The Princess Diaries
Unlike many of Disney's tales, The Princess Diaries is about a reluctant daughter of nobility. For Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway), discovering her estranged and recently deceased father was the heir apparent of a small European country is more of a nightmare than a dream come true. Her free-spirited mother (Caroline Goodall) secretly married the prince, but chose a divorce rather than conforming to the strict protocol of royal life. As Mia is now the only living descendant of the monarchal family, her grandmother (Julie Andrews), the Queen of Genovia, feels it is time she was told about her real identity.
Recognizing the enormous responsibility, Mia fears that even if the slipper fits she can't possibly fill such big shoes. What terrifies the shy and klutzy fifteen-year-old most is not the obligation to run the country, but the prospect of being a public figure. With the promise of time to get used to the idea and the assurance of "princess lessons" from Grandma, Mia agrees to make the decision to accept or reject her birthright at an upcoming ball.
Fortunately the gangly frizzy-haired Mia polishes up really well, but even Grandma's patience is taxed with trying to make a princess out of a personality whose self-esteem has been running on empty, thanks to peers who have been a constant pea under Mia's mattress. Even more draining is Mia's realization that her soaring popularity amongst those same classmates is only skin deep.
The Princess Diaries is a sentimental story with average acting, slapstick antics, and a predictable ending, but manages to do what many other teen films have failed to accomplish by presenting a high school setting in a family appropriate way. With the inclusion of mild name-calling and a few kissing scenes, parents' only real concern will be the depiction of an underage and therefore unlicensed teen driving a car on two occasions and causing an accident.
Although few of us will ever have to choose between being a princess or a pauper, the film does offer insight into facing our fears and the value of true friendship.