- 2001 (2001) - Disney (Buena Vista)
by Graham Greenlee of The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/B/B
Specs and Features
115 mins, G, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced,
THX-certified, single-sided, RSDL dual layered (layer switch at
1:17:37 in Chapter 19), Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary
with Gary Marshall, The Ultimate Tea
Party audio commentary with Julie Andrews and Anne
Hathaway, A New Princess
behind-the-scenes featurette, 8 deleted scenes with introductions by
Gary Marshall, Myra music video for Miracles
Happen, Krystal Harris music video for
trailers, film-themed menu screens, scene access (28 chapters),
languages: English and French (DD 5.1) subtitles: English and
Spanish, Closed Captioned
if I wasn't enough of a freak already, let's add a tiara!"
Nobody knows schmaltz like Gary Marshall. Terribly sentimental
movies with overtly obvious messages, his films tug on the
heartstrings and force us to eat huge amounts of sugarcoated plot.
But, somehow he's untouchable and he can always get away with it.
And The Princess Diaries, his
story, somehow manages to be hokey and endearing at the same time.
Anne Hathaway is Mia Thermopolis, a gangly, clumsy fifteen year-old
whose only ambition in life is to disappear... which is hard given
her enormously bushy hair (it makes the flashbacks in
My Big Fat Greek Wedding seem
almost pleasant). She's grown up with only her mother, a San
Francisco experimental artist, and she learns that her father (who
she never met) has recently died. When his mother, her grandmother
(Julie Andrews), comes to San Francisco to meet Mia, she reluctantly
agrees. But one thing seems odd; why would her grandmother Clarice
fly all the way from Genovia (a fictional European country) for a
little chat over tea?
Truth is, Clarice is really Queen Clarice of Genovia and she's come
to tell Mia that she's a Royal Princess. What's more, the country
needs a new ruler now that Mia's father who was Prince is dead.
Since Mia is the only member of the bloodline living, she must rule
or the country will fall into the hands of a greedy duchess.
Confused, but wanting to do the right thing, Mia accepts Clarice's "princess
lessons" on the condition that, when she is supposed to be
confirmed, she'll still have the choice not to rule. And thus, with
a boosted confidence, a great makeover and her deadline three weeks
away, Mia must choose between what is right for her and what is
right for everyone.
Okay, it's pretty obvious that the film is... well, pretty obvious.
We know where the characters are going before they get there. We
know what we're supposed to learn before we learn it. And yet, the
film has a quirky charm that somehow manages to save the film from
being mediocre. It's the wacky high school PA announcements "Will
the Fung Shui club please stop moving the tables on the lawn!"
It's Heather Mattarazzo's charming best friend character that
protests to save the whales. It's the welcome presence of Julie
Andrews. And it's the star-in-the-making performance by Anne
I'm sure not every reader will look past the fact that this isn't
groundbreaking cinema, but The Princess
Diaries is a great diversion. Though it's certainly aimed
at 10-13 year old girls, it's entertaining enough for anyone willing
to watch. I give the film a "B" because it fulfills its
duties perfectly. There is rarely a misstep in this comedy that
doesn't rely on flatulence or profanity for laughs. It accomplishes
the very thing that it sets out to do. While this is hardly a deep
film, it's the kind of fluff entertainment that is great, and made
better, by repeated viewing. Who could honestly ask for more than
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 (a full frame
version is also available separately), The
Princess Diaries sports a near-reference quality video
transfer. The colors are bright and vivid without bleeding. Skin
tones are natural. Film grain and artifacting are never noticeable.
With the exception of some visible edge enhancement halos, this is a
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is a little less than impressive,
although this isn't exactly your Jurassic
Park/Star Wars-type film. Dialogue, which makes up the
majority of the track, is always clear and understandable. When the
surrounds are in use, it's for ambient noise and the score, which
includes some teen-pop songs that I'm sure will embarrassingly date
the film in the years to come.
The extras are where The Princess Diaries,
surprisingly, becomes a good DVD. There are not one, but two audio
commentaries. The first is with director Gary Marshall, who is very
much himself for the track. Packed with information and little
tidbits, the commentary is very entertaining: "THEN we went
over HERE, and I had to talk to Julie ANDREWS. And I told her to
STOP doing this. Well, maybe doing it a little was okay, but not too
MUCH..." It's absolutely hilarious - you may want to check out
the film with this commentary before watching the film itself.
The second commentary is a little more... um... sedate. Actors Julie
Andrews and Anne Hathaway sit down to have a traditional English tea
party while watching the film. While they do a lot of back patting,
the track is entertaining in an entirely different way. Though from
completely different generations, Andrews and Hathaway have a great
bond with each other, and it's great to hear both reminisce about
the filmmaking. Hathaway's brain is filled with information on the
technical aspects of the film, as well as the names of all the crew
people. And I thought Andrews held her own ground with her comments
on trying to make her character more sympathetic and how she worked
with the hair and wardrobe people to subliminally let the audience
know that Queen Clarice was slowly loosening up around Mia. And just
learning that Julie Andrews liked Heather Welcome
to the Dollhouse Mattarzzo is enough for me!
A New Princess is a great
little featurette, which is half-EPK and half-insightful
behind-the-scenes documentary. And again, Gary Marshall comes off as
a great presence (and a somewhat unorthodox director). Also included
are eight deleted scenes. The scenes themselves run about a minute
each and all are book-ended by Marshall's comments and feelings on
each scene. A few are actually really good (the ones that flesh out
Robert Schwartzman's character), but were mainly cut for time.
You also get two music videos - somewhat annoying, especially so if
you hate teen-pop (Supergirl
by Krystal Harris and Miracles Happen
by Myra). And there are the expected promo trailers for
Peter Pan in Return to Never Land,
Atlantis: The Lost Empire,
Cinderella II: Dreams Come True,
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves,
Princess of Thieves and
The Shirley Temple Story.
No... Princess Diaries
trailers or TV spots.
The Princess Diaries is a film
for everyone... and yet not everyone will want to see it. Yes, it's
fluff... but it knows it is and just wants to have fun and relish in
the pure "popcorny-ness" that it is. If you aren't
interested yourself, your teen/pre-teen daughter will love this, and
you'll definitely like it's video transfer and audio commentaries.
Good for family viewing.