Let me start by saying that I am a huge Anne Hathaway fan. And so it is that I found THE PRINCESS DIARIES 2: ROYAL ENGAGEMENT all the more irksome for squandering her talents so freely with this piffle. Actually, piffle is overselling it.
The sequel picks up five years after the original left off. Mia (Hathaway), royal princess of the tiny English-speaking country of Genovia is now a college graduate with a degree in diplomacy and political science, the better to rule her agrarian country, famous for its pears and its subjects who bring produce as a tribute to their monarch during royal audiences. The original cast is back, much to their and my chagrin, but this time the action takes place in Genovia with Mia getting to know the country and the palace, which seems to be a life-sized version of Barbies dream house by way of the Ritz Carlton. Once ensconced, the trouble begins, but not with Mias cheery clumsiness and folksy American ways, but rather with an arcane law that forces her to marry within a month or lose her chance to become queen. Naturally, the suitably pedigreed candidate she agrees to wed in an arranged match is a tweedy bland guy, and the rival for her throne is a sulkily good-looking guy who squints. He may be trying to be menacing, or he may be trying to be sexy. I cant tell. Its all painfully obvious where all this is going to go, and it does. Far too slowly, including the predictable tumble into the lily pond.
Hathaway, who does the most glamorous pratfalls in film today, is given little more here to show off that skill than flinging jewelry and chasing a chicken here to show off that skill. Dont ask. Andrews, who is synonymous with class, is back as Mias regent grandmother, but fails to maintain her dignity, though she does keep a stiff upper lip. As for the rest, theyre not worth noticing, much less mentioning. While the first film was squarely aimed at the tweens, this one seems to have chosen the toddler market, hence a series of brightly colored moving objects with no discernable effort made to produce a script that gives any of the brightly colored moving objects reason to be up there. It is vapid, it is stale, and it is padded with bad songs, a lesson in fan etiquette, and a mattress surfing interlude during Mias bridal shower slumber party. It is like nothing so much as a sitcom that jumped the shark several seasons back but, inexplicably, is still hanging on with dreams of one day rising to the level of cliché or even hackneyed. When its not annoying, its cloying, and in both cases is so acutely irritating that one longs for the passive delights of mere tedium.
THE PRINCESS DIARIES II has two virtues. One is a reasonable facsimile of the haunting Byzantine mosaic of Justinian from San Vitale in Ravenna. The other is that this firmly drives a stake through this franchises heart, but not, alas, before sucking the will to live from its hapless audience.