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'Princess Diaries 2': A Ball for the Dress-Up Set

By Stephen Hunter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 11, 2004; Page C01

All of us girls loved "Princess Diaries 2: The Royal Engagement," and pay no attention to that fat guy over there with the snarl and the beard. What does he know? He's not a princess.

For here's the secret that both "Princess Diaries" and this sequel understand and that fatso couldn't figure out in a million years: All of us girls are princesses. Our daddies told us so, and these two movies merely validate that which we know to be true. The fat guy, with his stuff about how charmless it was, how slow and how long? Well, he doesn't know a thing. He doesn't speak princess. He speaks fat old man.


Julie Andrews, left, and Anne Hathaway are back for more royal high jinks in "Princess Diaries 2: The Royal Engagement." (Ron Batzdorff - Buena Vista Pictures)


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To be sure, "2" doesn't have quite the mythic splendor of the original. In that one, derived from the deservedly successful novel by Meg Cabot, a young American teenager, played by Anne Hathaway, discovered that she was the rightful heir to the throne of Genovia, a landlocked tiny kingdom in Disney World -- no, no, in Europe, silly. She had to struggle with her princesshood, helped by her magisterial grandmother, Mary Poppins. Oh, that's "princess humor"! It was Julie Andrews, the queen. And who could make a better queen than Miss Andrews? I think nobody!

The movie was brisk and smart, and all the performances were winning.

So now they've made No. 2, and Mr. Smarty-pants tells you there's not enough story in it to fill a shoebox, and that the business where the princess keeps tripping and falling or dropping things has gotten thin, particularly since three years have passed and Hathaway, as Princess Mia Thermopolis, is no longer gangly and gawky but a beautifully poised and polished young woman. He didn't laugh once during the whole movie, but we princesses were in princess heaven. Who are you going to believe, him or a whole theater of princesses?

And he seems to suggest, if I understand him right, that the director, Mr. Garry Marshall, has lost his zip. He believes the movie suffers from a definite zip shortage. Where has all the zip gone? he wails. Well, let me tell you, any movie that features Miss Julie Andrews mattress-surfing down a royal staircase while singing disco has got zip left over! It's got her onstage with a super-talented princess who is hip-hop dancing and Miss Andrews isn't missing a beat!

As for Hathaway, she is regal, human and has a smile that makes others seem like advertisements for tooth decay! Where others hath a way, Anne hath a smile that would melt a vault door and even the hearts of all save the most jaded, twisted, self-infatuated experts on, like, nothing!

I did hear some missed cute Robert Schwartzman, who ended up as Princess Mia's boyfriend at the end of the first movie, and that the substitution of hairdo model Chris Pine wasn't much help. Someone -- it may have been that fat guy -- even said that Pine has the charisma of a terra-cotta Chia Pet doing a Robert Wagner impression. And the plot, extremely mild, about palace intrigue in princess procedure that requires Mia to hook up with a prince or near-prince in 30 days? Oh, all right, maybe it's a little weak to sustain a movie that's two hours long -- yes, two hours. Please, it takes two hours to tell a princess's story. You can't shortchange a princess.

In all, the movie is for all of those who are princesses, and all of those who are lucky enough to be the parents of one, married to one or hanging out with one. So if your princess tells you to see the movie, shut up and get the car. And pay no attention to the fat guy.

Princess Diaries 2: The Royal Engagement (115 minutes, at area theaters) is rated G.


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