Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Mediocre, At Best, Disney Sequel: The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement Is A Charmless Continuation Of The First.

The Good: Acting all around, Moments when the plot services the established characters.
The Bad: Replaces a smart, vibrant, socially-conscious young woman with a Disney Princess wannabe for most of the film, Ridiculous romantic comedy aspects.
The Basics: Five years after the original The Princess Diaries, Mia is prepared to take the Genovian throne when a Machiavellian plan forces her to marry within thirty days or lose the opportunity to be queen.

A few years back, I was traveling and I caught a movie on television that truly charmed me. It was The Princess Diaries (reviewed here!) and as I have made it through almost the entire library of Anne Hathaway's works, it seemed like it was about time that I went back to watch The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement. My wife suggested we get it out of the way, despite her allegation that it was not all that good.

From the outset, The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement underwhelmed me. When Chris Pine's name came up in the credits, I was psyched. I have seen so few things with the actor from the new Star Trek (reviewed here!) and I hoped he would show more promise than he did in Just My Luck. On the plus side, Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews almost instantly re-establish the chemistry they had in the first film.

On her twenty-first birthday, Princess Mia Thermopolis returns to Genovia where she has to dance with every eligible bachelor. After a series of disastrous meetings, Mia dances with Nicholas who is charming and an obvious potential mate for her. As Mia explores the castle, Viscount Mabrey makes moves in parliament to overthrow the monarchy using his nephew, Nicholas. As a compromise, Mia is given thirty days to marry a royal before she will forfeit the throne. When Nicholas and his uncle arrive to stay for the month, Mia is shocked to realize the young man she enjoyed dancing with is her competitor for the throne.

After looking through a presentation of eligible royals, Mia meets Andrew Jacoby and they have a quick courtship. The Viscount uses Nicholas to try to break the marriage up as Mia learns the lessons she will need to rule Genovia. Nicholas begins to drive a wedge between Mia and Andrew, which forces Mia to question what she is doing and why.

From the outset, the film lacks the charm of the first film and Hector Elizondo outshines Hathaway's entrance. The movie telegraphs itself from the instant Chris Pine enters. Pine plays Nicholas and he is the most confident potential suitor. Pine shines opposite John Rhys-Davies and Rhys-Davies manages to make a believable adversary. It is a role unlike the amiable sidekicks he has played before, like Gimli or Sallah.

The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement has more of a young woman's fantasy film than the first one. When Mia is introduced to her bedroom with a small mall-sized closet, the film takes a detour that feels somewhat inorganic. The movie seems like a pretty generic fantasy whereby Mia drools over jewels and other trappings of the crown. Moreover, Mia's character is mortgaged when she goes through the potential royal pool based only on photographs. For a character initially established as a young woman of principles, this is a severe step down. Moreover, when she makes contrived problems, like falling during tennis, to get Andrew to dote, the character takes an even more severe setback.

The movie goes into repetitive territory as Mia is given lessons in riding and how to use a fan. The montages of things like Mia practicing her archery are somewhat silly and there is a melodramatic quality to the film. For example, when Mia's riding attempt is sabotaged by the Viscount, she ends up being whiny in front of Nicholas and the moment does not read true to her original character. Instead of being strong, she complains to Nicholas and there is the implication of something more of a history between them than was actually presented in the movie. In other words, it is strange to hear her complain something to the effect of "you always do. . ." when they have not actually been around one another much.

Some of the best scenes in the film are actually between Viscount and Joe, Queen Renaldi's head of security. Hector Elizondo and John Rhys-Davies have great screen presence, so when they square off, the film has more weight than when the movie is preoccupied with Mia being a pretty typical young woman.

The moments when the film remembers who Princess Mia is supposed to be work well, like when she stops a royal parade to let local orphans become princesses for a day (which features Abigail Breslin. Unfortunately, moments like that are quickly countered by vignettes like the sleepover party. Sadly, the performances are unremarkable all the way around. Julie Andrews, Anne Hathaway, Chris Pine, Callum Blue and John Rhys-Davies all perform adequately, but they are given very little to work with that requires any subtlety or talent beyond what any have shown in anything else.

Ultimately, there is very little surprising about The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement and on DVD the bonus features are pretty much what one expects, including deleted scenes, bloopers, and a "find your inner princess" game. None of the bonus features make the source material any better and this is yet another Disney sequel that can be passed by, though it is not actually awful.

For other Disney live-action works, please check out my reviews of:
Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Tron: Legacy
Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time
Alice In Wonderland
Old Dogs
Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe
Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl


For other movie reviews, please visit my index page on the subject by clicking here.

© 2011 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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