A `Royal' treat to end the summer

Andrews, Hathaway star in `Diaries 2'

August 11, 2004|By Kevin Thomas | Kevin Thomas,LOS ANGELES TIMES

Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement marks a return to Ruritania that arrives just in time to delight adolescent girls - and perhaps their mothers and grandmothers as well - before summer vacation is over. Like its predecessor, it's Hollywood hokum at its most glamorous and effective.

Sequels are always tricky, especially when they're pure make-believe, but old pro director Garry Marshall understands that unabashed fairy tales require solid acting to make them believable. Julie Andrews returns, eternally radiant as Queen Clarisse Renaldi of the tiny principality of Genovia, as does Anne Hathaway as her granddaughter and heir to the throne, Princess Mia. Andrews fans are treated to a surprise: some years after throat surgery rendered her unable to sing she is again easily able to duet with the singer Raven, cast as a pal of Mia's, in the rousing "Your Crowning Glory."

This high-spirited sequel opens with Mia, now a gorgeous 21-year old, graduating from college and heading to Genovia to be groomed for the succession. The loathsome relative materializes in the stalwart form of John Rhys-Davies' Machiavellian Viscount Mabrey, who points out in Parliament that Mia must marry before she can become queen - and also that his nephew Sir Nicholas (Chris Pine) is in line to become king.

Mia, concluding on her own that duty outweighs love, agrees to a match with the dashing Duke of Kenilworth (Callum Blue). At the same time, she can't help but notice that another suitor, the confident Nicholas, is tall, dark and handsome.

Mia's predicament is hardly earth-shaking, but the filmmakers understand that the worldwide fascination with royals seems as enduring as the power of fairy tales.

The strong, engaging presence of Hathaway and Andrews and their obvious rapport sustain a character-heavy plot with too many tiresome running gags - Kim Thomson's ubiquitous TV reporter, for example, swiftly becomes obnoxious instead of amusing. A number of actors from the first film return, most notably Heather Matarazzo as Mia's best friend, Lilly, who adds a welcome dash of vinegar to the proceedings when they threaten to get too sugary.

Princess 2 is packed with elements to appeal to the princess in girls and women of all ages and shrewdly adds a touch of contemporary feminist assertiveness. Mia, swathed in pomp and circumstance, experiences a severe lack of privacy but has some spontaneous and rowdy good times, too. Gary Jones' extensive wardrobe for Andrews and Hathaway is consistently elegant.

Princess Diaries 2, like its predecessor, has been resourcefully crafted to look lavish by veteran production designer Albert Brenner, who has created a romantic fantasy world for a romantic fantasy that's gossamer as cotton candy.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

The Princess Di aries 2

Starring Anne Hathaway, Julie Andrews, Hector Elizondo, John Rhys-Davies, Heather Matarazzo, Chris Pine

Directed by Garry Marshall

Rated G

Released by Walt Disney Pictures

Time 115 minutes

Sun Score **1/2

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