Ignore the G rating, Garry Marshall’s latest is about as inappropriate (and dishonest) as they come. Despite its San Francisco setting, not a gay man is to be found throughout The Princess Diaries. Mr. Robutusen, the titular princess’s next-door neighbor, may be a soap opera writer and the film’s over-zealous hairstylist may have a penchant for rings, but the characters are strangely desexualized. Not surprisingly, this Whitney Houston-produced film also goes short on the cocaine and marijuana. Surely this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Said camel (Michael Musto of The Village Voice) was fast asleep about halfway through the film’s media screening. There’s probably a special place in hell for cynics like myself, so let The Princess Diaries be my ticket to heaven. Pop singer Mandy Moore gets ice cream thrown on her dress but Heather Matarazzo (here recalling a younger Fairuza Balk) and her mammalian backpack steal every scene they’re in. The film has its flaws: it’s entirely too long, devoid of Andy Dick, ties itself up too quickly, and proves too obviously that teenage girls are need a swift kick in the ass to determine where their true heart lies. Regardless, The Princess Diaries is a sweet and absurd little fairy tale that should play better to its demographic than Marshall’s reprehensible Pretty Woman, that little whore-to-riches tale that made Julia Roberts a princess in her own right. Mia (Anne Hathaway), San Francisco teenager who discovers her queenly roots, is less naïve than Roberts’s hooker so this pill is far easier to swallow, especially when legendary medicine-giver Julie Andrews goes slumming and chows down on a corn dog.
Garry Marshall’s films typically look like shit, and The Princess Diaries is no exception. That said, the director’s dull color palette is splendidly preserved on this two-disc special edition: skin tones are gorgeous, blacks are deep, and Julie Andrews’s rose garden is vivid. As for the Dolby Digital surround track: What with the general unobtrusiveness of the soundtrack and the relatively spare use of sound effects, this is a low-key track. All that matters, I suppose, is that dialogue is crystal clear.
Aside from the full screen version of the film, the first disc includes the serviceable, 24-minute "A New Princess" making-of featurette, eight deleted scenes introduced by predictably creepy Garry Marshall, and two god-awful music videos, Myra’s "Miracle’s Happen" and the edgier but no less prefab Krystal Harris’s "Supergirl." The widescreen edition of the film is included on the second disc, which you can watch with one of two commentary tracks. There’s a scene in the beginning of the film where someone sits on Hathaway while the girl eats lunch in the schoolyard-cum-cafeteria. On Marshall’s commentary, the director reveals that this was his way of evoking the girl’s invisibility. Marshall’s dead-serious literalism suggests that his commentary is either aimed at small children or retards. For any queens in the crowd, just head straight for Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway’s track. Rounding out the second disc is a sneak peek at The Princess Diaries 2: The Royal Engagement, a "Livin’ Like a Princess" interactive feature, a series of outtakes and bloopers, and previews for Ella Enchanted, The Incredibles, the upcoming Mulan and Mary Poppins special edition DVDs, Disney’s W.I.T.C.H. books and Princess Collection DVD series, The Three Musketeers, and Home on the Range.
The Princess Diaries gets the royal treatment on this two-disc DVD edition, which should appeal to queens and Garry Marshall fans alike.