The first Princess Diaries movie is among my top 250 favourite movies ever. The thought of a sequel kind of made me worried, because it’s the kind of movie that could actually be ruined, belittled, by a standardised, assembly-line sequel that would somehow highlight all the flaws (and there are plenty) of the original. Neither of these movies are perfect, and they don’t pretend to be. The thing about the first movie that continues to amaze me is how close to the line it gets; its hold on cheesiness is so brittle, that’s why it’d be easy for a sequel to break the spell.
Thankfully, with Garry Marshall in control again, this sequel treads just as close to the line of cheesiness, or maybe even beyond the line, below it, on the flipside inside of it, and though it’s not as good as the first movie (how could it be?), it’s worthy of the name.
If it were any other cast and crew, I’d spew on this movie. But Garry Marshall has this way of polishing a turd. And you just can’t spew on Julie Andrews. Ever. Maybe my favourite scene in PD2 is the one in which she sings. I wasn’t expecting it at all, and it’s as classic a Disney scene as Disney are ever going to produce these days. This movie serves as a fantastic passing of the torch from one generation to the next, and though of course it’d be great to see Julie Andrews in other stuff, it would certainly be no shame for this to be her last appearance. She absolutely shines: regal as the Queen herself, yet also the epitome of the groovy granny.
Anne Hathaway reprises her biggest role with the same spirit I loved in the first movie. She’s still a dead ringer for Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman in places, making even the worst gags somehow forgivable. That’s not just her gift though, it’s what makes Garry Marshall such a lovely director: movies like this, or rather scripts like this, are always chock full of dire jokes, but Marshall’s thing is to push it beyond the bad till it becomes something completely different. It may not be funny, but it least it’s new: and that’s kinda funny somehow.
Heather Matarazzo has the coolest moment in the movie, as long as you follow the entertainment news. As Mia’s (Anne Hathaway) best friend in the movie, she’s shipped over to Genovia to help pick out a husband, and surprises Mia by jumping out of, yup you got it, a closet. Okay I guess you had to be there, lol.
There’s more in this movie that doesn’t work for me than there was in the first, but overall, it was a similar emotional journey – one moment fearing the worst, the next being joyously surprised, and by the end finding my eyes embarrassingly filling up with tears. The addition of the continuing (and resolved) relationship between Julie Andrews and Hector Elizondo is icing on a second helping of this wonderful cake.