The Princess Diaries (2001)

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Released 21-Oct-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Family Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Featurette-A New Princess
Deleted Scenes-8 + introduction
Audio Commentary-Garry Marshall (Director)
Audio Commentary-Julie Andrews (Actor) & Anne Hathaway (Actor)
Music Video-Miracles Happen-Myra
Music Video-Supergirl-Krystal Harris
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 110:45 (Case: 115)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (74:29) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Garry Marshall
Studio
Distributor

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Anne Hathaway
Julie Andrews
Hector Elizondo
Heather Matarazzo
Mandy Moore
Caroline Goodall
Robert Schwartzman
Case DV-8
RPI $34.95 Music John Debney


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Italian
Croatian
Slovenian
Italian Audio Commentary
Italian Audio Commentary
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, brief deleted scene

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    You have to like a film which has PA announcements like: "Would the Feng Shui Club please stop rearranging the tables on the lawn?".

    The Princess Diaries is the first Disney film Julie Andrews has made since Mary Poppins - that's a long gap. It's Anne Hathaway's first feature film. I just realised - Julie Andrews made Mary Poppins more than twice as long ago as Anne Hathaway has been alive, but she still looks beautiful, unsurprisingly. She has help in this film - apparently most of her outfits are Armani or Valentino...

    Anne Hathaway (named, as it is repeatedly pointed out, after Shakespeare's wife) is a brilliant discovery - she is able to handle both the dork and the debutante, the elephant and the elegant, the klutz and the crown, and she is the one upon whom the success of this film rests. Someone like Heather Matarazzo could sell the klutz side (see her performance in The Hairy Bird, for example). Many actresses could sell the princess side. But to achieve both in the one film requires a rare combination of skills. Notice little things like the way she bounces in frustration just before she reveals the big secret to her best friend - she's brilliant. Anne Hathaway looks like she's at the beginning of an impressive career - I just hope she has a good agent.

    The story is straightforward enough: a young girl (not quite 16 years old) is abruptly confronted with shocking news. Her father, whom she never met, and who died two months earlier, was crown prince and heir-apparent in a small European country. He died without other issue, making her the heir to the throne, and a princess. This news is conveyed to her by her grandmother (another relative she's never previously met). The young girl is Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway), while the grandmother is Queen Clarisse (Julie Andrews). The woman in between them - Mia's mother, Helen - is played very well by Caroline Goodall.

    Mia is not a beauty - she is a gawky adolescent with a crush on a boy who ignores her; she is clumsy, completely lacking hand-eye coordination and she hates public speaking. Queen Clarisse proposes to present her to the press at a formal ball. Mia is unsure about this, but accepts "princess lessons" - an entertaining transformation process not unlike My Fair Lady. The hair and face makeover is stunning - especially the eyebrow sequence.

    In the wrong hands this film could easily have been a disaster. In the hands of Garry Marshall, it has turned out nicely. It is not a masterpiece, but it is pleasant entertainment. Garry Marshall obviously believes in nepotism: his son was second unit director, his daughter plays Charlotte (the Queen's able assistant), his grandchildren and his wife get cameos, and I'm sure I missed at least one other member of his family. He also believes in working with people he knows. Perhaps the strongest example of this is Hector Elizondo, who has worked on twelve other films Marshall has directed (out of, um, twelve other films he's directed...). Hector Elizondo was the kindly hotel manager ("Barney") in Pretty Woman. Here he is the head of Queen Clarisse's security, who plays chauffeur to Mia for her protection. As in Pretty Woman, he is supportive at the most important moments - typecasting? One of the nicest scenes has him teaching Mia to dance, then dancing with the Queen after Mia leaves - we already knew Julie Andrews could dance, and he dances well, too. There are a number of references to Pretty Woman, including "it happens all the time" said by the same waiter.

