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DISNEY

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Garry Marshall
Cast:
Anne Hathaway, Julie Andrews, Hector Elizondo, John Rhys-Davies, Heather Matarazzo, Chris Pine, Callum Blue, Kathleen Marshall, Tom Poston, Joel McCrary
Writing Credits:
Meg Cabot (characters), Gina Wendkos, Shonda Rhimes

Tagline:
You are cordially invited to the royal event of the season.

Synopsis:
Where the smash hit The Princess Diaries ended, the fun begins as Mia (Anne Hathaway) is ready to assume her role as princess of Genovia. But no sooner has she moved into the Royal Palace with her beautiful, wise grandmother Queen Clarisse (Julie Andrews) than she learns her days as a princess are numbered - Mia's got to lose the tiara and immediately take the crown herself. As if getting ready to rule wasn't enough, the stakes for Mia have never been higher - with Genovian law stating that princesses must be married before being crowne, Mia's in for a parade of suitors who'd all like to be her king. In the quest for a groom, comedy and complications rule the day as the cast and filmmakers behind the first film, including director Garry Marshall, return for this hilarious romantic comedy.

Box Office:
Budget
$40 million.
Opening Weekend
$22.956 million on 3472 screens.
Domestic Gross
$94.903 million.

MPAA:
Rated G

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 113 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 12/14/2004

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Garry Marshall and Actor Julie Andrews
• Blooper Reel
• Deleted Scenes
• Music Video
• “Find Your Inner Princess” Personality Quiz
• “Making a Return Engagement” Featurette
• “The PD2 Makeover” Featurette
• Sneak Peeks


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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 8, 2004)

Whenever Garry Marshall puts out a new movie, I always want to like it. This isn’t because I consider him to be a grand filmmaker; of all his flicks, I count only Pretty Woman as a favorite. The others range from mediocre to poor.

Despite that iffy track record, I root for Marshall simply because he comes across a likable guy. He seems so charming and endearing that I can’t help but hope he’ll toss out a quality product every once in a while. In addition, Marshall records some of the best audio commentaries out there. I examine DVDs of Marshall movies just to hear him chat, but it’d be nice to have a flick that works well enough to make me want to know more about it.

Unfortunately, my wait for a good Marshall movie continues. The director released two films in 2004. Raising Helen hit the screens in June, while The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement followed in August. The former essentially tanked, as it grossed a mere $37 million. Princess did much better, however, as it took in $94 million. That wasn’t quite as good as the original flick’s $108 million, but at least it meant Engagement turned a profit.

This probably makes The Princess Diaries: And Baby Makes 3 an inevitability, but I hope not. The first film offered only occasional fun, as it mostly seemed flat and lifeless. The uninspired sequel can’t even live up to those modest goals.

Set five years after the events depicted in the first flick, we now find Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway) - the princess of Genovia - as a recent college graduate. We learn her mother Helen (Caroline Goodall) married one of Mia’s high school teachers, Patrick (Sean O’Bryan), and her pal Lilly (Heather Matarazzo) attends Berkeley as a grad student. Mia’s boyfriend from the first movie is nowhere to be seen; they’re become “good friends” while he tours with his rock band.

After graduation, Mia jets to the tiny European realm of Genovia as she prepares to become queen in the not-too-distant future. Her grandma, Queen Clarisse (Julie Andrews) will step down soon, and Mia will need to take over for her. She heads to Genovia to adapt to the circumstances and also meet herself a prospective “Prince Charming”.

At her 21st birthday celebration, she dances with a slew of single dudes but only ignites a spark with Nicholas (Chris Pine). Unfortunately, circumstances conspire to ensure they don’t spend much time together. At the ball, we also get a hint of a nefarious plot to take the crown from Mia’s as Parliament member Viscount Mabrey (John Rhys-Davies) alludes to a desire to take over control.

Soon we learn more about this. At a meeting of Parliament, Mabrey states his belief that there’s another citizen eligible to take over the throne: his nephew Lord Devereaux. We hear of an obscure law that dictates all queens must be married by the age of 21. No such rule dictates the matrimonial status of potential kings, which agitates Clarisse. Eventually Parliament determines that either Mia gets married in 30 days or she gives up her claim to the throne.

While Mia frets about what she’ll do, we discover more intriguing notions: Lord Devereaux is none other than hunky Nicholas from the birthday ball. Matters complicate when Clarisse invites Nicholas to stay with them so the crew gets to know each other. Despite her earlier connection with Nicholas, she’s not happy to see him, and she reacts poorly to his presence.

