The Prince and the Surfer

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
The Prince and the Surfer Movie Poster Image
Dude! Remake of Twain story has some iffy humor, no surfing.
  • PG
  • 2004
  • 98 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

This film explores the idea that it doesn't matter who you are on the outside -- it's who you are on the inside that counts most.

Positive Role Models & Representations

While the characters don't veer very far from the simplest of archetypes -- prince, butler, skateboarding Californian teenager -- Cash's father is a single parent doing the best he can to provide a good home for his son.


Some bullying from a rich man who drives a sports car and doesn't like Cash and his skateboarding friends. When Cash and the Prince switch places, this bully shoves the Prince to the ground, causing the Prince to knock his head into a garbage can. The antagonist is hit in the groin area with a golf putter.


Teen kissing and innocent flirtation.


In the main song played in the movie three times, the phrase "retard dance" is in the lyrics. After the antagonist is knocked down after being hit in the groin with a golf putter, a double entendre is made about golf balls. The word "ass" is used once.


Early in the movie, a father and son are sitting down to breakfast. The son drinks from a large soda in which White Castle is prominently featured on the cup. The father drinks from a White Castle coffee mug that is conveniently turned away from him so the logo is easier for the audience to see.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The antagonist is seen smoking a cigar.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Prince and the Surfer is a 1999 modern-day retelling of Mark Twain's "The Prince and the Pauper." Less than two minutes after the actor Jon Voight introduces the film as part of a wholesome, family-oriented attempt to update Mark Twain's stories for modern audiences, the movie's theme song -- played three times during the movie -- talks of how a girl doesn't like the singer's "retard dance." Aside from this, there is some brief violence -- a rich bully has it out for "the surfer," and there's some pushing and shoving between characters. The antagonist of the movie is hit in the groin with a golf putter -- which leads to a double entendre involving golf balls. Also, for the record, aside from a father telling his son about the days when he used to surf, there is very little in the way of actual surfing, as the teens in the movie are always on or near skateboards. Finally, part of their attempt at "modernizing" Twain's novel here is by substituting Twain's narrative voice for the voiceover of a narrator attempting a very stereotypical "Californian" voice peppered with "dude," "totally," etc.

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What's the story?

Cash Canty (Sean Kellman) is an ambitious skateboarding teenager who dreams of escaping his life in a California beach town for bigger and better things. Prince Edward of Gelfland (Sean Kellman) is a teen royal who dreams of having the kinds of freedoms most people his age take for granted. When the Prince travels to America to help negotiate a new trade agreement and save Gelfland from bankruptcy, he hopes to get a taste of life outside of his castle. He gets more than he bargained for when he meets Cash, who has infiltrated the hotel where the Prince is staying after instantly falling in love with the Princess after she sticks her head out of a passing limousine and waves at him. Realizing the two look exactly alike, they agree to switch places: Cash gets to experience wealth and comfort while trying to woo the Princess, and the Prince gets to live like any other teenager. Soon they realize that appearances aren't always what they seem, and must find a way to meet up again and switch back while also trying to help the Queen (Jennifer O'Neill) and Cash's ex-cop father (Timothy Bottoms) as they try and foil Gelfland's wicked minister (Robert Englund) from turning Gelfland into a luxury golf course and resort.

Is it any good?

Lacking the barbed wit of Mark Twain, this movie feels less like the modernization of a classic, and more like just another tepid Hollywood "character switcheroo" movie. As an attempt to modernize Twain's "The Prince and the Pauper," THE PRINCE AND THE SURFER fails at making the story any more accessible for families than if they had simply stuck to the original time, setting, and characters, and not only because "The Surfer" referenced in the title is actually more of a skateboarder. Early in the film, the voiceover of the narrator is delivered in the most stereotypical of Southern Californian accents and slang. Had this actually been funny, it would have been tolerable, but it's really just a sign of the flat humor and predictable action scenes to come.

The actors make the best of what they've been given -- among them, Robert Englund as the wicked minister, Jennifer O'Neill as the Queen, and Vincent Schiavelli as the butler -- but there's simply too much hackneyed character interaction and excruciating attempts at humor to overcome.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about adaptation. What do you see as the challenges involved in taking a classic novel from 1882 and adapting and modernizing the story for contemporary audiences?

  • Where do you think the movie stayed true to the original story, and where do you think the movie changed the story to try and be more "modern?"

  • Who were some of the archetypal characters in the movie, and how was this similar in some respects to folk tales?

Movie details

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