The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004) — Not quite based on the book

“I look like a moose.”

Lissa’s rating: Huh???

Lissa’s review: Yes, yes, I have a princess obsession. This should not be news to anyone. I love my princesses, and I love my princess movies. And yes, I adored the original Princess Diaries… for a while.

I loved The Princess Diaries enough that I went and read the first book. And I loved that so much I read the next four, and am really getting impatient for number 6 to come out in paperback. Yes, I am a Ph.D. scientist who reads fiction aimed at 12-year-old girls. Shut up.

Seriously, though? The Princess Diaries are amazing reads for girls. The heroine, Amelia Migonette Thermopolis Renaldi (Mia for short) is exactly the sort of girl I would want young girls reading about. She’s quirky, she’s entertaining, she’s witty, and she’s fun, and while yes, she’s a princess, she struggles with issues with parents, friends, body image, academics, and I think in the sixth book, sex. You know, issues kids actually have to face.

And to go off further on a tangent….

At some point, the kids in my youth group said, “Don’t let Ducklet become a band geek.” Well, I’m a band geek and married to a band geek, so I laughed at that and said that’s exactly what I wanted him to be. Their response was “Why?” It’s a good question, and I’ve been asked it before. Why would anyone be proud of being a geek?

Being a geek has certain requirements. You have to be unpopular. You have to often like things that aren’t cool. You have to refuse to do certain things because they’re dumb, even if all the cool kids are doing it. And most of all, you have to be smart enough to realize that if you changed, you could be popular — or at least fit in a heck of a lot better. And yet you stick to your guns and stay who you are anyway, because that’s who you are and you don’t want to be anyone different. In short, being a geek takes a lot of guts. If you survive high school as a geek, that IS something to be proud of, because you’ve got the courage to be who and what you are in the face of public scorn. And yes, that’s a lesson I would like my child — and all children — to learn. Don’t follow mindlessly.

Mia doesn’t follow mindlessly.

Mia is a fantastic role model for young girls (and boys, but what 12-year-old boy is going to read a book with a pink cover?) because she sticks to her convictions. She is decidedly vegetarian, she has political opinions, she has a strong loyalty to her family, she places emphasis on what a person is like and not what they look like… and she also has the capacity to learn. Her stories are focused around that moral fiber, and make her not only a strong female character, but also a likeable one.

That said, where did this movie come from?

The first Princess Diaries was baffling enough to me. I could see the structure of the book. I really could. There were certain similarities. And there were some things that were so profoundly different I was left scratching my head in genuine confusion. Example: in the movies, Mia’s father is dead. Typical Disney. In the books… well, like I said, I’m up to book 6, and not only is he still alive, but he’s an incredibly active and important character. In the books, Mia’s grandmother reminds me a lot more of Ezra from The Emperor’s New Groove than any role ever played by Julie Andrews. And heck — the books take place in New York City, and the movies are set in San Francisco. Basically, they kept the bare bones of the book in the first movie and that was it. (But for the record, the makeover IS in the books.)

But the second? There is absolutely nothing in the books that resembles this movie. N-O-T-H-I-N-G.

That doesn’t mean it’s a good or bad movie. It’s just…

Well, look. I’ve talked about the concept of fanfiction before, especially when I discussed League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. And I write the stuff. (For the record, not all fanfiction is smut.) And that’s sort of what I feel the Princess Diaries 2 is. Fanfiction in movie form. It’s taking a character and putting her in a situation that the author has not written. Heck, in Book 6, Mia is finally reaching tenth grade. Here she’s 21. This is serious fanfiction, with the character of Clarisse Renaldi being written grotesquely out of character. That said, it’s not a bad movie, although it’s far from a great one.

As mentioned, Mia is now 21. Michael Moscovitz, her boyfriend at the end of Princess Diaries, is nowhere to be seen. I did miss the first half hour of the movie, so that might have explained it, but truthfully? This didn’t bother me in the least. I mean, Mia was in her teens in the Princess Diaries. She’s 21 now. Hello, of course it’s perfectly likely she’ll break up with her first boyfriend. Anyway. Mia is now to become queen of Genovia, the tiny fictional country that her grandmother rules. However, Mia is (gasp!) still single, and a single woman cannot rule the country, according to the law. So Mia must find a husband, which she agrees to do.

The plot is utterly predictable. Mia finds husband. Mia meets true love, who is vastly unsuitable for some reason. (In this case it’s because his family wants him to be king.) Mia and true love have playful banter/I hate you/I love you. Mia and true love get together eventually. Sounds boring? Well, it is, but that’s another story. But aside from the boredom factor, the Princess Diaries did something right — it was consistent with its messages.

The Princess Diaries is meant to be a Girl Power flick, yes. And for once, the prince/true love doesn’t save the princess in any way. The princess wins the day by standing on her own two feet. She does have help along the way — in the form of mentors, her best friend, her grandmother, and people who honestly know better. But love doesn’t conquer all, and when Mia is inevitably crowned queen, she’s still a single lady. Additionally, the movie is surprisingly pro-men. The formula would normally dictate that the man Mia agreed to marry be cheating on her or about to beat her or somehow otherwise evil. He’s not. He ends up being a nice guy who genuinely respects and cares for Mia, but also doesn’t feel the spark that should be between married couples. When Mia decides not to enter the arranged marriage at the end, he is just as relieved as she is. I was impressed.

However, I was not impressed with the movie itself.

Great messages aside, this movie was BORING. It wasn’t very funny, it wasn’t very witty, it wasn’t very funny or satirical, it was just BORING. The charm of the first Princess Diaries and the books doesn’t only belong to Mia herself, but the complicated and wacky side characters. I already mentioned the drastic change in Mia’s grandmother, but so many of the other characters become one-note jokes that it takes away the appeal they may have held. Beyond that, the political satire (on an elementary level, true) that was present in the first is just missing its snark in the second, and the jokes fall flat. And finally, the slumber party is just… yeah. There’s some funny bits and some entertaining lines, yes. And the acting doesn’t fall completely flat. It’s just… blah. Blah blah blah blah blah. I can’t even be inspired to say much more about it, really. It’s just not really that interesting.

I don’t think The Princess Diaries 2 is a bad movie, really. It doesn’t talk down to kids or be so stupid as to insult their intelligence. It just lacks anything that makes it fun for an adult to watch. In short, Spawn #2 should see this movie, but Sue should sit it out.

Didja notice?

  • First time I’ve seen Julie Andrews sing in this franchise.
  • Paolo’s pictures – that was actually entertaining.
  • Apparently Martha Washington is Genovian Royalty. Cool!

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