Julia Stiles exudes intelligence. Luke Mably (in his first major role) possesses charm and poise. Ben Miller nicely dishes up a sense of bemused superiority. James Fox is a tower of dignity. Miranda Richardson has style, intelligence and regal bitchery to spare. Director Martha Coolidge knows just how to pour on the romance with the openness that wears down the viewer’s resistance.
So what’s not to like about The Prince & Me? Well, there’s this amazing screenplay that accomplishes the not-inconsiderable feat of resulting in a painfully overlong film and one that seems to be missing key plot points. That it took four people to accomplish such a script isn’t entirely surprising — no script could get this many cliches into its muddled confines without a committee effort.
Even at that it’s apparently a committee that’s the literary equivalent of a hung jury, since The Prince & Me is forever trying to be different things. The semi-ambiguous ending is a case in point. It’s neither quite bittersweet, nor is it quite a happy ending. It falls between the two possibilities with a dull thud — an indecisive thud at that. That’s not the end of its troubles, though.
Prince Edvard “Eddie” Valdemar Dangaard (Mably) is presented as a young man who’s more than a little tired of getting things his way just because he’s the crown prince of Denmark — and that appears to be the reason he wants to go to America and pose as a regular guy. But the script also has it that he makes this decision because he sees a reality-TV show that promises that Wisconsin college girls will pop their tops at the drop of a hat. (Note to American screenwriters: A great deal of the world isn’t quite as mammary mad as the U.S. Some people have actually seen breasts before — and not just on half-time shows with Janet Jackson.) The scenes leading up to his decision to go to America’s Dairyland are cleverly intercut with scenes of Paige Morgan (Stiles) getting ready to go to the same school — but it’s never more than clever, since there’s nothing even remotely similar about their actions.
It’s ultimately just a flashy method of getting the two of them in the same place at the same time so they can — yep — “meet cute.” And, of course, it’s loathe at first sight — at least as far as Paige is concerned. Eddie just wants to see her with her shirt off. Naturally, this is a temporary development, and it won’t be too long before career-minded Paige has fallen for the “distraction” of the incognito Prince, especially after she takes him home for Thanksgiving and he wins the big riding-lawnmower race. (Yes, I said riding-lawnmower race — a sporting event I confess I’d not previously witnessed. Having corrected this omission in my education, I assure you I now feel very much improved.)
Alas, the course of true love can’t run smoothly or the movie would be over too soon, so we have to have complications to pad things out. Some of it works in an unabashed — and unabashedly dopey — manner. The sequence where Paige follows Eddie to Denmark and — with the help of the crowd — draws his attention to her presence on the sidelines of a royal parade is so stupidly giddy that it’s hard not to respond to it. Most of it, however, just barely gets by on good acting and charming actors (though one might rightly question why Miranda Richardson affects a slight Danish accent and no one else does).
Coolidge’s direction makes it flow smoothly enough (even if her sense of continuity from shot to shot is frequently lacking), but nothing ever makes the movie more than gently charming and fitfully amusing, leaving a final impression of a lot of wasted talent.
– reviewed by Ken Hanke