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:: Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement

What does it mean to be a princess? Besides wearing tiaras and twin sets, dancing at balls…attracting fame and fortune simply for being beautiful? A princess is stuck forever in extended adolescence – she only has the trappings of power. Symbolically, at least, a queen has real power, and does not necessarily need to be beautiful.

For hundreds of years, fairytales have filtered through our consciousness to involuntarily fuel our dreams. In the last century, what began as cautionary tales to lecture children have been sugarspun into a Disneyfied notion of desire. But with Disney’s latest, Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, the recent trend of recasting fairytales to reflect modern ideals continues, albeit with a gentler hand than yesteryear’s feminists.

Simply, it’s not enough to be a princess anymore. Although ostensibly a conventional tween romantic comedy, Princess Diaries 2 features a heroine who is more independent than Drew Barrymore’s character in Ever After (1998) and less frustrated than Julia Stiles’ Mary Donaldson clone in the The Prince and Me (2004). And, even better, in Princess Diaries 2, there are no handsome princes, just boys on the side. I’m not much of a fan of director Garry Marshall’s work – although Pretty Woman’s a classic, Runaway Bride, Raising Helen and the original Princess Diaries are very ordinary films. But in this enchanting sequel, he and screenwriter Shonda Rhimes give us a character that’s not just beautiful and funny. Mia Mignonette Thermopoulos Rinaldi is growing into her power.

Princess Diaries 2 begins five years after the original at Mia’s 21st birthday party. After the scheming of John Rhys Davies triggers an ancient Genovian law, Mia has one month to marry, otherwise she will forfeit the throne. As two very different suitors court her, Mia relies on her now affectionate relationship with her grandmother, Queen Clarisse (Julie Andrews), to guide her. Meanwhile security chief Joe (Hector Elizondo) woos the Queen.

There are hackneyed moments, the worst of which is a pyjama party featuring dozens of little princesses who are designed to reflect their aspiring audience. Although enjoyable, this scene serves no dramatic function, except perhaps to showcase Julie Andrew’s expertise in mattress surfing. The change in Queen Clarisse’s character is also unexplained. However, don’t think too much, this film is entertaining, humorous and has a positive message. The cast and characters are also strong, particularly Anne Hathaway as Mia, and there’s plenty of chemistry between her and Nicholas (Chris Pine). Heather Matarazzo and Fat Louie the cat also make brief appearances.

Princess Diaries 2 improves on the original, and will be a particular hit with its target audience: tween and teen girls. But this film’s got enough substance to appeal to an older audience…if you let it.