    This is a good film; one you can safely watch with children, but without getting bored yourself. You may get whinging from teenagers, but that's merely because they're unwilling to admit that they are enjoying it. The Disney Studios still have some magic.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The picture is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced. As far as I can ascertain, this is the original aspect ratio.

    The image is nice and clear, with just a touch of softness. I was quite impressed with the picture until I compared it with the Region 1 (more about that later). Shadow detail is excellent. There's no low level noise; at the ball I thought saw some noise, but it was actually a sparkly surface to a dark fabric - tricky!

    Colour is excellent. There is no colour bleed, and no oversaturated colours.

    There are next to no film artefacts (there's one tiny one at 48:16 on Caroline Goodall's forehead), which we should expect, given that this is a current film, and the DVD was expected even before the theatrical season. There are tiny traces of aliasing, but they are barely visible. There are no MPEG artefacts and there is no telecine wobble. This is a clean transfer.

    There are five subtitle streams. I only watched the English. The subtitles are accurate, well-timed, and easy to read - you can't ask for more than that.

    The disc is single-sided, in RSDL format. The layer change is at 74:29. It lies in a cut between scenes, where the screen is filled with a starlit sky - you can't see it easily.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are soundtracks in English and Italian; I listened to the English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. There are two commentaries, and I listened to both of them, too.

    The dialogue is easy to understand and enjoy and there are no audio sync problems.

    The score is pleasant enough - John Debney has done a good job. There are quite a few contemporary songs, mostly by female artists.

    The surround speakers are used lightly, but effectively.

    The subwoofer gets the night off.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The menus are animated with music, and have interesting fade sequences, particularly the main menu.

Featurette: A New Princess (24:20)

    This is a slightly more original slant on a making-of featurette. Interesting viewing.

Deleted Scenes with Director's Commentary (17:19)

    Eight deleted scenes, mostly fairly short, but surrounded by lots of commentary from the director, who explains the original intent of the scene, and why it was deleted.

Audio Commentary (director)

    Garry Marshall, in addition to believing in employing his family, loves the sound of his own voice. He is well able to talk non-stop, and does, more or less. He admits the nepotism, even glories in it. This commentary is very informative about a wide range of subjects, including insights into a number of the actors including many of the minor roles. He gleefully points out all the different stunt cats playing Fat Louie (the one which does nothing, the two who can be carried, the one who does a trick...). He is almost exhausting, he is so enthusiastic. Well worth a listen.

Audio Commentary - The Ultimate Tea Party

    Here's an unusual variant on the audio commentary: Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway watching the film, commenting on it, and enjoying high tea in the grandest English tradition. Apart from a word or two through a mouthful of finger sandwich, the commentary is clear, and quite entertaining. These two are clearly enjoying each other's company, and obviously enjoyed working together. Recommended.

Music Video - Miracles Happen by Myra (4:20)

    This is a music video. Nothing special. Includes excerpts from the movie.

Music Video - Supergirl by krystal harris (3:55)

    This is another music video. A little unusual, in that Anne Hathaway participates in it with krystal harris, in addition to the usual excerpts from the movie.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 disc is missing:

    The Region 4 disc is missing:

    The two discs are very similar - the menus are almost the same, and all the extras except for the Disney trailers are present on both discs.

    I was rather impressed with the video on the R4 disc - there's little to complain about - but the R1 is even better. The R1 is razor sharp, and yet still manages to avoid aliasing - impressive. You won't be disappointed by the R4, but the R1 is slightly better, at least on a really big screen. On a screen under 80cm you probably won't be able to pick the difference between them.

Summary

    The Princess Diaries is a pleasant movie, presented well on DVD.

    The video quality is very high.

    The audio quality is very high.

    The extras are excellent.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Friday, April 26, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Vincent C
Jeff K's Australian DVD Info Site - Magalie S
Jeff K's Australian DVD Info Site - Helen K
AllZone4DVD - Kevin S

Comments (Add)
"...whinging from teenagers...because they're unwilling to admit that they are enjoying it." - Dean M (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Children, children... - Anonymous