The Princess Diaries (2001)

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When this film was released, it was a massive hit, not just commercially, but also in the hearts of the people. Based on a series of books by Meg Cabot, the film was so beloved that it even spawned a sequel in 2004. But, this was a film that I hadn’t seen before and had it not been for this blog, I probably never would have.

So did I think that The Princess Diaries is as good a film as everyone makes it out to be? Or will this turn out to be another Hocus Pocus? Read on to find out!

And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!

Directed by Garry Marshall, the film takes place in San Francisco where we are quickly introduced to our protagonist, Mia Thermopolis, played by Anne Hathaway, in her film debut. Mia is your typical shy high school student who’s not part of the “A crowd” and is a bit klutzy, which we realize when she bumps into her neighbor’s garbage cans on the way to school.

“It’s Mr. Delsym, thank you very much!”

She lives with her “70s artist” divorced mother, Helen, played by Caroline Goodall. Mia’s father has recently passed away and she never knew much about his side of the family other than the fact that her paternal grandmother never reached out to her. All this is about to change when her paternal grandmother, Clarisse Renaldi, played by Julie Andrews, does reach out to her and in fact, flies all the way to San Francisco to have tea with Mia.

Clarisse has flown in from the fictional European country of Genovia, prompting Mia to be a bit skeptical as to why she would fly all this way to have tea. Nevertheless, Mia goes to visit her grandmother at a secured mansion where she is staying and is taken aback at the poshness of it all.

The two finally meet and Clarisse is gladdened to meet her granddaughter. She also reveals the truth as to why she’s here. She is really the Queen of Genovia. Her son, Mia’s father, was the crown prince and now that he’s passed away, the next-in-line to the throne is Mia Thermopolis. Mia responds in the most refined, tactful way that a high school student would respond.

A line that will go down in Disney quote history!

Clarisse has come to get Mia trained to be a princess to take over the kingdom, but it’s all to much for Mia. She’s never been told the truth about her ancestry from her mother nor has her grandmother ever reached out until now! She runs away from the compound, but not before passing a shadowy figure in the bushes.

I’m already calling it: this guy is the surprise villain of the film!

This character is Joe, Clarisse’s head of security, played by Héctor Elizondo. Clarisse wants him to keep an eye on Mia, which he agrees to, but I’m still skeptical of him.

Mia has arrived home by now and is upset at her mother for keeping this all a secret. Helen explains that she was going to tell her when she turned 18, but due to Mia’s father’s recent passing, things have been expedited.

“Operation Genovian Bridge had to be set in motion. My second cousin twice removed, Elizabeth, has a similar plan for her kingdom.”

Clarisse visits the Thermopolis’ house the next day and explains to Mia that there is a royal ball in a few weeks where she would like to formally introduce her granddaughter to the world as the Princess of Genovia. Mia still isn’t keen on the idea, but Helen offers a compromise. She proposes that Mia accepts princess training lessons from her grandmother, but has until the ball itself to make up her mind about taking the Princess position or not. Both Clarisse and Mia reluctantly agree.

Clarisse gives Mia a limousine of her own with Joe as her official chauffeur. This is so he can take her to and from school as well as to and from Clarisse’s compound for the princess lessons. Mia has mixed feelings about it all though: enjoying the luxury of the princess life and the training as well as trying to keep her royal ancestry a secret from her school by being a normal high school student.

It’s not long though before she ends up having to tell her best friend, Lilly, played by Heather Matarazzo, the “socially woke” student before “socially woke” was a thing. She tells Lilly after Lilly gets jealous of Mia’s new “improvements” on her lifestyle. Lilly promises not to tell, but soon enough, the beans are spilled and the paparazzi storm her at her high school the next day.

It wasn’t Lilly who told people though; it seems to be that the Italian hairdresser that Clarisse hired to give Mia a makeover did in order to publicize his “work”.

Or maybe that’s what Joe wants us to think! He’s the one who brought the hairdresser here and it looks like he’s “persuading” the hairdresser to confess. Maybe he’s the one who told the paparazzi all in an elaborate plot to take over the Genovian kingdom after years of being taken for granted! And he’s using the hairdresser as his fall guy! I’m on to you, Joe!

