The Princess Diaries (U)

Review by Alan Ratcliffe

AS PRINCE William has discovered at St Andrews, being a Royal at school or university is as much about evading the media circus as education.

But how would any of us react if the same fate were suddenly thrust upon us?

This is the premise behind Disney's latest film The Princess Diaries, when 15-year-old San Francisco high school misfit Mia (Anne Hathaway) is told she is heir to the throne of the fictional European country of Genovia.

One moment the shy, nervous Mia is confronting her fears of PE and public speaking, and the next she's fighting off the paparazzi while trying to preserve her sense of normality.

Under the tutelage of her grandmother Queen Clarisse (Julie Andrews, in a reprise of her Mary Poppins role), the accident-prone schoolgirl learns to be an elegant Princess.

Director Garry Marshall's credits include Pretty Woman and, indeed, Hathaway's doe-eyed charm is reminiscent of a young Julia Roberts.

As a tale of the problems a young woman faces when maturing into a woman the film works well. Mia, bullied by the `in' crowd, if faced with the dilemma of whether to cash in her new-found fame to be popular or stand by her old friends.

Too often though, The Princess Diaries disappoints. Promising plot strands are left unexplored - in one, a pair of sneering nobles with their eyes on the throne hint that perhaps the death of Mia's father was no accident, but they play no further part in the film.

Characters are underdeveloped too, with flame-haired wannabe magician Jeremiah in particular crying out for a larger role.

Ultimately, the lack of any villain-figure or conflict - both Andrews and mother Helen Goodall are wholesomely supportive of Mia - will leave audiences with a saccharine taste in their mouths.

Teenage fans of the American high school genre may enjoy this one, but adults will almost certainly be left unsatisfied by what The Princess Diaries has to offer.