Clarisse brings over Lilly to help Mia work on her choice. They decide to pursue Andrew Jacoby, the Duke of Kenilworth (Callum Blue). The pair hit it off fairly well and become engaged within a week. Mabrey is sure that Mia’s unhappy with the circumstances, so he sics Nicholas on her. Nicholas doesn’t seem all that eager to go after the throne; he does so only because Mabrey convinces him Nicholas’s dad wanted it that way. Mabrey instructs Nicholas to woo Mia and make her give up plans to marry Andrew.

The rest of the movie follows a few threads. We see Mia’s romantic conflict and also watch as Clarisse tutors her in the ways of royalty. The queen deals with her own relationship issues, as she maintains an affair with Joe (Hector Elizondo), her chief of security.

Since the first movie was little more than Pretty Woman without the sex, this makes Engagement a rehash of a rehash, I suppose. To its minor credit, the sequel doesn’t explicitly remake its predecessor. At least the setting and scenario create a few differences. Nonetheless, it follows a lot of the same paths. Once again Mia needs to learn how to be a swan, and she also debates which male to pursue.

One difference comes from the latter theme. In the first movie, her choice was easy. She was infatuated with the smug and arrogant boy, and that meant it was inevitable she’d end up with the nice one. Mia doesn’t get such a simple choice here. It seems absolutely inevitable that she’ll end up with Nicholas, but at least the movie makes Andrew a more than viable choice.

Nonetheless, the predictable nature of the story causes it to drag, as does the running time. Marshall never knows how to edit his movies, as they all run too long. He doesn’t need minor cuts, either. Even a strong effort like Pretty Woman could have lost a good 10 or 15 minutes and been a better movie.

Like Princess Diaries, the sequel needs greater restraint, as it runs at least 20 to 25 minutes too long. Marshall pads his flicks with unnecessary subplots and goofy gags. I’m sure he thinks these add to his movies’ life and zest, but they have the opposite effect. They cause the flicks to tire us and lose energy.

Engagement wants to be light, wacky and charming, but instead it indulges in cheap gags and forced sentiment. “Contrived” is probably the best word to describe the movie. It puts the participants in a slew of forced, artificial situations that exist for no reason other than theoretical fun. Too bad that the pleasure remains in the speculative realm, as virtually nothing about the flick manages to delight or entertain.

Instead, one cheesy segment follows another. The characters demonstrate little personality and don’t match up all that closely with their development in the first flick. Doesn’t Mia seem a little too willing to get married? We saw her as a quirky and independent girl in the original movie, but now she’s become little more than a generic Barbie doll.

Engagement features a very nice cast, so it’s too bad it wastes them. Andrews looks tired and bored with the proceedings. Compare her energy and appearance here to the way she comes across during the supplements for the new Mary Poppins. She looks a good decade older in Engagement than she does in the Poppins extras. It seems that her enthusiasm for the 1964 project brings out the best in her, while Engagement just makes her drag.

Other cast members come across as similarly drab. Hathaway has demonstrated some spark and talent, but here she displays little in the way of personality. She looks great and that’s about it. When with Pine, I see no chemistry. The movie tries to replicate a form of classic Howard Hawks banter between the pair, but those scenes plod and fail to come to life.

The same goes for everything about The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement. An absolutely forgettable movie, it never comes across as anything other than pointless Hollywood product.

Footnote: stick through the end credits for a little auditory surprise at the conclusion.


The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Like the transfer for the first flick, this one seemed acceptable but not stellar.

Sharpness usually appeared acceptable. However, mild softness interfered more than a few times. Most of the film appeared distinct and accurate, but too many exceptions occurred. Though I detected no concerns related to jagged edges or moiré effects, some moderate edge enhancement crept through periodically. Print flaws stayed minor for the most part, but they did appear. Some light grain showed up on more than a few occasions – especially during interior shots – and a few speckles and marks also could be seen.

Colors usually appeared warm and natural. The movie featured a pretty natural palette and occasionally favored light pastels that made sense for this kind of project. The DVD mostly replicated the tones with nice vividness and accuracy. A few shots looked a little runny, but not badly so. Black levels came across as reasonably deep and dense, while shadow detail looked clear and appropriately opaque. Much of Engagement looked quite good, which bolstered it to a “B-“. The messier parts came as a disappointment, though, and I was tempted to knock the grade down to “C” territory.

