Gown or Crown?
In days of yore, I liked to hum and sing "Someday my prince will come" while cleaning house for my mother. Of course, I was in junior high then -- and still starry-eyed over Hollywood's many Cinderella-like flicks. Will teenage girls of today appreciate The Prince & Me in that same way? If not, I wouldn't blame them.
Yes, this romantic comedy deals with falling in love for the first time. Yes, it features a handsome prince and a hardworking college coed who come from vastly different backgrounds. Yes, there's a fabulous castle, a haughty queen -- and a big coronation ball. And yet, The Prince & Me lacks the movie magic of similarly themed films like Roman Holiday and Kate & Leopold. In fact, some scenes are downright insulting to viewers over the age of ten.
Do the filmmakers really expect us to believe a well-educated Prince of Denmark would think all Wisconsin college girls are wild because of a television program he watched? Or that he would ask one of them to "take off her top" during his first visit to a pub where she works? Or that a delicate butterfly can be held in a person's closed hand without being harmed? (Okay, the last question is a bit nitpicky -- but that incident really bugged me.)
Nevertheless, Luke Mably (28 Days Later) and Julia Stiles (Mona Lisa Smile) manage to project a sweet on-screen chemistry as the prince and his American love interest. Director Martha Coolidge (Valley Girl) explains, "For a film like this, the most important thing is that the chemistry, the energy and excitement between the two people has to be right. Julia and Luke not only look good together, but the electricity is there and it definitely comes across on screen."
Also, I found it easy to accept Stiles as an independent woman longing for a career in medicine who must choose between fulfilling her own goals or becoming a member of Denmark's royal family. As for Mably, his best scenes take place in the Denmark setting -- where he appears every bit the regal heir to the throne. I understand this young British actor underwent weeks of learning the proper way to stand, walk, talk, dress and eat. It paid off.
I have no quibbles about any of the performances in The Prince & Me. Its supporting cast includes reliable James Fox (The Mystic Masseur) and watchable Miranda Richardson (Sleepy Hollow) as the King and Queen of Denmark. Richardson even tries on a convincing Danish accent. Ben Miller (Johnny English), playing the prince's personal secretary, steals every one of his scenes. Miller says he loved the arc his character has, going from the prince's by-the-book butler to his college sidekick. Unfortunately, he's the only one in the film who made me laugh.
My biggest problem with The Prince & Me involves its slow-moving and often silly script. It takes forever getting to the best part of the story -- which is what happens to Stiles' character when she travels to Denmark to be with the prince. And, oh yes, there's that immortal butterfly.
(Released by Paramount Pictures and rated "PG" for sex-related material and language.)