Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement [2004]

If you're a ten-year-old girl, this sequel to Disney's 2001 hit will completely transfix you. How could it not? Bubbly Mia (Anne Hathaway), the American teenager who in the first film learned she was actually European royalty, finishes college and--whoosh!--heads off to Genovia, where he's given a closet full of fabulous clothes and jewelry in preparation to rule the kingdom under the tutelage of grandmother Julie Andrews. Throw in a horse and a volatile but innocent romantic attraction to the dreamy young stud (Chris Pine) who's also vying for the throne, and you have the kind of stuff that prepubescent girls rhapsodize about at slumber parties. Oh--and there's a slumber party here, too, featuring a bevy of cute, international young princesses mattress-surfing down a giant slide. Resistance is futile. For the rest of us, though, director Garry Marshall has managed to make his Laverne & Shirley days seem positively Shakespearean in comparison. The movie is precious, padded (two hours!), and pandering twaddle; Andrews, in her role as Queen Mother, is even shoehorned into a faux-hip-hop duet with Disney Channel favorite Raven (one of many, many grueling moments intended to sell the soundtrack). Then the film takes a maddening left turn three-quarters of the way into the plot and decides that, despite all the preceding consumption and connubial fantasies to the contrary, it's really about feminine emancipation. But don't worry--what causes you to smack your forehead in frustration will go right over the heads of its hypnotized target market. --Steve Wiecking

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