I don’t know what the people of the world did to deserve two Garry Marshall films in a period of five months back in 1999 (The Other Sister and Runaway Bride), but here we are again: Hot off the heels of Raising Helen comes The Princess Diaries 2: The Royal Engagement, a sequel to the 2001 surprise hit The Princess Diaries about a girl in a gay-less San Francisco who got to eat corn dogs with Julie Andrews and throw ice cream at Mandy Moore’s face. Five years after she discovered she was a princess, college grad Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway) makes her way to the English-speaking country of Genovia, a fairy tale neverland that seemingly consists of one castle and a Chocolat-style town somewhere in its periphery. With her grandmother (Andrews) on the brink of retirement, the newly-single Mia is poised to become queen, but also aiming for the throne is a sleazy Rob Lowe type, Sir Nicholas (Chris Pine), whose uncle’s evil intentions are anticipated by sneaky music cues and the squawking crows over his country estate. Much of the original film’s cast returns for a second go-around, except most—namely Heather Matarazzo’s nutty Lilly—have been lobotomized. Tiresomely plot-driven and unnecessarily drawn out, Royal Engagement is the prim and proper cousin to its comparatively anarchic predecessor. (Surely we could have done without Mia’s epic-length sleepover party, a shameless promotional sequence that allows an African princess played by Disney Channel darling Raven-Symoné to caterwaul with a mattress-surfing Andrews.) Hoary to the core, the film writes itself as soon as Mia goes sneaking around her future kingdom and discovers that the only way she can become queen is if she marries a man within 30 days. Mia seemingly ushers Genovia’s first full-fledged feminist movement, and the story dictates that women shouldn’t have to get married before they become queens. But because Mia’s Happily Ever After is Disney-certified, Royal Engagement suggests that independence means zilch if you don’t have a Tiger Beat cover model sexing you up. That said, the film does boast the most unintentionally funny moment of the year: When Pine’s horned-up Casanova grabs Hathaway and attempts to teach her how to hit a bullseye with her bow and arrow, he says, “Use your mouth as an anchor.” So that’s how you become a queen!
Like the special edition DVD of The Princess Diaries released in August, this Royal Engagement disc looks and sounds great, impressive considering Garry Marshall's banal approach to filmmaking. Skin tones are a little on the warm side and edge enhancement is present in spots, but fans of the film will love the sleek presentation. Offsetting the film's shrill aesthetic is the soundtrack, which is low-key and therefore unobtrusive.
If you stopped listening to the Garry Marshall and Julie Andrews commentary track after the actress tells the "DVD people" in the crowd that "we're going to talk about this lovely movie," please know that Andrews confirms once and for all that she did indeed do her own stunts during the film's infamous mattress surfing scene. Other embarrassments collected here: eight deleted scenes with frightening introductions by the film's director, "Royal Bloopers" (look for the dog on the slide), a "Find Your Inner Princess" game that's a total bummer, a making-of featurette, a "PDS Makeover" hosted by Hathaway's stand-in from the film, Kelly Clarkson's self-absorbed "Breakaway" video, and trailers for other Buena Vista Home Entertainment releases on the way.
If the dog covering its eyes on the DVD cover is any indication, queens weren't the only ones mortified by the Andrews/Raven duet in the film.