U.S. Release Date: August 11, 2004
Distributor: Buena Vista
Director: Garry Marshall
Producer: Debra Martin Chase, Whitney Houston, Mario Iscovich
Composer: John Debney
Cast: Anne Hathaway, Julie Andrews, Abigail Breslin, Chris Pine, Raven-Symone
Running Time: 1 hour and 53 minutes
MPAA Rating: G

In Favor of Marshall Law
by Lane Ford

All gussied up and positively dripping with girl power, The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement is simply delightful. The cast of loveable, quirky characters return with conviction and enough of the Garry Marshall touch to make this movie a big improvement on the first. Above all, it is sweet and pretty, while staying this side of saccharine.

The "you can be a princess too" theme resounds with the first line, the scene of the college graduation of Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway), as the speaker says: "Though your diplomas are equally specific, you are all individuals." The crowd erupts, and Mia begins her journey back to Genovia, where she is to join her grandmother Queen Clarisse (Julie Andrews) in rule. We soon find that Queen Clarisse intends to step down from the throne, leaving Mia as queen. But a nefarious senator, Viscount Mabrey (Jonathan Rhys-Davies), has another plan—he invokes a Genovian law stating that in order to rule, a female must be married, so to usurp the throne for his nephew, Lord Nicholas Devereaux (Chris Pine). To become queen, thus, Mia must find a matrimonial mate and fast.

Several suitors are screened, one is chosen, and the courtship begins. In the meantime Lord Devereaux and Viscount Mabrey move in to the palace at the queen's behest, and Mia and Lord Devereaux engage in a playfully adorable battle of the sexes. In spite of the arranged courtship, the question remains—who, if anyone, will Mia choose to wed, and will she indeed become queen?

It is enchanting to see a G-rated picture that doesn't condescend to anyone. Princess Diaries 2 is truly funny, infused with Marshall's unique wit; it feels perhaps, with the success of the first Diaries, his zaniness has been deliciously let loose. Not only funny, this movie is optimistic, decent, has a good message and is filled with loveable people beset with just enough conflict for there to be a plot.

When the "all your dreams come true" theme is getting a little heavy—when Mia is presented with a dream-closet full of clothes and shoes and jewels—the picture takes a poignant turn. The real treasure in the closet is her best friend, Lilly (Heather Matarazzo), a surprise, come to stay the summer in Genovia. While everyone here is beautifully coiffed, Princess Diaries 2 never loses its sense of humanity. Young girls who dream of becoming princesses themselves are reminded of the wealth of values within, along with, or rather not in spite of, material values. In this way, it maintains, everyone really can be royalty.

Hathaway has blossomed into an unpretentiously beautiful young woman, whose talents as both a comic and a leading lady carry the movie through. Her style, often the image of a young Judy Garland, is so refreshing up against today's hipster-pant, hormones-gone-wild cultural nonsense.

Queen Clarisse's role is meatier in this sequel, which delivers what audiences always craves—and that is, as much Julie Andrews as possible. She sings, she dances a bit, she plays against type to hilarious effect, and she even chirps—echoing the first movie—"Thank you, culinary people!"

Leaving the screening of Princess Diaries 2, a friend nudged me and pointed. "Look," she said, "Everyone is smiling!" This is more than a "feel good" movie; it's more than a fairy tale; it's more than a teen romance. It's something we need much more of: a good, old-fashioned time.

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