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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Princess Diaries is a 2001 movie in which Anne Hathaway plays an unpopular 15-year-old who discovers that she is a princess in a European kingdom. There is some mild verbal bullying from the popular kids of a high school; the lead character and her friends are called names such as "freak." There is some teen kissing. Mia drives without a license and manages to escape a ticket using tactics that parents might find troubling. During a softball game, a male character is hit in the groin with a softball. Aside from this, the movie offers positive messages about the importance of friendship, popularity, being true to yourself, and caring about others.
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What's the story?
In THE PRINCESS DIARIES, Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway) is a shy 15-year-old who says, "My expectation in life is to be invisible, and I'm good at it." She dreams of kissing high school hunk Josh Bryant, and she'd like to be able to get up in front of the class to speak without going to pieces. Her sympathetic mother, an artist, her best friend Lilly (Heather Matarazzo), and her "baby," a beat-up Mustang she's having repaired, keep her going. Just before her 16th birthday, she gets a visit from her grandmother (Julie Andrews), whom she's never met. An even bigger surprise is the reason for the visit: It turns out that Mia's grandmother is the queen of Genovia and her late father was a prince, so that makes her a princess! Mia will have to get some fast princess lessons to get ready for the ball -- that is, if she decides to accept the job, which she's not so sure about. As she says to her mother, "Just in case I'm not enough of a freak already, let's add a tiara!" Things get worse when Lilly feels deserted, and a couple of very public mistakes make Mia feel that she isn't up to the job. But this would not be a fairy tale if everyone didn't live happily ever after, so somehow everyone's wishes come true.
Is it any good?
This is a great big luscious lollypop of a movie, terrific fun for girls of any age and for their families, too. It might not be of much interest to boys, though Hathaway is gorgeous (the least realistic part of the movie is the highly ineffective attempt to make her look like an ugly duckling), and there are some cool cars and very funny moments. But The Princess Diaries is a wonderful story about growing up, finding ourselves, and taking chances, with lots of great things for families to talk about afterward.
The queen's head of security (Hector Elizondo in another impeccable performance) quotes Eleanor Roosevelt's famous words: "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." And Mia realizes that the important part of being a princess is not what it does for her but what it makes it possible for her to do for others.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about growing up, making choices, and making mistakes, like Mia does in The Princess Diaries. Parents can tell kids about some of their own mistakes and fears when they were Mia's age and what they did to move on from them. They also may want to talk about what teens should consider before deciding to kiss someone and how important it is to be loyal to true friends.
How does this movie address verbal bullying? Does it seem accurate or overblown? Why?
How are themes of friendship, popularity, taking chances, and being true to yourself addressed in this movie?
- In theaters: August 3, 2001
- On DVD or streaming: August 3, 2004
- Cast: Anne Hathaway, Hector Elizondo, Julie Andrews
- Director: Garry Marshall
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Book Characters, Friendship
- Character strengths: Gratitude, Integrity
- Run time: 115 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- Last updated: June 11, 2020
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