DIARY OF A NON-ANIMATED DISNEY PRINCESS @ 1 June 2012 03:36 PM
The recent reissue of both The Princess Diaries: 10th Anniversary Edition and The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement on a new Blu-ray/DVD package may have been due to nothing more than the titles coming up on the "to be Blu-rayed" list. It may only be coincidental that producer Whitney Houston passed not long ago -- or that Princess Mia, in the second film, wields a bow and arrow (suggesting the upcoming Brave), but that's probably reaching.



According the the generous audio commentaries on both discs (recorded several years ago on previous DVD issues), The Princess Diaries book was purchased by Houston's company and brought to Disney. The wisdom of casting Julie Andrews as the Queen (her first Disney film since Mary Poppins) and Garry Marshall (he of the modern-day Pretty Woman fairytale rom-com) cannot be underestimated.

Marshall has a talent for talent -- casting Anne Hathaway while she was still in her late teens and then a movie unknown. Marshall's movies have a stock company that stretches back as far as his days with The Dick Van Dyke Show, not to mention Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy. His commentary on the first film, likely supplemented by copious notes, is a wall-to-wall comic monologue of moviemaking technique.

Julie Andrews, ironically, takes the My Fair Lady Henry Higgins role in transforming awkward Mia into a princess (ironic because she never played the Eliza Doolittle role on film). To me, she's really training Hathaway to be Julie Andrews, since Dame Julie has made a fine art of presenting herself as the gracious magical movie icon that she is. The first film was also shot at what is now the "Julie Andrews Stage" -- Stage 2 on the Disney lot, the same one where Mary Poppins soared.

Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway share a high tea in their previously-released commentary on the first film. It's especially interesting to hear Hathaway's ambivalence to film acting and her reluctance to wear a swimsuit -- little did she know what stardom (and movie love scenes) were ahead for her.

The second film is perhaps not as cohesive as the first, but how can it be -- how do you follow up a Cinderella story? With a courtship and wedding, in this case, with another "newcomer," Chris Pine, as the garden-variety rom-com guy.

Julie Andrews returns with Garry Marshall for the commentary on the second film, also from an earlier issue. Marshall is less meticulous in his spoken details about this film, but no less enthusiastic. Princess Diaries 2 seems more of a pure children's film (not necessarily a negative thing), with more scope than the first in its fictional Genovia setting, an extended "stair slide" sequence and even a song sung by Dame Julie!

Marshall's directing skills and his ability to surround himself with some of the best production people in Hollywood is evident as you savor the fine photography and staging made more clear on Blu-ray. While both films are frothy confections, they're also beautifully rendered and a joy to experience again.

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