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The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement DVD Review

The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement

Theatrical Release: August 11, 2004 / Running Time: 113 Minutes / Rating: G

Director: Garry Marshall

Cast: Anne Hathaway (Mia Thermopolis), Julie Andrews (Queen Clarisse Renaldi), Hector Elizondo (Joe), Heather Matarazzo (Lilly Moscovitz), John Rhys-Davies (Viscount Mabrey), Chris Pine (Nicholas Devereaux), Callum Blue (Andrew Jacoby), Kathleen Marshall (Charlotte Kutaway), Raven (Asana), Caroline Goodall (Mia's Mom Helen), Larry Miller (Paolo), Tom Poston (Lord Palimore), Joel McCrary (Prime Minister Motaz), Kim Thomson (Reporter Elsie), Sean O'Bryan (Mia's Stepfather Patrick), Matthew Walker (Captain Kip Kelly), Spencer Breslin (Prince Jacques), Erik Bragg (Security Guard Lionel)


When Disney released The Princess Diaries in the summer of 2001, audiences approved and the light comedy about a girl who discovers she's royalty grossed over $100 million at the box office. As one of the studio's highest-grossing live action films of recent years and one not based on a true story, it shouldn't be too surprising that a sequel was greenlighted.

And so we get The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagment. Though in the real world just three years passed since the first movie, five years have passed in Mia's world, and she has gone from geeky 15-year-old new princess to recent college grad. As such, she is off to her nation, the fictional country of Genovia.

In Genovia, Mia (Anne Hathaway) settles in as queen-to-be. At first, she's immersed into a regal world with impressive living quarters, her own curtsying maids, and an elaborate wardrobe not unlike a personal shopping mall. But while the film devotes a significant amount of time to Mia reveling in the luxuries of her new status, there are more serious matters afoot.

Enter Viscount Mabrey (John Rhys-Davies), the villain of the picture. Mabrey is not about to allow Mia to become queen because he contests, there is an eligible male heir to the throne, his nephew Nicholas (Chris Pine). Citing the nation's archaic code, Parliament decides that Mia will have to be married in just 30 days or else she will forfeit her royal seat to Nicholas.

With the help of her warm grandmother, the elegant Queen Clarisse (Julie Andrews), Mia scatters to find a suitable husband so as not to end her royal bloodline. Mia may no longer be a geeky 15-year-old, but she's still not quite natural as an authority figure, something the film reinforces repeatedly with lots of clumsy jokes. While still adjusting to her unlikely position, Mia must also face the challenges thrown her way by the conniving Mabrey and his shrewd but charming nephew.

Mia, Clarisse, and Joe travel through a grand Genovia parade. Someone ought to tell John Rhys-Davies that he's in a comedy!

When it begins to look as though things might work out between Mia and the likable British duke Andrew Jacoby (Callum Blue), the film continues to introduce obstacles and complications somewhat reminiscent of the first film. Most predominantly, there plays out a type of love triangle between Mia, Andrew, and Nicholas. The love/hate Mia-Nicholas relationship juggles motives and dominates a good portion of the rather overlong film.

The Queen takes backseat for most of the film, becoming chiefly a maternal advisor to Mia's foreground romance and rise to power. Nonetheless, the film does proceed throughout to figure out just where the Queen stands with her longtime chauffeur and close personal friend Joe (Hector Elizondo).

The Princess Diaries 2 is not quite as bad as it could be, but as with Disney's previous live action sequel The Santa Clause 2, much of the fun was in the revelation and transformation of the first movie. On film, these characters do not feel like they are most suited for further adventures, and this sequel's departure from Meg Cabot's follow-up novels seem uninspired, opting for the marriage requirement plot that we last saw in...The Santa Clause 2.

As a whole, Diaries 2 flirts with complete disappointment but manages to stay somewhat respectable due to the charismatic efforts of the cast and director Garry Marshall. Hathaway's charisma as leading lady and the magnetic screen presence of Julie Andrews carry the film pretty far. That Marshall and most of the original cast does save things from ever getting too bad. While their roles are all rather reduced, the returning cast includes Heather Matarazzo as Mia's best friend Lilly Moscovitz (who is now a grad student at Berkeley) who visits her in Genovia, Caroline Goodall as Mia's mother, Sean O'Bryan as her former teacher and now stepfather, Joel McCrary as Genovia's prime minister, and in another amusing cameo Larry Miller as a proud makeup artist.

