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|Kevin Krock, editor|
The Princess Diaries was based on the novel by Meg Cabot, and is the story of a shy San Francisco teenager who suddenly learns she is a real-life princess. Her grandmother (Julie Andrews) is queen of the fictional country of Genovia, and attempts a My Fair Lady transformation of Mia (Anne Hathaway). Much hilarity ensues.
This film, made in 2001, made mucho amounts of money for Disney, made a star of Anne Hathaway, and reintroduced Julie Andrews to a new generation of fans. It's a sweet, kid-friendly film. Not many live-action films these days are rated G, so that is a big plus for the film right off the bat.
For starters, there are two discs in the set. One for the goodies and one for the movie, right? Wrong. One disc per viewing presentations. I am no DVD expert, but it seems like technology has advanced enough to put both versions on one disc. As it stands now, one must play both discs to see all of the extras in the set. I find that pretty annoying.
The fullscreen disc contains 8 deleted scenes introduced by Gary Marshall, A New Princess behind-the-scenes featurette, and two music videos. The deleted scenes are the most interesting aspect of this disc. I love the way Marshall explains how and why they structured the movie in its final form, and why a particular scene had to be cut. He held my children's attention for the whole segment; he never condescends to his young audience but gives a terrific little discourse on film editing.
Disc Two contains the widescreen version of the film, outtakes and bloopers, a featurette entitled Livin' Like a Princess, a sneak peek of Princess Diaries 2: the Royal Engagement, and two commentaries: One with director Gary Marshall, and second with Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway. Both commentaries were interesting. Gary Marshall had no problem filling up every second of audio explaining how each shot was done, tidbits about the actors, chat about his kids and grandchildren in the film, use of the movie soundtrack, and so on. He never stops commenting. As in the deleted scenes extras, Marshall does an amazing job of talking to a young audience on their level, never in a condescending way, and explaining the whole filmmaking process.
The commentary with Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews was recorded as the actresses were served a proper English tea. Some of the commentary focused on what they were eating and drinking, with Andrews making comments about her favorite teas, and identifying particular sandwiches they were being served. I'm not sure how successful that gimmick wasthere are long silences in the audio to cover (I assume) chewing and gulping, and many scenes are passed over in favor of taking another cucumber sandwich. If you are a Julie Andrews fan, as I am, however, you will want to listen to this soundtrack just to hear her off-the-cuff comments about her career, her days with Mary Poppins, her relationship to her fans. ItÕs fascinating.
Anne Hathaway is very well-spoken for a teenager, but she (like most people in her position, I'm sure) is still a bit amazed that she had the good fortune to make her first movie with Andrews, and spends most of the time relating how great it was working with the legendary actress.
The bloopers and outtakes extra is pretty standard; no Julie Andrews falling in a lake or anything. Just actors rolling their eyes, and so on. The Livin' like a Princess featurette is a short explanation about how real princesses lived, using odd cut-out graphics. My kids were wholly uninterested.
The Video, Audio and Interface
The widescreen version of the film is 1.85:1 formatted for 16x9 screens and the fullscreen is 1.33:1 formatted for 4x3 screens. I trust that true aspect ratio aficionados will be able to interpret what level of quality this is; for the rest of us, it looks very sharp and clean. The Dolby Digital surround sound is good for when Mandy Moore is lip-syncing on the beach with no microphone in sight. The interface is pretty easy for kids to navigate. I had to help my 7-year-old find the directorÕs commentary, then find it again to turn it off. Other than that, she was able to work the rest of the features.
The Final Evaluation
The retail price for this special edition is $29.00. Is it worth the price, even if you have the original version? If your children are fans of the movie, I think so. Parents should get their money's worth with the good amount of extras and excellent commentary contained in the set. However, get ready for your kids to ask to see the Princess Diaries 2 soon after viewing the DVD due to the genius release strategy by Disney. That's not such a bad thing, either. As a parent, I'm happy to support good G rated films that I can be comfortable watching with my kids.
Thoughts, questions, or comments about this review? Contact Lisa here.
Lisa is a MousePlanet staff writer who lives in Southern California with her husband and two grade-school daughters.
Kevin Doc Krock is been a long-time animation buff and home theater fan. He's been following the rise of the DVD format in the home market since its introduction, and he hopes to help you make the most of your family's home theater viewing time and video collections.
You can contact Kevin here.
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