Julie Andrews does a Henry Higgins
Arthur J Pais
Julie Andrews, who has been battling a serious throat ailment, is not easily drawn to movie projects that do not enthuse her enough.
But she took up the family-friendly Disney film, The Princess Diaries without worrying about its story and script.
"I was attracted to the project for it gave me the opportunity to work with Gary Marshall," she says, referring to the director's huge hits -- Pretty Woman and Runaway Bride.
And with The Princess Diaries, her faith in Marshall, pays off.
For The Princess Diaries, an old fashioned but pleasantly amusing film, has surpassed Hollywood's expectations. Earning over $ 22 million in its first three days and with $ 33 million expected for the full week, it could become the sleeper hit of the season.
While the film has given a boost to Andrews's career which hasn't seen a hit in more than 15 years, it has also created a star -- 15-year-old Anne Hathway.
The movie revolves around the 'Cinderella' tale of an ordinary teen-age girl who becomes a princess thanks to the persuasion of the original Eliza Doolittle -- Julie Andrews.
In My Fair Lady Andrews played Eliza Doolittle, the guttural lass who is transformed into a princess by Professor Henry Higgins who teaches her to talk and walk like a lady. Andrews was a huge hit on Broadway in My Fair Lady but when the musical became a movie, she was replaced by Audrey Hepburn.
Andrews became a huge Hollywood star thanks to the musical, Sound of Music. For the old-timers who saw Andrews on stage, seeing her play a female Higgins, will be a big nostalgic kick.
Hathway plays Mia -- a girl who leads a listless life in San Francisco. It is listless because that's how Mia wants it to be. But her best friend Lilly (Heather Matarazzo), who is waiting to be enjoy the adult world, knows there are always possibilities for a life filled with fun.
Mia's destiny takes a dramatic turn when her grandmother, Queen Clarisse Renaldi (Andrews), arrives in San Francisco with the news that Mia's long estranged father had royal blood in him and that now that her father is dead, Mia should brace for a new life and challenges.
Director Marshall invests the movie with plenty of gentle humour.
Among the host of the film's interesting characters is Joe (Hector Elizondo) a limo driver and security man. His tango scenes with Clarisse are among the film's highlights.
Elizondo deserves high praise. His work is as engaging as that of Andrews and Hathway even with a smaller role.
An interesting factor is that Marshall tells the story mostly from Mia's point of view -- and he does a decent job of showing why she is reluctant to leave her friends and schoolmates. But the two-hour long could have been easily been edited to be more compact.