This is a great big luscious lollypop of a movie, terrific fun for girls of any age and for their families, too.
Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway) is a shy 15-year-old who says, “My expectation in life is to be invisible, and I’m good at it.” She dreams of a “foot-popping” kiss from high school hunk Josh Bryant (Erik von Detten) (that’s a kiss so good that it makes your foot pop up) and she would like to be able to get up in front of the class to speak without going to pieces. Her sympathetic mother, an artist, her best friend Lily (Heather Matarazzo), and her “baby,” a beat-up Mustang she is having repaired, keep her going.
Just before her 16th birthday, she gets a visit from her grandmother (Julie Andrews), whom she has never met. An even bigger surprise is the reason for the visit. It turns out that Mia’s grandmother is the queen of Genovia, her late father was the king, and that makes her – a princess! Mia will have to get some fast princess lessons to get ready for the annual ball. That is, if she decides to accept the job, which is not too appealing. As she says to her mother, “Just in case I’m not enough of a freak already, you add a tiara!”
Things get worse when Lily feels deserted and a couple of very public mistakes make Mia feel that she is not up to the job. But this would not be a fairy tale if everyone did not live happily ever after, so somehow everyone’s wishes come true.
This is a terrific movie for any age. It might not be of much interest to boys, though Hathaway is spectacularly gorgeous (the least realistic part of the movie is the highly ineffective attempt to make her look like an ugly duckling), and there are some cool cars and very funny moments. But it is a wonderful story about growing up, finding ourselves, and taking chances, with lots of great things for families to talk about afterwards. The queen’s head of security (Hector Elizondo in another impeccable performance) quotes Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous words, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” And Mia realizes that the important part of being a princess is not what it does for her, but what it makes it possible for her to do for others.
Parents should know that Mia drives without a license and manages to escape a ticket using tactics they might find troubling.
The movie is rated G because it has no profanity, violence, or sexual material, and there is very little to concern parents. But that does not make it a kids-only movie. This is a family movie in the best sense, a movie that the whole family will enjoy. This might be a good time to tell the kids about some of your own mistakes and fears when you were Mia’s age, and what you did to help you move on from them. They may also want to talk about what teens should consider before deciding to kiss someone, and how important it is to be loyal to true friends.
Video/DVD notes: There is no Genovia, but it might have been inspired by Monaco, where an American actress became a real-life princess, the late Grace Kelly. Families will enjoy seeing some of her movies on video, especially “High Society” and To Catch a Thief.