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Wayback Wednesday: The Princess Diaries (2001)

You? Not liking this movie? Shut Up! 

Okay, so here’s the thing. I had such an amazingly fun time hanging out with my friends literally all weekend that when I got home, I went through a kind of social withdrawal. I was overcome by an overwhelming sense of sadness and loneliness. It was like coming down from a high or detoxing but emotionally. I realize that’s kind of intense and a possible overreaction, but let’s be real: In the last couple of years where the once simple act of seeing friends and loved ones has been in a constant state of flux, time spent together means exponentially more now. So, to combat that, I decided that this week’s Wayback needed to be a movie so full of joy, delight, love and laughter that it would be powerful enough to pull me out of my doldrums. It’s a lofty task, one that I think no one but Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews could have pulled off. This is your annual reminder that The Princess Diaries (2001) is fabulous fun and the perfect lighthearted remedy for the blues. 

Credit: / Buena Vista Pictures

Based on Meg Cabot’s series of novels of the same name, The Princess Diaries tells the story of Mia Thermopolis, a shy and awkward 15-year-old girl who discovers that she is the heir to the throne of the small country of Genovia. Instructed by her estranged grandmother, Queen Clarisse, Mia learns how to walk, talk and act like a true princess. In the process she learns more than just good etiquette. She learns what it means to be brave, confident and true to herself. 

I made such a great decision when I chose this movie to cheer myself up. As soon as that old school Disney castle logo lit up the screen I felt a euphoric sense of sweet nostalgia that unleashed a rush of endorphins. Yasss this is just what I needed! I had such a good time enjoying the easy, breezy tenderness of The Princess Diaries. From compassionate teachers like Vice Principal Gupta (SANDRA FREAKING OH!) and Ms.Harbula to supportive staff like Joe and Charlotte, The Princess Diaries is teeming with kindness and joy. I personally find it refreshing that in a movie that could have very easily added in more serious drama, conflict or hostility, director Garry Marshall just decided to make a movie that is a fun time from start to finish. It adds to the overall enjoyment and escapism. Sure, there are some slight antagonists, but they are swiftly and surely taken care of. Say it with me: LANA GOT CONED! LANA GOT CONED! LANA GOT CONED! By the way…Lana, Anna and Fontana? Imagine choosing your friends by the rhyming of your name. I love it. I appreciate this movie so much that I am choosing to take it as a personal attack that Rotten Tomatoes DARES to rate this classic a criminal 49 per cent. Rotten Tomatoes, you are officially barred from ever visiting Genovia. 

After feel-good movies like, Pretty Woman (1990) – check out my review, here – and Runaway Bride (1999) it makes total sense why Marshall was chosen as director. He really was the perfect choice, especially when you consider that this movie is eerily similar to Pretty Woman. I’m just saying, the similarities are there! If they ever decide to make a third movie, and I love that this movie is so beloved and was so successful that rumours of doing so have persisted for the last 18 years, I truly think someone like Kenny Ortega should direct. We’d all be down for a third movie, right? Hello, another chance to visit Genovia? AKA one of the best fictional countries ever and the blueprint for all those fake-sounding countries in Netflix holiday rom-coms? My bags are packed! Let’s make this happen! Speaking of making things happen, can we all agree that the movie made such a mistake in trying to convince us that Josh was the school “hottie” when cutie pie Jeremiah was right there? I have a theory that Jeremiah was supposed to have a larger role but it ended up getting edited down. Let’s bring him back for the third movie as well! 

Though she’s starred in mega blockbusters, art house films and even won an Academy Award, to this day Mia Thermopolis is still Hathaway’s most beloved and iconic role. Hathaway is the definition of irresistible adorable charm, a dorky heroine who we can all relate to and root for. Haven’t we all at one time (especially during those awkward teenage years) been able to relate to feeling unconfident, invisible and like there’s no way anything can change? From the awkward physical comedy to the tonally perfect line reading, Hathaway gives this performance her all. “Me? A princess? Shut up!” is SO ICONIC AND DELIVERED SO REALISTICALLY! What a talent! 

The Princess Diaries would have been a fine movie with different leads, but it’s the dynamic casting of Hathaway and Julie Andrews as Clarisse that makes this movie so lovable. A newcomer and a legend respectively, their fantastic chemistry and portrayal of a very real relationship of estranged relatives from different walks of life that learn to grow, appreciate and love each other is great to watch. They play off each other so well as teacher and student, but also as grandmother and granddaughter. What an absolute treat and I’m sure unexpected surprise for Andrews, who won over the hearts of an entire generation of kids in movies like, Mary Poppins (1964) – check out my review, here – and The Sound of Music (1965) to be introduced to and adored by an entirely new generation decades later. Andrews holds herself with such regality so easily that I have no trouble believing she’s a queen. I mean, she’s the queen of my heart AND a real life Dame after all. In addition to her overall grace and regality, Andrews is so damn brilliant at nailing Clarisse’s subtle (unintentional) shadiness and comedy. I DIE every time she goes, “we don’t schlump, like this!”

The Princess Diaries is utterly fabulous. What else do you expect from a movie produced by the one and only Whitney Houston? I know I’ve spent this entire review listing the multiple ways I love this movie, but I think the overall wish fulfillment is the most endearing quality to me. It’s like, Spy Kids (2001), Sky High (2005) or Hannah Montana: The Movie (2009). Check out my review, here. Growing up, who didn’t want to be a spy, superhero, pop star or princess? I know I did! Finally, let me just say this. Mia and Clarisse are amazing, but I think we all know that Fat Louie is the real queen of this movie. 

Credit: / Buena Vista Pictures

Are you a fan of The Princess Diaries?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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