Mia needs to find a husband soon, but is the chubby-cheeked charm of Spencer Breslin the answer to her prayers? The high point of one career, the low point of another.

The appealing cast gets away with dialogue and plotting that seems more appopriate for weak made-for-TV movies. Like the first Princess Diaries, the sequel emits a vibe that makes it feel like a Garry Marshall romantic comedy masquerading as a Disney film. That may be even more so this time, as the high school atmosphere is removed by years and thousands of miles (the entire sequel takes place in Genovia), and the film's protagonists are approaching and supposedly embracing adulthood. There's not so much of the humorous tone that worked well last time, but Marshall still brings in some effectively quirky elements like Lionel the awkward security intern. Mia's cat Fat Louie is joined by a poodle equally primed for some animal comic relief; and the two pets are prominently featured on the DVD cover.

The film's most offensive moment comes when Julie Andrews gets to sing...to a hip-hop beat...alongside Raven. Yes, the Disney Channel 'actor/songstress' gets a throwaway part, as does fellow Disney regular Spencer Breslin who is less obtrusive in his even tinier role. More amusing in a bit part is Tom Poston as an old Parliament member.

The Princess Diaries 2 almost feels worth letting off the hook. The cast and director seem to have had a good time making this sequel, and surely there will be some people (mostly females and suckers for romantic comedies) who will receive it with a zest similar to its more favorable predecessor. While I'm not sure there could have been a "good movie" coming out of this situation, that doesn't quite make it acceptable that this is subpar. Some of it is fairly entertaining, but Princess Diaries 2 is far from a great movie. The opportunity it provides to reconnect with some of the original and compelling characters from last time entices, but in execution, the results are less satisfactory than what we might have imagined for Mia, the Queen, Joe, and company.

Buy The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Enagement (Widescreen Edition) from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
(Fullscreen Version Available Separately)
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Closed Captioned
Release Date: December 14, 2004
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
White Keepcase

VIDEO and AUDIO

For the most part, picture quality is as good as you'd expect from an anamorphic widescreen presentation (1.85:1 aspect ratio) of such a recent film. It's not quite perfect; colors seem a bit off at times, with fleshtones taking on a orange-ish tone and there being a very tiny bit of grain. Other than that, it's the video quality is every bit as satisfying as the format allows. (A reformatted fullscreen edition is released separately.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is mostly subdued, not surprising for a romantic comedy. When needed, the score breathes some life with the rear speakers providing ample reinforcement. Dialogue is wonderfully conveyed, as the major audio component.

Director Garry Marshall introduces each deleted scene. In this deleted scene, Mia finds herself in a pear-picking snafu. Chris Pine gets silly in "Royal Bloopers."

BONUS FEATURES

In the Deleted Scenes, you'll find eight sequences fully edited and looking quite presentable. As he did on the original Princess Diaries, director Garry Marshall offers introductions to each scene, explaining what it was and why it was deleted. For the most part, the deleted scenes aren't too bad; they're at least up to the caliber of what's in the film. Some of what's included: a ceremonial pear-picking snafu (more comedy of clumsiness), Anne Hathaway doing her best Audrey Hepburn impression, more discarded puppets (which were also attempted but deleted from the first film), and exposition about the ballroom slide. Of course, even without these, the film was kind of bloated. The deleted scenes are offered in 1.33:1 full frame and Dolby Surround. Altogether, this section runs 17 minutes and 20 seconds, and offers a useful "Play All" option.

"Royal Bloopers" (3:54) houses a few outtakes and some general hijinks featuring the cast and crew on the set.

Next under the heading of Games & Activities is the "Find Your Inner Princess" quiz. You answer a series of multiple choice questions that are thematically related to the film, and then are told what type of princess you are. If this is correct, then you may say that I'm a Dreamer and I'm going to meet some intelligent guy in my Book Club. Hmm.

Next we proceed to Backstage Disney, the real "meat and potatoes" section of any recent Disney DVD. A bit of fluff sneaks in here, but along with the deleted scenes, this section provides the best supplements of the disc.

"Find Your Inner Princess" Quiz. Raven makes for an obnoxious host in an otherwise solid making-of featurette. Anne Hathaway talks about the film in the featurette "Making a Return Engagement."

