The Princess Diaries, the Garry Marshall film that put Anne Hathaway on the map, marks the 20th anniversary since its 2001 release.
The gist of the film sees the shy Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway) learning that she’s actually the heir to the throne of Genovia. Imagine living your entire life not knowing that you’re royalty! How her mom, Helen Thermopolis (Caroline Goodall), managed to hide this is beyond me! Everything changes for Mia when her grandmother and Queen of Genovia, Clarisse Renaldi, (Julie Andrews), comes to San Francisco. It’s during this trip when Mia learns the truth. Unfortunately for Mia, she only has a limuted amount of time to either claim the throne or renounce it for all time.
When Mia learns that she is a Genovian princess, it is one of those life-altering experiences. It doesn’t just change who she is but it impacts her friendships at school. Mia crushes on Josh Bryant (Erik von Detten) but he only uses her to his advantage. And then there’s popular cheerleader Lana Thomas (Mandy Moore), who lies to the press about being friends with Mia. As the audience, we know the truth and she’s the real villain here. Look no further than the ice cream scene where the school faculty ignores Lana’s complaining! While Mia still adjusts to this new life of hers, she lets down best friend Lilly Moscovitz (Heather Matarazzo) and doesn’t realize that Lilly’s brother, Michael (Robert Schwartzman), is crushing on her.
Overall, Mia deals with a transformation. She comes around to realizing that being a princess will give her a platform for speaking out. We see a lot of character growth on Mia’s end. She grows from being a shy student to discovering her own voice. It isn’t unlike previous Garry Marshall movies in many ways. There’s also a makeover and Cinderella story going on at the same time. It is very hard to find a makeover sequence that rivals what we see in the film. I still love it! Anyway, this is a live-action Disney film so of course, there is a princess! Most surprisingly, this film is G rather than PG. A G rating is really rare for live-action films! And yet, this film would become a sleeper hit at the box office.
The Princess Diaries has been around for 20 years so I clearly don’t need to explain the plot. Both this film and the sequel are currently streaming on Disney+ so if you haven’t watched yet, I suggest doing so at your soonest convenience. This film is one that resonates with audiences today as much as it did upon release in 2001.
It’s hard to believe that there was once a time when Anne Hathaway wasn’t a star. And yet, thanks to this film, she hits the big time. The Devil Wears Prada and Rachel Getting Married would follow a few years later. However, Hathaway wouldn’t get those opportunities without this film. I mean, there’s also the Oscar hosting gig but we don’t talk about that one. In another universe, Liv Tyler could have gotten the role. I mean, the list of actors under consideration reads like a Hollywood list of who’s who! But still, it’s hard to really imagine anyone else but Hathaway in the role. She is absolutely perfect as Mia. In watching Hathaway, we’re able to buy into this concept of a teenager discovering she’s royalty and going on one heck of a journey.
Screen legend Dame Julie Andrews came out of semi-retirement to do the film. She hadn’t done a feature film in 15 years before signing on. Fans might know the actress for her singing but she isn’t doing any in this film. Funny enough, the film was shot on the same soundstage–Stage 2–as Mary Poppins on Disney’s Burbank lot. The stage has since been renamed for the Disney legend. Just like with Anne Hathaway, you really cannot imagine anyone else in the role.
Garry Marshall may no longer be with us but The Princess Diaries 3 is rumored to be in development. The cast isn’t getting any younger so please get this film off the ground!
To say that both Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews are absolute perfection in The Princess Diaries would not be an understatement.
DIRECTOR: Garry Marshall
SCREENWRITER: Gina Wendkos
CAST: Anne Hathaway, Heather Matarazzo, Héctor Elizondo, Mandy Moore, Caroline Goodall, Robert Schwartzman, Erik von Detten, Sean O’Bryan, Sandra Oh, Kathleen Marshall, and Julie Andrews