The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement review by Mike Long

No matter how good their track record, most seasoned filmmakers have at least one flop, be that critically, financially, or both. But, it's rare that we get to see a director meltdown right before our eyes. I've never been a big fan of Garry Marshall as a director (although he cracks me up when he appears on-screen as an actor), but I've understood why his films were crowd-pleasers. But, his latest offering, The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, shows that the 70-year old Marshall may be losing his grip on what it takes to make a coherent film.

The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement is the follow-up to the 2001 hit The Princess Diaries . As the film opens, Princess Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway) has graduated from college and is moving to the country of Genova, to live with her grandmother, Queen Clarisse Renaldi (Julie Andrews). There, Mia will prepare to ascend to the throne and take over the role of queen. However, the Genovian parliament announces that due to an ancient law, Mia must be married before she can take the throne. Thus, Mia has 30 days to find a husband, or Nicholas Devereaux (Chris Pine), a blood-relative to the royal-bloodline, will take the throne as king. This suit Nicholas' uncle, Viscount Mabrey (John-Rhys Davies) who craves power. Despite being quite angry at this decision, Mia sets out to find a man that she can marry. In order to keep an eye on things, Mabrey and Nicholas move into the palace. As Mia finds a suitable match for matrimony, she finds herself constantly running into Nicholas and begins to realize that she may be attracted to this man who should be her nemesis.

The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement is a royal mess for two reasons. First of all, the script is abysmal. This 113 minute film contains about 15 minutes of story, as Mia learns that she must be married, begins the courting process, and then finds true love. Thats about it. The rest of the movie is made up of ridiculous scenes like Mia exploring her bedroom, or Mias bachelorette party, which features mattress surfing. Im sure that these scenes are meant to appeal to adolescents, but they only feel like filler. Another problem with the story is the incredibly sexist slant that much of the film takes, as Mia must have a husband in order to be queen. The first film dealt with a young girl discovering not only her destiny, but her inner strength. The bulk of this film only serves to tear down those ideas.

The other major problem with The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement is the combination of Marshalls direction and the films editing. Most directors seem to realize that its the audiences job to reach to the on-screen action. However, Marshall doesnt have a grasp on this. In nearly every scene, Marshall will cut to someone for their reaction, usually Mias cat Fat Louie, instead of letting the action play out on its own. Even if the reacting character is in another room, the action will suddenly cut to them to gauge their response. This is incredibly annoying and takes the viewer right out of the movie. Theres nothing wrong with reaction shots and John Landis is the master of cutting to animals for feedback (see Coming to America), but Marshall employs this tactic in nearly every scene, making some, like Mias archery practice, go on seemingly forever. This incredibly odd tactic only pads this wafer-thin film.

Its truly a shame that the mechanics of the film are so bad, as the characters in The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement are still charming, and the cast tries very hard. The lovely Ann Hathaway shows that she still has a handle on physical comedy and she manages to make the princess very likable. As always, its great to see Julie Andrews at work and her presence gives the film a sense of grace, but she cant save it from the gutter. Hector Elizondo, who appears in all of Garry Marshalls films, is wasted here, and doesnt have the impact which he did in the first film. The Princess Diaries wasnt a great film, but it was a fun movie that was aimed at young girls, but could appeal to anyone. I cant imagine girls finding anything to like about The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, and neither will anyone else. The movie isnt funny or involving, and I honestly dont know what the Helizondo Garry Marshall was thinking.

The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement bestows DVD courtesy of Disney DVD. The film is coming to DVD in two separate releases, one full-frame and the other widescreen. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks very good, as the picture shows no grain and zero defects from the source print. There is some minor artifacting on the image, but there are no notable haloes around the characters. The colors look very good, and the image has a nice amount of depth. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue with no hissing. The stereo effects are quite good and sounds nicely match the on-screen action. There is little in the matter of bass response and the only surround sound action comes during crowd scenes or musical cues.

The DVD contains surprisingly few extras. There is an audio commentary featuring director Garry Marshall and star Julie Andrews. While the talk is a bit too chatty for my tastes, its nice to hear these two veterans at work and they do an admirable job of pointing out specifics about the films production. Making a Return Engagement (16 minutes) is a routine making of featurette, which offers some behind-the-scenes footage and comments from the cast and crew about the films production, but no revelations. The PD2 Makeover (11 minutes) is an odd entry, as it shows Anna Curtis, Anne Hathaways stand-in, getting a make-over and includes tip on doing your hair and make-up. The DVD contains 8 deleted scenes, each of which has an introduction from Marshall (with intros, the scenes total 17 minutes). All of these scenes are quite brief and bring nothing new to the movie. The extras are rounded out by a 4-minute Blooper Reel, the Find Your Inner Princess quiz, and a music video for the song Breakaway by Kelly Clarkson.


2 out of 10 Jackasses

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