" Princess Diaries" is one of my all-time most favorite movies. I expect one of two reactions from you now. If you’re awful, you’ll roll your eyes or think something like "ugh, one of those girls". If you’re a decent human you’ll be thinking "well duh" or "hell yeah". I have thoughts for the people of both of these reactions.
For starters, I should get something straight. I’m not just a casual fan of "Princess Diaries". It’s not a movie that I see on ABC Family (excuse me, Freeform) every now and then and will watch a bit of. No, no, no, I know this movie.
The summer before I entered third grade, my family moved from Texas to Montana. My mom had the arduous task of driving myself (seven-years-old) and my sister (nine-years-old) over 1,400 miles. This brave woman had a great plan. She set up a TV in the back of our VW van and a VCR so we could watch movies the whole way. My one job was to pick a few VHS tapes. I was seven so I picked some "Winnie the Pooh" movies and probably some "Veggie Tales" films as well. My sister vetoed all of my choices and quickly dug out "Princess Diaries" before we hit the road.
That’s when the marathon began. We watched that movie the entire way to Montana. As soon as we hit the credits we would fast forward to the bonus music video at the end and then we would rewind all the way to the beginning and start again. That’s the kind of fan I am.
You eye-rollers could argue that I only love this silly movie because it’s tied to a fond memory. Does 1,400 miles in a VW van sound like a fond memory to you? The pure joy I find in this movie might be slightly nostalgic, but there’s also a lot to be said for the film itself.
Before I plunge into the details of what makes this movie so great, here is my very condensed list of favorite quotes from the movie.
A very condensed list of best "Princess Diaries" quotes (in no particular order)
- “Will the feng shui club please stop rearranging the lawn furniture.”
- “Wait, wait for me! Not you, I don’t even know you.”
- “Umbrellas up…and that’s enough pear juggling.”
- “This is a non-rioting hearse.”
- “Get off the grass! Gita nese yagot alofit*! Di scendere l’erba*!”
Maybe you didn’t remember any of those quotes. A lot of them are tucked into the film and easily go unnoticed the first time or two you watch it. The script is so cleverly written that there are little lines sprinkled throughout the movie that are pure gold. And the humor is so fun and smart, it’s hard not to enjoy it.
I think the writing has to be especially clever because the plot is pretty silly. An awkward teenage girl finds out she’s actually a princess. It sounds like the synopsis for a terrible Disney Channel Original movie. But instead, it’s the setup for a brilliant Disney movie!
One thing that really makes this movie work is the fact that Mia actually looks like an awkward teenager. So often with stories like this, the "awkward" girl is just wearing glasses or wears her hair up. But Mia has big frizzy hair, bush man eyebrows (eyebrows fit for the child of “Brooke Shields and Groucho Marks”), awful clunky shoes, AND glasses. She looks like the kind of girl who could get accidentally sat on regularly.
And while I’m talking about Mia, I should take a moment to talk about Anne Hathaway. She was 17-years-old in this movie and absolutely stunning. Director Garry Marshall explained that when he chose Anne Hathaway to play Mia, he saw a girl who could be elegant and wasn’t afraid of making a fool of herself. That’s the brilliance of Mia Thermopolis. She can give a beautiful speech about claiming her birthright while soaking wet in a sweatshirt and Docs.
Of course, when in need of elegance, there’s Julie Andrews. She’s a treasure and if you don’t love and admire her, you’re just wrong.
But beyond the wit and women of this movie, there is a lot to be learned. Mia learns a lot of lessons throughout the film, the biggest one probably being what it means to be a leader. In her big speech before the Genovia Independence Day Ball, she makes the realization that being a leader doesn’t mean being the person with all of the answers. She says in her speech, “See if I were Princess of Genovia, then my thoughts and the thoughts of people smarter than me would be much better heard and just maybe those thoughts could be turned into actions.”
One of the “smarter people” Mia refers to is her best friend, Lilly Moscovitz. Too often I see and hear adults assuming that young people don’t care or don’t have any idea what’s going on in the world. I’d like them to meet Lilly Moscovitz. I love Lilly’s passion and interest in the world. She’s a 15-year-old girl who wants to rock the world but has no power to do so, until her best friend is given the chance to make a difference.
And it’s refreshing to watch a movie about young women caring about more things than just boys. Of course, there are boys, because Mia goes to high school and has hormones. But mostly, the movie is about a young girl learning how to be a young woman and dealing with important relationships. There aren’t many movies that focus on the relationship between a girl and her grandmother. And after the precedent this movie set, I don’t know why there aren’t more!
I adore this movie, and I hope you see why. If you were an eye-roller, maybe give the movie a second chance with these things in mind. And if you were a ‘hell yeah’er then HELL YEAH, you get me. "Princess Diaries" is a joyful, clever movie that explores a lot of real life themes of growing up and being a young woman. It appeals to the frizzy-haired freak in all of us and shows us what we can do with a little bit of confidence, some help from friends and family and a fabulous dress.
*I have no idea what languages are used in that scene, but this sounds right to me.