Princess Diaries 2
Princess Mia Mignonette Thermopolis Renaldi is back. In The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, the gawky teenager we met in 2001's The Princess Diaries has maintained her royal makeover, graduated from college with a degree in public and international policy, and is gearing up to inherit the throne as queen of the mythical Genovia.
The squealing you hear is the collective delight of the nation's tween population at the return of the popular princess. Truth be told, a few parents might be joining in that high-pitched chorus given that the first installment of The Princess Diaries provided a movie that was actually fun for the whole family, a relatively rare occurrence, and this sequel continues the tradition.
As the title suggests, before Mia (Anne Hathaway) can claim the throne, the little matter of a husband has to be cleared up. In lieu of a more traditional coup, the evil Viscount Mabrey (played with perfect nastiness by John Rhys-Davies) insists Parliament enforce an old Genovian law that states once a would-be-queen turns 21, she must be married to assume the throne. Not so incidentally, would-be-kings don't have the same marriage requirement, and Viscount Mabrey has a nephew with a claim on the throne via distant family ties. Parliament gives Mia 30 days to marry or the nephew, Sir Nicholas Mabrey, will ascend to the throne, ending the long tradition of Renaldi rule of Genovia.
The pressure is on as Mia contemplates potential suitors and a life wed to someone she barely knows. "What kind of person would agree to an arranged marriage?" she asks her Grandmother Clarisse (the ever-marvelous Julie Andrews), only to realize that her grandparents' marriage was arranged. "We grew to be very fond of each other," says the Queen wistfully, looking at a portrait of her deceased husband.
Mia doesn't want fondness; she wants love. But if an arranged marriage is what it will take to continue to her family's reign over Genovia, she reluctantly decides she'll do it. A suitable young man is found, Duke of Kensington Andrew Jacoby, and after a week-long courtship they are engaged. But it's not quite that simple. On the way to the altar Mia unexpectedly falls for her nemesis, Sir Nicholas Mabrey. I say unexpected because Mia is surprised. The audience can see the writing on the wall from their first few moments together.
Will Mia go through with the marriage to Andrew? Is Nicholas in love with Mia or is he scheming to take over the throne? Is love in the air for Queen Clarisse and her devoted head of security, Joseph (a dashing Hector Elizondo)? And above all, will Mia become queen? Inquiring tweens want to know!
It's hard to find fault with the good-natured plot and characters in The Princess Diaries 2, but there are a couple of themes parents might want to think about and discuss with their children after the movie. Mia talks a lot about love and wanting to find it, but the implication of her relationships with her two suitors is that love equals physical chemistry—or, in this G-rated movie, love equals a good kiss. With Bachelor Number One, the kiss is bland and ponderous. With Bachelor Number Two, the proverbial sparks fly. The care and good humor and kindness of Bachelor Number One seem to be moot points without the knee bend-inducing kiss.