The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (review)

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Royalty ain’t what it used to be. “I hope they have string cheese,” intones one aristo at a formal ball at the palace of Genovia, the very same party at which all but one of the “eligible bachelors” of the tiny fictional European monarchy prove they can’t dance worth a damn. It’d be refreshing, this very democratic, very American sendup of the concept of inherited power, obnoxious wealth, and entrenched conservatism, if only it were deliberate. But no: Not only are we meant to be charmed by such displays of nepotism and inbreeding, not only are we meant to feel patriotic for a country that doesn’t even exist, we are meant to appreciate this as an environment in which a spunky young woman can assert her independence and personhood. Of course, if American teen Mia Thermopolis (the excruciating Anne Hathaway: Ella Enchanted) hadn’t totally subsumed her individuality and personality back in the first film, she might have more to work with. Now she’s left with merely insisting that her arranged marriage — required before she can take the throne of Genovia — not be to a completely awful man. Director Garry Marshall continues his reign as Enemy of Women, perpetrator of the likes of Runaway Bride, with his depiction of Mia — theoretically a grown woman, with a university degree in politics and government — as a naivé child; her cavorting with little girls at her bridal shower/slumber party is only one of the film’s low points. But that fits right in with the cheap Euro Disney that is Genovia, with its wide range of fake Continental accents and phony “charming” cobblestoned village streets. I kept expecting to see Goofy wander by. He would at least have lent a sense of elegance.

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