Few directors find as much success in their comfort zone as Garry Marshall. After fashioning a huge hit from the inferior Runaway Bride, Marshall has produced another box-office winner with the worthier The Princess Diaries -- kind of a "Pretty Woman Jr." No, luminous Anne Hathaway does not play a young prostitute trying to make good, but she does have Julia Roberts' toothy grin and gift for acting klutzy, which may be star-making qualities for young Hathaway as well. One of the few live-action movies to garner a G rating, The Princess Diaries has a giddy throwback feel even when it shows its star riding a scooter and features such concepts as virtual homework and the after-school feng shui club. Unable to rely on gross-out jokes -- although Hathaway's reluctant princess does vomit off-screen near the beginning -- Gina Wendkos' adaptation of Meg Cabot's novel rises to the challenge of finding kid-friendly humor that also tickles older funny bones. The supporting cast is a great complement to Hathaway's natural charisma, including the triumphant return of Julie Andrews as a pampered but sympathetic queen, often as charmingly clueless as her granddaughter. Hector Elizondo, who appears in nearly every Marshall film, again provides comic warmth as the queen's chief of security and driver. Certainly aimed at the dizzy fairy tale dreams of young girls -- tea parties were held prior to screenings at Los Angeles' El Capitan theater -- The Princess Diaries follows its formula so efficiently that it offers something for all ages.
by Derek Armstrong review