are taken off and hey presto, she’s gorgeous. I’d like to see them try the same thing with Mia’s sidekick, Lilly, played by Heather Matarazzo. It’s a little disturbing to see the star of “Welcome To The Doll’s House” in a film that upholds all the cliches that Todd Solondz’s film so wonderfully shattered.

Julie Andrews returns to the screen playing Mia’s grandmother, the Queen of the fictional country, Genovia, supposedly somewhere between France and Spain. Yet, where they speak English without the hint of an accent. Andrews hams it up, as does Elizondo, but they are given little to work with. Even the sequence of Mia being taught how to be a princess, surely one Marshall would be familiar with after “Pretty Woman”, is flat and uninspired.

The obligatory school bitch is played by Mandy Moore, a recording star and host of her own MTV program. She’s perfectly cast as the popular, bitchy nemesis of Mia even if the sum total of her final humiliation is an ice cream cone on her cheerleading outfit.

The moral of the film is finding the courage to be yourself and having an effect on the world, noble sentiments, however inanely reached. But with animated children’s films getting wittier and wittier, holding the attention of adults as well as kids, it is hard to understand why live action films can’t have the same innovation. I find it insulting that studios think children are this easily pleased.

Screening on general release including the Dendy Brighton and Classic Cinemas