On Second Thought: “The Princess Diaries”

Oh the joy of revisiting a film from when you were a kid. It can be a fun experience, or just be weird because you can’t figure out at all how you could like a certain film. Whatever the reason was that drew you back to it, hopefully it was worth another go. It seldom ever is.

The Walt Disney Pictures film “The Princess Diaries”, is surprisingly still an enjoyable family film that can make you laugh. It certainly made me laugh.

This comedy stars Anne Hathaway (“The Intern”, “HitRECord on TV”), Heather Matarazzo (upcoming “Sisters”, “Grey’s Anatomy”), Hector Elizondo (“Cristela”, “Last Man Standing”), Mandy Moore (“Red Band Society”, “High School USA!”), Caroline Goodall (“Third Person”, “The White Queen”), Robert Schwartzman (“Modern/Love (Short 2012)’, “Casino Moon (Short 2012)”), Erik von Detten (“Toy Story 3”, “Bones”), Sean O’Bryan (“Workaholics”, “Table 58”), Sandra Oh (“Tammy”, “Grey’s Anatomy”), Kathleen Marshall (“New Year’s Eve”, “Valentine’s Day”), and Julie Andrews (“Despicable Me”, “Shrek Forever After”).

The film was directed by Garry Marshall (“New Year’s Eve”, “Valentine’s Day”) and written by Gina Wendkos (“Do No Harm”, “The Perfect Man”). It is based on the novel of the same name by Meg Cabot.

The film originally opened on Aug. 3, 2001.

Apparently if it’s on TV, I’ll watch it. I guess I just wanted to see it. It’s been ages and I thought that now was a good time as any. For me, that’s the fun of just turning on the TV and scrolling up. I know there are movies listed in the upper channels, but I never know which ones are playing at the moment (current month) and on how much of a loop they’re on. Whoever said channel surfing wasn’t fun was clearly doing it wrong.

I feel somewhat surprised that I’m writing about this film, even though I’ve written a few times on other kid and family films. Maybe it’s jut the film’s age. This did come out on 2001, so that’s what? 14 years ago? Yeah. That’s a long time. Time really does fly.

This film’s pretty straight forward for a family film. The only people it turns out that may find it a bit dull are little children. I can understand that notion. My nephews were apparently bored with the newest version of “Cinderella” after all. It’s not full of comedy or moments they’d be overly thrilled about. For me, there was a perfect balance of every needed element.

There was comedy, light drama, friendships, and family relationships in this film and nothing seemed off. Okay, one comedic bit did seem off, but that’s because it was super forced. It had to be. Hathaway is getting out of her chair to pick up a dropped something from under the table and inadvertently causes a chain reaction of accidents, after one man trips over her. You could tell that the water was deliberately dumped on the other person, but that’s the nature of stunts.

I found myself liking the comedy, both from the dialogue and the little physical humor there was. Other than the one instance above, which really was just me focusing on it too much, there never seemed a bad moment that was asking me to find it funny, I just did find it funny. I never stopped to think twice as I never felt it was dumb. Granted many people might think it dumb to begin with, but I’m viewing this with the knowledge that this is a family film and the humor can’t exactly be that which you’d see in other comedies. It just dawned on me too, that maybe some of the reason I found the funny bits funny are because there was a level of cute or adorable, something like that. One person I found particularly funny was Oh. She had limited screen time and just as few actual lines of dialogue, but each time she appeared and spoke, she absolutely nailed her lines. I laughed every single time and enjoyed her character. I mean come on, how could you not laugh when she delivers, “Oh no, honey I’m sorry. I was in aa very important meeting. Send it out for dry cleaning.” But again, the humor bar wasn’t exactly that high, so I can understand why I laughed each time.

I was surprised by how quickly I liked, or disliked, all of the characters in this film. I took to them all quite quickly. This I attribute to the fact that each one was quirky enough. Then, of course, there’s just the way the story allowed me to be introduced to each character and watch some of them grow. Then the main characters just became fun and even more likable because of the way the actors brought them to life and well, because this particular story didn’t really demand a whole lot of any of them.

While I say that at this moment, I will say that even if that bar wasn’t too high, Hathaway and Andrews were just perfect in every way. The relationship that they have at the beginning of the film and through out, is one I can believe in. Even individually there’s a lot to love about their respective characters. Hathaway’s Mia is a mess. Not like hot mess, but next closest thing, I guess. It’s because of this and her other spastic qualities that make her lovable, as well as the fact that she cares about her friends and family. Not too high, but things that make you wish she was your friend. And Andrews is this really refined woman that’s exploring her granddaughter’s world and really getting a chance to know her, all while maintaining her Queen status. You get it. It just becomes a moment of its own, a special moment, as we see her be exposed to so much and try to keep up with Hathaway. You can’t help but love her, even when she’s a bit more stern than you’d like.

As this is a family film from Disney, and a film in general, things are not all sunshine and daisy’s. No, there’s some teenage drama that Hathaway has to navigate. There’s Moore’s bratty character, as well as von Detten’s, who are the typical high school assholes we all know. At one point, due to the whole being a princess, she has a small fight with Matarazzo. There’s some family tiffs too, but nothing heavy. I’m not sure what it does for me, but for this film it somehow balances it all and allows for so much of the film, all things considered, to be as organic as possible. And it’s enough to not have the younger viewers asking questions or anything else like that.

Some film’s will in some ways be considered classics. It’s just how these things go. But even with that status, whether you agree with it or not, some of these film’s don’t hold up well over time. There could be a multitude of reason’s why, but fortunately this one only doesn’t seem to suffer from any of that. Not yet anyway. Ask me again in another 14 years.


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