Also acceptable but unspectacular was the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement. Since Engagement wasn’t exactly a slam-bang action piece, I didn’t anticipate much excitement from the soundfield, and the mix met my expectations. The track largely remained oriented toward the front of the spectrum. Up there, the audio showed reasonable stereo imaging for the music, and effects displayed a modest spread across the front speakers. Elements seemed to be fairly well localized and they blended together decently.

As for the surrounds, they stayed quite passive throughout the film. The rear speakers added very mild reinforcement for music and also a little general atmosphere, but that was it, and those elements seemed very restrained. The soundfield appeared fine for this kind of film, but it definitely was quite subdued.

Audio quality seemed good for the most part. Dialogue occasionally betrayed a little edginess, but speech usually came across as natural and warm, and I discerned no concerns related to intelligibility. Effects were clear and accurate, and they showed decent dynamics, though the track certainly won’t heat up your subwoofer. Music sounded distinct and bright and showed good but unexceptional low-end response. Bass was consistently tight and reasonably deep but not very impressive. In the end, the audio of Engagement was perfectly acceptable for this sort of project, but it still seemed fairly bland.

When we go to the supplements for Engagement, we start with an audio commentary from director Garry Marshall and actor Julie Andrews. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. A very anecdotal discussion, not a lot of significant information pops up through this piece. We learn a little about sets and locations, the various performers, deleted material and design issues, but don’t expect a great look at movie-making.

Instead, Marshall and Andrews just shoot the breeze about the flick. Unfortunately, this often means they do little more than narrate the story or name the participants. At least the tone remains genial and fun, as the pair interact well and make this a fairly enjoyable piece. I think I prefer Marshall on his own, however; he’s funnier when he riffs solo, and he also provides a higher level of insight into his work.

After this we locate eight Deleted Scenes. Equipped with introductions from Marshall, the whole package lasts 17 minutes and 21 seconds via the “Play All” function. Given the poor quality of the movie itself, there’s no reason to expect anything good from the cut sequences, right? Correct. Fans will enjoy the excised subplots, but I didn’t find anything interesting here. Marshall gives us background for the scenes and also lets us know why he cut them in his amusing introductions.

In the three-minute and 54-second Blooper Reel, we see the usual goof-ups and silliness. A couple of decent moments appear, such as when we see how they made a baby smile for the wedding scene. Otherwise, it’s just the standard wackiness.

Called “Find Your Inner Princess”, a Personality Quiz forces you to answer some questions about your preferences. For example, it’ll ask if you keep secrets or spill the beans readily. It’s standard stuff that ends up with a generic description of your type at the end, It doesn’t offer much fun.

Called Making a Return Engagement, this featurette runs 15 minutes and 36 seconds. Hosted by actor Raven, we get information from Marshall, Andrews, production designer Albert Brenner, music supervisor Dawn Soler, singers Jesse McCartney and Kelly Clarkson, and actors Anne Hathaway, Hector Elizondo, Larry Miller, Callum Blue, and Chris Pine. They discuss the characters, the sets and locations, getting Andrews to sing again, and general wackiness during the shoot. Clearly intended for the Disney Channel set, this program includes almost no useful information. It spends way too much time with a look at the soundtrack; it even sticks us with an extended look at Raven as she pretends to sing. The show appears largely intended to sell soundtrack CDs. Fans will like some of the behind the scenes shots, but otherwise this is a worthless piece.

For the Music Video, we get “Breakaway” from Kelly Clarkson. The song itself is pretty generic, but the video’s better than average. It attempts an actual story and integrates the requisite movie clips less awkwardly than most. Plus, Clarkson looks surprisingly hot.

The PD2 Makeover featurette lasts 11 minutes and six seconds. Anne Hathaway’s stand-in Anna Curtis goes through all sorts of machinations to spiff up her look. Curtis also chats a little about her life and working on the flick, and we also hear a couple of remarks from Hathaway. Essentially this acts as a little fashion tutorial for teen girls as well as a fantasy look at a glam royal makeover. That seems to be the point of the program. Otherwise, it’s not at all interesting. Curtis is gorgeous already; she wasn’t in need of a makeover.

The disc opens with some ads. We get previews for Bambi, Where the Red Fern Grows, The Young Black Stallion, Mary Poppins, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. These also appear in the Sneak Peeks area with a trailer for Mulan II.

Although the original flick wasn’t better than mediocre, it shines compared to the flat and inane The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement. The sequel enjoys no creativity and substitutes endless cutesy gags and situations for a real story or characters. The DVD presents acceptable but unspectacular picture and audio. The extras range from pretty good to intolerably fluffy. Fans of the first flick with low standards might find something to like here, but I doubt it.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.6363 Stars Number of Votes: 11
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