It’s your modern-day fairy tale minus the mice and pumpkins, and plus tiaras, queens and Shaft look-alikes. Fables can't get more sophisticated than this!
Disney’s production is a feel-good flick about a story that makes you believe that something as extraordinary as this could even happen to you! It’s about tenth-grader Mia Thermopolis (Hathaway), whose big hair and dorky glasses make her stand out, ironically, as a nobody, and she gets through each school day as though it was a Herculean task. She’s bad at public speaking, terrible at sports and most people plain don’t notice her. Armed with an impassioned political and environmental activist friend Lilly (Matarazzo), who runs her own school TV show, Mia usually takes a back seat to the showmanship and daring displayed by her sidekick.
And one day, out of the blue, her artist mother, Helen (Caroline Goodall) informs her about a visit by paternal grandma Clarisse Rinaldi (Julie Andrews), who, incidentally, hasn’t met Mia since birth. Mum conveniently fails to let Mia know that grandma is Queen of Genovia, a pear-growing European state, and that Mia’s dad, was, until his death a couple of months ago, Prince of Genovia. So much for a royal daze!
But the Queen is in San Francisco for more than a familial visit. She wants Mia to accompany her back to the castle and take over the royal title of Princess, so as to bear on the blue-blooded lineage. A hilarious and immensely enjoyable turn of events results from Mia’s acceptance, beginning with lessons in the etiquette and carriage of a Princess, to the physical remodeling of the gawky girl.
Gary Marshall ("Runaway Bride") has gathered a fantastic cast, spearheaded by the remarkable Julie Andrews, who couldn’t have conveyed the role of the aristocratic Queen better. Anne Hathaway is like putty in the director’s hands, and can flow from a comic teenager into a refined young woman in about the time taken to do her nails. Mandy Moore, in her debut Feature, plays the archetypal mean-mouthed cheerleader who dates the school sports hero and is attended to by her entourage of like-minded preppies.
There have been other movies like this, ones that fill you with that unmistakable joie de vivre, and this one is definitely worth a look - especially if you have kids to entertain!This article was first published on 31 Dec 2001.