- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 10, 2004

“The Princess Diaries,” a Cinderella tale showcasing a radiant ingenue, Anne Hathaway, and a comeback eminence, Julie Andrews, was the happiest surprise of two summers ago. In the deftly breezy and benign sequel, “The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement,” director Garry Marshall and his associates recapture the exceptional charm and playfulness of the prototype.

Mr. Marshall tinkers with the ingredients slightly but expertly. He inserts replacement parts among the supporting characters while preserving and polishing the amiable teamwork of his leading ladies, a granddaughter-grandmother act set in a miniature comic-opera Ruritanian monarchy called Genovia.

Miss Andrews is cast as the reigning, widowed queen, Clarisse, who intends to retire after prepping Mia (Miss Hathaway), a formerly long-lost grandchild raised in San Francisco, in the duties of a titled life. Since the original movie, Mia has completed high school and an undergraduate degree at Princeton University. She flies to Genovia to resume royalty training in earnest and celebrate her 21st birthday.

Mia’s smooth succession is jeopardized, however, by an antique Genovian law that seems to require the princess to wed before assuming the crown. To remain eligible, she must satisfy a 30-day time limit imposed by an act of parliament.

The chances of defying this stipulation are undermined by a hostile aristocrat, John Rhys-Davies as Viscount Mabrey, determined to promote a rival candidate, his attractive and accomplished nephew, Nicholas, played by Chris Pine. The heroine, meanwhile, believes she has found an acceptable hurry-up consort in a young English aviator, Andrew (Callum Blue).

The affectionate and corny proficiency of the “Princess Diaries” films is enhanced by an old-fashioned flair for glamorous lighting, decor, wardrobe and accessories. Two compositions of Miss Hathaway — her first appearance in a wedding gown and a lounging moment in satin pajamas — are so beautifully lit that the swooning impact is mingled with a desire to laugh out loud and yell “Bravo” in the same instant.

Approaching 70, Mr. Marshall is one of the seasoned old pros of American TV and movie comedy. No one has matched his ingenuity in a particular area of specialization: Cinderella updates, whether R-rated (“Pretty Woman,” with Julia Roberts) or, as here in the “Princess” duo, G-rated.

With a generous auburn mane and an expansive smile, Anne Hathaway is strikingly photogenic. She’s also easy to listen to and fun to watch when doing slapstick maneuvers, which acquire an oddly graceful quality of clumsiness when she pretends to mishandle objects or lose her footing.

One of the secrets to Mr. Marshall’s command is the ability to enhance bit parts with effective comic wrinkles. These can range from the systematic (Shea Curry and Anna White as running-gag chambermaids who improvise a slapstick rendition of “Frere Jacques”) to the lucky (a toddler fiddling with his carrier’s sunglasses). The cumulative effect is delightful: the expectation that no matter where you are, someone in camera range will reveal a blithely funny aptitude.


TITLE: “The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement”

RATING: G (fleeting comic vulgarity)

CREDITS: Directed by Garry Marshall. Screenplay by Shonda Rimes, based on characters created by Meg Cabot Cinematography by Charles Minsky. Production design by Albert Brenner. Costume design by Gary Jones. Music by John Debney

RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes


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