Princess Caraboo (1994)

Genres - Comedy Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Period Film, Sophisticated Comedy  |   Release Date - Sep 16, 1994 (USA)  |   Run Time - 94 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom , United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Derek Armstrong

Given the surplus of strong actors from both sides of the pond, Princess Caraboo should have made more of an impression than it does. Brits Jim Broadbent and Stephen Rea and Americans Kevin Kline and John Lithgow all loaned their considerable talents, but the result is not much more than a light farce in the vein of something like Mrs. Winterbourne. Instead of mistaken identity, Princess Caraboo deals in unknown identity -- which doesn't make it that much more interesting. Phoebe Cates is fine as the maiden fluent in a language unknown to even the most accomplished linguists, who shows no sign of comprehending the languages they do know. She's sweet but ultimately unknowable, which makes it hard to connect with her. Cates is of rather limited appeal to begin with, and she more or less retired from acting following this performance, leaving the breadwinning to her husband (Kline). Michael Austin's direction of the other performers minimizes their appeal as well. Kline gives one of his earliest unfunny performances that rely on funny accents, and Lithgow and Broadbent overdo their bulging eyeballs and angry snarls, respectively. Only Rea, in the role that comes closest to a hero, stays agreeably within himself. Princess Caraboo clearly wanted to be a thinking person's fairytale -- comical yet dignified, something that would remind viewers of The Princess Bride or a similar flight of fancy. But with a dearth of memorable scenes or characters, Austin's film is tepid and indistinct.