The Princess Diaries, starring Anne Hathaway, was released in 2001 and is considered a classic Disney coming-of-age movie. I have heard raving reviews from many people who watched the movie in the 2000s and adored its hilarity and heart; for many it has become an almost essential teen movie to see. Despite hearing of The Princess Diaries’ greatness for many years, I think many people would be a little surprised that I had never seen it. As someone who very much enjoys Disney movies, especially ones from the 2000s era, I had great expectations for it.
The movie centers around a high school girl named Mia Thermopolis, who has unbelievably frizzy brown hair and oval framed glasses. At school, she’s mostly ignored or made fun of by her classmates, except for her best friend Lilly, and Lilly’s older brother Michael.
When Mia’s grandmother, who has been out of touch with Mia and her mother to the point of ignoring them, is in town and wishes to have tea. Mia is skeptical, but agrees. At tea, her grandmother tells her that Mia’s late father was the prince of Genovia, making her a princess; and the sole heir to the Genovian throne. Mia is incredulous. How could someone like her be fit for royalty, much less to run a country? She attends lessons in becoming a princess, but she finds it quite out of place in the regal life. As she does so, she has to deal with her sudden increase in fame at school, her relationship with her friends, but also becomes closer with her grandmother as well, and begins to find a better perspective on herself. At the end, she chooses to accept her place on the throne and finds that she can have courage in herself, and that she shouldn’t have to make herself invisible to fit in with others.
After my watch through the movie, I thought the messages it presented to the audience were super sweet, and how above all it teaches that you should always stay true to yourself; as Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Anne Hatheway crafts quite the relatable character, and I felt she did a fantastic job showing Mia’s personality and quirks. I think almost everyone can see a little bit of themselves in Mia, whether they be under the pressure of responsibilities they aren’t sure how to handle, or trying to let themselves shine in an environment that tries to put them down.
I also loved Julie Andrew’s portrayal of Clarisse Renaldi, queen of Genovia and grandmother to Mia. Instead of being an uppity kind of royal who criticizes and judges her granddaughter, Andrews creates a warm and loving character who quickly learns to love Mia’s quirks and peculiarities. She seems extremely supportive, and even though she acts as the ruling queen of an entire country, as she says, she is Mia’s grandmother first. Julie Andrews did an awesome job in this role, but then again (in my opinion) doesn’t she always?
One of the possible gripes that can be found with the movie is that it makes use of a lot of clichés from other rom-coms and teen movies. From a clumsy yet loveable heroine, to having to be at multiple social obligations at one time, this movie is quite full of unashamed uses of classic clichés. I personally don’t mind them in this movie. I think it further adds to the charm, and it works well even with the clichés. However, for some viewers, having too many clichés can make a movie feel formulaic, and even boring.
The biggest contender of the clichés in the Princess Diaries would have to be the makeover trope. Part of Mia’s journey to become a proper princess is to look like one, and in a couple hours’ time, she is transformed into a beautiful girl with straight hair and perfect features. This cliché has always been a little questionable in my mind. The fact that a makeover is implied to “turn” someone pretty is a little weird to me; it pushes that people have to look a certain way to be beautiful or to attract someone. Although I think this movie is probably one of the better examples of this trope (in that it is done well, and is still endearing), the idea that friendships, relationships, or overall success in life is based on a glow up? It’s a little damaging.
However, despite the general cheesiness and clichés of this movie, I think The Princess Diaries lives up to its reputation as a classic, and is a very sweet, funny movie that also has a good message. I enjoyed watching this movie quite a lot, and it embodies the feel of Disney in the 2000s. The entire movie is incredibly charming. I think my takeaway from this is that I only wish I had seen it sooner.