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Catch a falling star
by Asa Butcher
2006-12-11 21:07:20
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The Princess Diaries
Directed by Garry Marshall
Walt Disney, 2001

Hello, my name is Asa, I’m 27-years-old and I am hopelessly addicted to The Princess Diaries. I watched the movie three times in the space of four days and I have lost count of how many times the DVD has been played. It is usually at this point that my friends and family start stifling a laugh, but they soon apologise after sitting down to watch this Walt Disney masterpiece.

Forget the images that the title conjures because this is a fantastic adult movie that will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy, plus Perry Como’s song ‘Catch a falling star’ will become stuck in your head. The movie is packed with excellent one-liners, some beautiful philosophical moments and acting that will entertain even on its umpteenth viewing.

Based on the novel by Meg Cabot, The Princess Diaries follows the story of Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway), a socially awkward but very bright 15-year-old girl, who is discovers that she is the princess of a small European country called Genovia. She must decide between continuing the life of a San Franciscan teen or stepping up to the throne. While Mia makes up her mind, she's pressed into taking princess lessons from her grandmother Queen Clarisse Renaldi (Julie Andrews).

This was Anne Hathaway’s cinematic debut and she is nothing short of magical. In effect she is playing two roles in the film, the first as the social outcast of Mia, who has some priceless lines, “Just in case I wasn't enough of a freak already, let's add a tiara!” and then she undergoes the standard movie makeover and exhibits a simple beauty that can’t fail to make you fall in love with her.

I could go on all day writing about Anne Hathaway, but then I would never get to Julie Andrews, Mary Poppins herself. She was 66-years-old when she made this film and you would not believe it. She still has the charm and sparkle of her greatest films and her interaction with Anne is a pleasure to watch. However, it is her on-screen relationship with her bodyguard Joe, played with quiet style by Hector Elizondo, that is the brilliance of the film.

Trivia about the film reveals that the on-screen romance between Queen Clarisse Renaldi and Joe was not scripted. The two actors added the dance scene and the underlying affection. According to Hector Elizondo, "We felt that a romance after 50 was important to tell and it can be sensual and sexy while keeping your clothes on." You will have to watch the movie to see if it really works as I have said.

It is unusual for me to list more than a few of the cast of a movie in my iKritics, but each of the characters in The Princess Diaries contributes so much that it would be a crime to ignore them. Mia’s best friend Lilly Moscovitz (Heather Matarazzo), her brother Michael (Robert Schwartzman), Mia’s mum Helen (Caroline Goodall), Mia’s vice principal (Sandra Oh) and Clarisse’s personal assistant Charlotte (Kathleen Marshall) all bring their own comedy, skill and joy to their characters. Additionally, an unaccredited appearance from Larry Miller as Paolo the Hairdresser is sensational: “If Brooke Shields married Groucho Marx their child would have your eyebrows!”

I hope that you are left with little doubt that The Princess Diaries is a great film for all the family, not just little girls, so make sure it is included in your Christmas viewing because it could almost be a festive film, especially if you buy the sequel too. I think it is time for another viewing, so ‘Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket…’

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