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.

Clarisee (Julie Andrews) and Mia (Anne Hathaway) discuss the finer things

Clarisee (Julie Andrews) and Mia (Anne Hathaway) discuss the finer things

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.

Sir Nicholas (Chris Pine) is quite the bow, er, beau

Sir Nicholas (Chris Pine) is quite the bow, er, beau

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!

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Julie Andrews and Hector Elizondo return in their roles

Julie Andrews and Hector Elizondo return in their roles

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.

Relatedly, Bachelor Number Two is a pompous schemer for most of the movie. Yet, this is where the chemistry is and this is the one Mia falls for. It's a classic "good girl falls for bad boy" twist that, when it makes its way out of fairytales and into real life, can cause a lot of heartache. While everyone, including Bachelor Number One, is happy in the end, it's important to evaluate the relationship expectations and values this particular love triangle communicates to its young audience.

The co-stars with director Garry Marshall

The co-stars with director Garry Marshall

On the other hand, The Princess Diaries 2 portrays young people genuinely trying to do the right thing. Mia and Andrew's devotion to institutions higher than themselves brings them to the brink of a marriage neither wants. And the larger message—that you should marry for the right reasons only when you're ready—is one everyone can applaud.

Kids will love The Princess Diaries 2 and parents can let them watch with little concern. And perhaps the most important thing for adults to keep in mind while watching the movie is that it's a fairy tale—complete with a castle, amazing clothes, gorgeous jewelry, and servants. Through this rubric, the proliferation of one-note performances seem less hokey and the silly jokes and slapstick comedy induce genuine laughter. And after all, in fairy tales, sometimes the kiss does make all the difference.

Talk About It

Discussion starters
  1. Do you think Mia made the right decision about getting married? Why?

  2. Do you think it was a fair law that stated a woman had to be married to rule Genovia while a male ruler could remain single? Why?

  3. Which of Mia's suitors did you like better? Why?

The Family Corner

For parents to consider

A few kisses are as racy as this G-rated flick gets. Feel free to take the whole family.

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What Other Critics Are Saying

In his review of The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, Roger Ebert asks director Garry Marshall, "Did you deliberately assemble this movie from off-the-shelf parts or did it just happen that way? The film is like an homage to the clichés and obligatory stereotypes of its genre. For someone like Marshall, it must have been like playing the scales."

Similarly distressed, Christian film critic Phil Boatwright (CBN), a champion of family-friendly movies, rants: "Directed with all the subtlety of Dr. Frankenstein … Marshall steals bits and pieces from every entry in the Cinderella genre, including his own attempts. Sadly, the resulting cannibalization leaves us with a lifeless, nearly witless movie."

Boatwright criticizes the cast for having "no energy" and says the characters' comical antics "just aren't funny. The slapstick gags are clumsier than the lead character, the story in desperate need of a rewrite and the lead actress as blah as Milk of Magnesia."

What else is wrong with the movie? According to Boatwright, the sets, the cinematography, and the direction.

And yet, Christian cultural commentator Ted Baehr (Movieguide) gives the film higher ratings than any other film currently playing. Baehr raves, "This virtuous movie is more than delightful. [It's] irresistible."

Who's right?

The Princess Diaries, adapted by Gina Wendkos and Shonda Rhimes from a novel by Meg Cabot, charmed mothers and daughters and a few film critics as well. The sequel, concocted just for the screen without the involvement of the original author, is being received more like an ugly stepsister than a princess. I'd summarize the plot for you, but, to quote Ebert once again: "There's no need for me to spoil the plot … it spoils itself. If I were to describe the characters, you could instantly tell me what happens in the movie." It's as predictable as any princess-falls-for-bad-boy tale.

Most critics lean toward Boatwright's opinion, finding this Royal Engagement quite resistible.

Listen to Annabelle Robertson (Crosswalk): "The sad thing about this movie is that, as a Christian, I'm expected to rave, simply because there isn't any foul language, sexuality, or negative message about God and faith, thus making it acceptable family fare. But in good conscience, I cannot."

She goes on to list her concerns with the film. Her greatest complaint is "its message that we must follow our feelings, even if they lead us to lust after someone who has been lying and deceiving us. No wonder the divorce rate is so high in this country!"

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Problem number two: "Its absolutely shameless Americanization of everything European."

Robertson does praise Julie Andrews's singing, but says even that song is ruined by "an annoying promotion of Disney's latest pop star, Raven, who joins in for a silly duet."

She also reprimands the screenwriter's characterization of the princess: "The still-bumbling Mia seems like she's still in high school."

Christopher Lyon (Plugged In) says the film is "several steps less charming and funny than the first film. You get the sense while watching some of his films that [Marshall is] kind of making things up as he goes along, inserting scenes and dialogue as if brainstormed on the set. The resulting clumsy plot, trudging pace and sluggish performances suggest a movie that should be on the Disney Channel instead of at the megaplex."

"This time around, the derivative humor is spread thin and much more forced," says David DiCerto (Catholic News Service). "The film also lacks the freshness of the first installment, a common malady among sequels. Pre-pubescent princess-wannabes will undoubtedly find the Cinderella-like ball gowns and tiaras enchanting, but older viewers may find themselves pulling a Sleeping Beauty for much of the film."

Lacey Mical Callahan (Christian Spotlight)—who thinks this movie is "better than the first" and concludes her review with the words "More, please!"—is nonetheless dismayed by "a feminist message in the conclusion of the film" and "the idea that physical attraction and chemistry are the foundation for a good relationship."

Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) says the movie "takes a safe route, finding laughs through exaggerated characters and slapstick actions which come from nowhere. There's little consistency in the characterization and little attempt made to give Genovia a character or heritage of its own."

Lisa Ann Cockrel (Christianity Today Movies) acknowledges some of these complaints and sums it up as a "good girl falls for bad boy" plot that, when it takes place in reality, "can cause a lot of heartache. It's important to evaluate the relationship expectations and values this particular love triangle communicates to its young audience." But Cockrel ends up recommending the film anyway: "The larger message—that you should marry for the right reasons only when you're ready—is one everyone can applaud."

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About 70 percent of mainstream media critics reject The Princess Diaries 2 as an obvious attempt to cash in on the sure-to-sell clichés of princes, princesses, and fairy-tale platitudes.

Joining the chorus of Christian film critics bored by The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, Andrew Coffin (World) says it "gives off very mixed messages (some of them positive), but it still contains the usual insipidly modern themes: being a princess means believing that one is a princess (try that one at home!) and that duty, responsibility, tradition, etc. all play second fiddle to following one's heart."

Princess Diaries 2
Our Rating
3 Stars - Good
Average Rating
(not rated yet)ADD YOURSHelp
Mpaa Rating
Directed By
Garry Marshall
Run Time
1 hour 53 minutes
Anne Hathaway, Callum Blue, Julie Andrews
Theatre Release
August 11, 2004 by Disney
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