Clarisse helps Mia with the newly found fame and the two decide to spend a normal grandmother-granddaughter bonding day travelling around San Francisco. After Mia crashes into a cable car, Clarisse uses charm and deception to save Mia from an arrest and the two get escorted home in a police car.

“Flashing red lights and ear-deafening sirens,
Writing letters to my cousins, the Byrons,
All from the jail bars to which I do cling,
These are a few of my favorite things!”

The next day (I think), the hot guy at school, Josh Bryant, played by Erik von Detten, invites Mia out to a beach party. Mia happily accepts as she’s always had a crush on him, but he was previously dating the hot cheerleader at school, Lana Thomas, played by Mandy Moore. The trouble is though that the beach party is on Saturday and she’s already promised Lilly that she would appear on her school talk show that day and she’s promised to go out with Lilly’s brother, Michael, played by Robert Schwartzman. Michael is a kind-hearted, musically-inclined guy who had always had a crush on Mia, but I didn’t mention him before as he doesn’t really do anything nor is Robert Schwartzman all that good.

“Say that again and I’ll…probably do something.”

Anyway, Mia cancels her date with Michael (who sadly accepts it), but forgets to tell Lilly. Saturday arrives and Mia has gone to the beach party with Josh, but it’s soon clear that Josh is only doing this to get his “15 minutes of fame” as paparazzi storm them on the beach taking embarrassing photographs.

Mia runs home sad and when the pictures are printed in the paper the following day, Clarisse is upset with Mia’s choices. They get into a disagreement, one that Joe convinces Clarisse to solve by going easy on her granddaughter.

Something only a spy would say! I’m on to you, Joe! Pretending to care about Clarisse and Mia getting along, but only using it to your advantage in the end! I’m on to you!

Mia patches things up with Lilly as well as with Clarisse who helps matters by talking to and treating Mia as her granddaughter and not as a princess-in-training. The day of the ball is arriving and Mia decides that she doesn’t want to take the position, but will go to the ball to officially announce it.

Unbeknownst to Clarisse though, Mia has plans to run away from home and not attend the ball. But she soon finds a letter that her late father wrote her speaking of courage which gets her the courage to go to the ball. Her car breaks down in the rain outside, but she’s soon rescued by Joe who has been sent to look for her after she hadn’t turned up at the ball yet.

She arrives to the ball in time, completely drenched. But she gracefully steps up to the podium and announces that she is in fact going to accept her royal position as Princess of Genovia. Everyone is gladdened by this decision and Clarisse flies Mia, her mother, and Joe to Genovia to live.

Wait, so Joe WASN’T a bad guy? Well that was a wasted effort! Oh wait, maybe his nefarious plans follow through in the sequel!

And that was The Princess Diaries! I’m happy that it’s not disappointing like Hocus Pocus was, but it also isn’t as great as I was expecting it to be. Don’t get me wrong, it has an interestingly enough story that is both cliched and not at the same time (such as not having a real villain). It features stellar performances by Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway. Everyone else was good enough, except for Robert Schwartzman who was just bad in this, I’m sorry.

“Alright…just for that, I’ll get my brother to play Richard M. Sherman in a future Disney film. How do you like those apples?”

I also feel there were a bit too many “stereotypical” high school student scenes for this to have a G rating, but that’s just me. All in all, I thought the film was good enough, nothing spectacular, but nothing horrible at the same time.

So, my final score for this film is 25/35 = 71.43% (C-) !

The next review will be posted on November 12, 2019.

6 thoughts on “The Princess Diaries (2001)

  1. As far as I understood it, the book series is way more interesting in that it actually deals with the negative implications of a change like this. The Disney take…eh, I think the movie lives entirely from its casting. I admit, I watch it mostly for Julie Andrews.

  2. I do love this movie but I also watched it a number of times growing up so I have that nostalgia with it. It was on one of the TV channels on our cruise and I couldn’t stop watching it, haha. Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway are great and it’s a sweet movie.

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