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"Princess Diaries 2" Promotes an Americanized, Cheesy Europe

  • Annabelle Robertson Entertainment Critic
  • 2004 8 Aug
  • COMMENTS
"Princess Diaries 2" Promotes an Americanized, Cheesy Europe

Release Date:  August 11, 2004
Rating:  G
Genre:  Romance/Comedy/Family
Run Time: 1 hr. 55 min.
Director:  Garry Marshall
Actors: Anne Hathaway, Julie Andrews, Hector Elizondo, Chris Pine, John Rhys-Davies, Heather Matazarro, Callum Blue

Please, please, can I be a princess, too?  Now dear, it’s not nice to covet. But oh, what lovely jewelry!  And those clothes! And just look at all those antiques in that beautiful European castle. Well … I suppose it might be nice to be just a little bit royal.  Especially since they’re all so … American.

Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway) is grown up now, having graduated from college with a degree in international affairs and political science. She is ready to assume the throne of Genovia, as soon as her grandmother, the beloved Queen Clarisse (Julie Andrews) steps down. While Clarisse grooms Mia to be queen, a member of parliament (John Rhys-Davies) raises a startling point of law: for a princess to ascend the throne, she must be married.  His nephew, Lord Nicholas (Chris Pine), must therefore become king instead.  Parliament gives Mia one month to marry, and the race is on.  Unfortunately, however, she’s very attracted indeed to the scheming Nicholas.

Based on the bestselling books by author Meg Cabot, the first “Princess Diaries” film was widely successful, so a sequel was not a surprise. Fortunately, director Garry Marshall opted to maintain the G rating of the film by excluding profanities, obscenities, nudity and sexuality (save two references to homosexuality – can’t leave those out).  In one heart-wrenching scene, Mia blesses a group of orphans then gives them her vacation castle in which to live. I cannot help but remember the words of James, who defined “pure and faultless” religion as “looking after orphans and widows in their distress, and keeping oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27).  This film embodies just that.

Julie Andrews does a wonderful job, and we even get to see her sing – something she hasn’t done in years. Unfortunately, her lovely song is ruined by an annoying promotion of Disney’s latest pop-star, Raven, who joins in for a silly duet (note:  there are several of these, including singing maids-in-waiting). Hathaway does a decent job with her role, but too bad it didn’t occur to scriptwriter Gina Wendkos that five years later means five years wiser and five years more poised. The still-bumbling Mia seems like she’s still in high school – or maybe junior high, given the film’s ludicrous “bridal slumber party” complete with guests who are potty-training and getting their braces.

The movie has a very strong moral message about accepting one’s duties, promises and responsibilities, no matter how cumbersome, unexpected or inconvenient. Lord Andrew Jacoby (Callum Blue) insists on marrying Mia, even though she spent the night with Nicholas the night before her wedding to Andrew.

“I gave you my word,” he says, “and I intend to keep it.”

Now that’s a real prince!  It’s also the essence of marital commitment, and I cannot help but cheer when I see such a powerful demonstration of grace. This is what keeps couples together – not the kiss that Mia and Andrew try, only to come away sorely disillusioned because “sparks didn’t fly.” Unfortunately, sparks rarely fly when the baby is projectile vomiting and the mother-in-law has come to live with you. And if they do, it’s more like simmering embers – but only if you work very hard at it. So can we please stop dispensing the romantic myths that lead to bitterness, disillusionment and dashed expectations for young coules? Let’s get real, and teach our children what love really means – which, unfortunately, just may mean avoiding unrealistic, syrupy movies.

Ultimately, my biggest concern with “Princess Diaries 2” is its message that we must follow our feelings, even if they lead us to lust after someone who has been lying and deceiving us while attempting to take away from us the one thing that matters – in Mia’s case, the throne of Genovia. Because, you see, he’s her “true love,” even though they’ve barely had a conversation. No wonder the divorce rate is so high in this country!

My second problem with this movie is its absolutely shameless Americanization of everything European.  I felt like I was in Euro Disney, and the only thing missing was Dumbo.  The sets, including a cardboard European village with plastic geraniums and fake cobblestones (and lots of product placement ads, like Mont Blanc pens) were unbelievably cheesy. Royal protocol was virtually ignored as servants cavorted with royalty and called them by their first names. The European aristocrats acted like spoiled American trailer trash who had never set foot outside this country, much less ruled their own country. And what’s with all the princes who never learned how to dance? I can’t help but wonder if it’s Garry Marshall, not all the terrible American actors, who has never stepped out of the States. 

The sad thing about this movie is that, as a Christian, I’m expected to rave, simply because there isn’t any foul language, sexuality or negative message about God and faith, thus making it acceptable family fare. And, oh yeah, it’s also a fairy tale, which I’m supposed to pander to because it’s “sweet.” But in good conscience, I cannot. Not only does this film dare to remake Europe (and by extension, the rest of the world) in its own image, but it also portrays a well-educated young woman as a blundering child who, though kindhearted and noble, dumps a gracious, refined and honor-bound gentleman for a loser – all because of his oh-so-blue eyes. 

Is this what we’re reduced to, as people of faith?  I think not.  Take the kids to this one, if all that matters is the lack of obvious objectionable content. But if you want them to understand that not everyone in the world speaks English – with an American accent – and eats string cheese, you may need to deprogram them afterwards. And, while you’re at it, be sure to teach them that love, not lust, is the foundation for real fairy tales.

OBJECTIONABLE CONTENT

  • Drugs/Alcohol Content:   Guests make a toast with champagne.
  • Language/Profanity:   One muffled, unintelligible exclamation.
  • Sexual Content/Nudity:  Several kisses, hugging, holding hands. Characters spend the night together but are fully clothed and have no sexual contact. Young woman falls into pond and exits fully wet, with clinging, wet clothes but not revealing. Two overt references to homosexuality: hairdresser is obviously gay and plays on that stereotype, and a reference to a prince having a “boyfriend.”
  • Violence:  Horse rears up then runs away; slapstick physical humor.