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Royal return engagement.

THE PRINCESS DIARIES 2

Directed by Garry Marshall

Starring: Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews

THE PRINCESS DIARIES 2: ROYAL ENGAGEMENT

A Buena Vista Pictures release of a Walt Disney Pictures presentation of a Brownhouse and Debra Martin Chase production. Produced by Debra Martin Chase, Whitney Houston, Marie Iscovich. Executive producer, Ellen H. Schwartz. Co-producer, David Scharf.

Directed by Garry Marshall. Screenplay, Shonda Rhimes, from a story by Gins Wendkos, Rhimes, based on characters created by Meg Cabot. Camera (Technicolor), Charles Minsky; editor, Bruce Green; music, John Debney; music supervisor, Dawn Soler; production designer, Albert Brenner; art directors, Jack G. Taylor Jr., Adrian Gorton; set decorators, Peg Cummings, Casey C. Hallenbeck; costume designer, Gary Jones; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS/ SDDS), David MacMillan; supervising sound editors. Todd Toon, Adam Kopald; assistant director, Ellen 11. Schwartz; casting, Marcia Rosy, Donna Morong, Gaff Goldberg. Reviewed at Edwards Marq*e 23, Houston, Aug. 9, 2004. MPAA Rating: G. Running time: 113 MIN.
Mia Thermoplis             Anne Hathaway
Queen Clarisse
  Renaldi                  Julie Andrews
Joe                      Hector Elizondo
Viscount Mabrey         John Rhys-Davies
Lilly Moscovitz        Heather Matarazzo
Nicholas Devereaux            Chris Pine
Andrew Jacoby                Callum Blue
Charlotte
  Kutaway              Kathleen Marshall
Lord Palimore                 Tom Poston
Prime Minister Motaz        Joel McCrary
Reporter Elsie               Kim Thomson
Asana                              Raven
Paolo                       Larry Miller
Mia's Mom Helen         Caroline Goodall
Mia's Stepfather
  Patrick                   Sean O'Bryan
Captain Kip Kelly          Mathew Walker
Lady Palimore             Either Donahue
Lord Harmony               Paul Williams


Aimed at femme grade schoolers, young teens and indulgent grandmothers, "The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement" is too blandly insubstantial to expand its appeal beyond its target demographic. Even so, Disney stands a reasonably good chance of generating respectable late-summer B.O. given the surprisingly strong performance of 2001's "The Princess Diaries, a modern-day fairy tale about a gawky San Francisco teen (Anne Hathaway) who discovers she's the granddaughter of a European queen (Julie Andrews). Unimaginatively contrived and slackly paced sequel likely won't match $108 million domestic gross of the sleeper-hit predecessor but could enjoy equally impressive afterlife as homevid product.

With Garry Marshall again in the director's chair and most major players reprising their roles, new pic begins five years after events of the 2001 film. Mia Thermopolis (Hathaway), newly graduated from Princeton with a political science degree, flies off to the tiny principality of Genovia to live with Queen Clarisse (Andrews) and, presumably, assume her duties as princess. Shortly after she arrives at the palace, however, Mia learns that the succession process has accelerated and that she is expected to take the crown in the wake of her grandmother's early retirement.

Unfortunately, there's a catch: Ancient Genovian laws dictate that no unmarried woman may assume the throne. Worse, the crafty Viscount Mabrey (Job n Rhys-Davies) hopes to exploit this technicality by installing his handsome young nephew, Nicholas Devereaux (Chris Pine) as rightful heir to the crown.

Mia has just 30 days to find a suitable husband--and, while she's at it, complete a crash course in queenly decorum--if she wants to fellow her grandmother as ruler of Genovia, a mythical realm where inhabitants speak with a rather distracting variety of American, British and European accents. (Pic was shot entirely in Southern California.)

Working from a flavorless script by Shonda Rhimes, Marshall strives to manufacture low-voltage tension by forcing Mia to choose between two possible Mr. Rights: Andrew Jacoby (Callum Blue), an affable Brit nobleman who's more or a polite companion than an ardent suitor; and Nicholas, a hunky charmer who progresses from sneaky deception to genuine adoration as he continues to pursue Mia even after her engagement to Andrew.

Mindful of target audience's expectations, filmmakers are a tad too eager to stick with the formula that fueled previous pie. Despite her Princeton degree and fab-glam makeover, Mia comes across as scarcely more sophisticated than she was as a dorky teen in first pic. (Instead of a bridal shower, she hosts a slumber party with a toddlers to-teens guest list.) Indeed, frequent scenes featuring wan slapstick suggest Mia actually has gotten even klutzier after turning 21. Hathaway once again demonstrates engaging charisma and a flair for physical comedy, but she's hamstrung by the script whenever she tries to indicate Mia is evolving into adulthood.

Andrews once again radiates class, compassion and worldly wisdom with effortless elan. Better still, she has a few unexpectedly affecting scenes with longtime bodyguard Joe (Hector Elizondo). Devoted fans of Andrews may be pleased to hear her speak/sing a duet with singer/actress Raven on "Your Crowning Glory," a tune hand-tooled for Andrews by composer Larry Grossman and lyricist Lorraine Feather. It's the first time Andrews has sung onscreen in since her ninth-publicized throat surgery (still at the center of a lawsuit).

Among other returnees from first "Princess Diaries," Heathter Matarazzo makes the most vivid impression (with too few scenes, alas) as Lily. Mia's best friend since childhood.

Pine suggests a younger; smarmier Rob Lowe as Nicholas. For some inexplicable reason--bad lighting? excessive makeup?--Rhys-Davies spends most of pic looking like a waxworks figure. Still, he is suit ably animated when it comes to snarling villainy. Other supporting parts range from unremarkable (Tom Poston as a Genovian parliament minister) to acutely grating (Kim Thomson as an aggressively chipper TV reporter). Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee has a fleeting cameo as a wedding guest who's much too fond of the Three Stooges.

Production credits are at best serviceable, with some scenes noteworthy for conspicuously unattractive lensing. Soundtrack abounds in peppy pop tunes by the likes of Pink, Avril Lavigne and Wilson Phillips. Norah Jones provides a dreamy cover of "Love Me Tender" that Marshall effectively uses to complement a slow dance in the moonlight.

Marshall peppers pic with sly allusions to TV sitcoms that employed him as writer, producer and/or director in the 1960s and '70s. Listen closely, and you'll hear references to everything from Lucy Carmichael (Lucille Ball's character Show") to Lenny and Squiggy (from "Laverne & Shirley"). in a similar vein, helmer gives Andrews an in-jokey opportunity to recall "Mary Poppins" when she remarks, "I've done a lot of flying in my time."
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Author:Leydon, Joe
Publication:Variety
Article Type:Movie Review
Date:Aug 16, 2004
Words:1009
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