In "Making a Return Engagement" (15:35), Raven proves to be just as annoying a host as she is a singer and actress. Fortunately, in spite of the obnoxious host selection, this winds up being a fairly solid if standard production featurette. This piece covers some of the normal ground; the cast sing praises of the director and many try their best Garry Marshall impressions. There's a lot of neat on-the-set footage to spice things up, a brief look at how the filmmakers went about creating the nation of Genovia in Burbank. Finally, there is a substantial amount of time devoted to the film's soundtrack which includes Kelly Clarkson, Lindsay Lohan, and Jesse McCartney and yes, Raven.

In "The PD2 Makeover" (11:05), Anne Hathaway's stand-in Anna Curtis gets to indulge in expensive clothes, expensive diamonds, and a make-up session from Ron Ann Frey. There's a bit of reflection from Curtis on her long-present interest in filmmaking as well as what a "stand-in" does, and even some interview snippets from Hathaway herself. But for the most part it's simply a "look at these expensive fashions" featurette, which may do it for some, but not so much for me.

There is the music video for "Breakaway" performed by Kelly Clarkson and occassionally lip-synched by a little girl. The song isn't bad, but the ambitious music video is a little goofy, and in it, the first "American Idol" winner breaks away by attending the Princess Diaries 2 premiere and working the concessions stand too. The music video runs 4 minutes, and it is presented in non-anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1.

"A Julie & Garry Commentary" is the title given to the one audio commentary, in which Julie Andrews and director Gary Marshall reflect on the film. These two charismatic personalities make for an engaging track. They are extremely easy to listen to as they recall deleted scenes and no shortage of filming experiences. It's one of the more enjoyable audio commentaries I've listened to - even hearing Julie once again tell the story about how Marshall lives in the California house she lived in while making Poppins. There are limited blank spaces, as the director and actress talk past the end credits soundbite.

In "The PD2 Makeover", Anne Hathaway's stand-in Anna Curtis gets made-up and over. Kelly Clarkson's "Breakaway" music video. The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement DVD Main Menu

As usual, this film's theatrical trailer is nowhere to be found on this disc; to see previews for its theatrical and DVD release, you'll have to check other Disney DVDs, including the 2-Disc Special Edition of the first Princess Diaries that was released last August in conjunction with the sequel hitting theaters. This disc also contains nothing in the way of DVD-ROM extras, in sharp contrast to the offerings on its predecessor's Special Edition. On the whole, like the film's characteristics, Princess Diaries 2's DVD supplements are not as satisfying as the original's were.

Sneak Peeks at the disc's start are for Bambi, The Hitchhiker's Guide to Galaxy, The Young Black Stallion, Where the Red Fern Grows, and Mary Poppins 40th Anniversary Edition. As usual, the Sneak Peeks menu grants individual access or the ability to play all, and there's also a Mulan II promo here.

The 16x9 menu screens are kind of simple when they settle in. For instance, the Main Menu merely features a sparkling tiara, and not even the film title. But there is an elaborate design and animated introductions and transitions. About the only character from the film you'll find in the menus is one of a minor one, a brief quirky comic relief who adorns the Bonus Features selection screen. The music on the menus seems to be mixed a little too loud in comparison to the rest of the DVD's video content.

Inside the case, the 4-page "DVD Guide" insert opens up to provide an overview of bonus features; the front lists scene selections, and the back promotes a couple of other December Disney DVD releases. There is also a form for Disney's holiday 2004 "Buy 3 Get 1 Free" offer.

Nicholas and Mia get close for a little 'target practice.' Here comes the bride...but to whom is she royally engaged?

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Disney has put together a nice DVD for The Princess Diaries 2, but the film is a lot less appealing than the original Princess Diaries. While it was a modest success at the box office, it's not a very rewatchable sequel and is only saved by generous amounts of charisma from the returning cast and director. Still, only completists and the most passionate of fans of the original film and its characters will probably wish to add this to their Disney DVD collections.

More on the DVD

Related Reviews
Recent Disney Films:
The Princess Diaries: Special Edition
Also Starring Julie Andrews:
Mary Poppins: 40th Anniversary Edition Eloise at the Plaza Eloise at Christmastime
Recent Live Action Disney Films:
The Lizzie McGuire Movie Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen Freaky Friday (2003)

Reviewed December 9, 2004.
200th UltimateDisney.com DVD Review

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