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The Prince & Me (Widescreen)
Special Collector's Edition

review by Zach B.

 

 

MPAA Rating: PG (For Some Sex-Related Material and Language)

Running Time: 110 minutes

Starring: Julia Stiles, Luke Mably, Ben Miller, James Fox and Miranda Richardson

Screenplay by: Jack Amiel & Michael Begler and Katherine Fugate
Story by: Mark Amin and Katherine Fugate

Directed by: Martha Coolidge

 

Studio: Paramount

Retail Price: $29.99

Features: Audio Commentary with Director Martha Coolidge, The Lawnmower Race of "The Prince & Me," The Look of "The Prince & Me," Inside the Fairy Tale: "The Prince & Me," Deleted/Extended Scenes, Gag Reel, Theatrical Trailer

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection (15 Scenes)

Released: August 10th, 2004

 

 

Paige Morgan (Julia Stiles) is a smart, down-to-earth and driven pre-med student at the University Of Wisconsin with hopes of becoming a doctor. With things going her way and where she is, it would seem pretty unlikely that the Prince of Denmark would cross her path and maybe make her go off-course, but that's exactly what happens. Prince Edward (Luke Mably) is fed up with the life he is in and his lack of freedom. Yearning to escape it all (and after being inspired after seeing a "Girl Gone Wild"-esque commercial), he enrolls at the University Of Wisconsin (in disguise of course - he doesn't need the attention) in hopes of finding some freedom and a different part of himself.

But as fate would have it, he and Paige become lab partners (and co-workers too). The two don't get along at first and love to bicker, but the sparks are definitely there and do fly - and a new found love is soon born. Still, each has very different but still very important goals and dreams to accomplish. Will Paige give up her longtime dream of becoming a doctor to be with "Eddie"? Will the Prince end up leaving the throne and abandon the expectations of his family? Or is there even some future for the two, even if they must merge and compromise their dreams? Of course, it's yet another sweet-natured, romantic fairy tale that seems-like-it-could-happen-to-anyone brought to life on screen in "The Prince & Me."

It may seem like a standard two-different-world romance, but "The Prince & Me" has a lot more going for it than the average moviegoer would probably expect. For one thing, this is a pretty clean affair making this decent family viewing - it's pretty rare these days to have a PG-rated film that isn't animated, doesn't talk down to its older audience but still is pretty kid-friendly and has a romance that isn't purely physical (parents be warned though: early in the film there is talk of sleeping with a forty-five year-old man, plenty of alcoholic drinks and blunt references to topless girls). This is a movie that may be designed to appeal to the wee ones, but it is most certainly a family film.

What really is most admirable about the movie though is how its focus is purely on the relationship between Paige and Eddie, as well as their own destinies. This is certainly a well-developed romance, even if we as an audience knows exactly how it is going to be played out. Even if there is chemistry, the characters don't exactly realize that it is love at first sight and the film spends a great amount of time letting the audience get to know the characters individually, but also let Paige and Eddie feel each other out. There are too many movies out there - love stories even - where the characters meet once and all of sudden things blossom perfectly. I don't exactly consider that realistic, and I think it hinders things as well. This is a movie where the characters take the time to see through each other's perspectives, and we really get to see them grow and develop not only as one relationship, but different people as well.

Another thing I really liked about the movie is the questions it puts forth about the risks and sacrifices we have to follow our dreams, and how our lives can change so fast when we least expect them to. Paige is a character who has no time for romance, and certainly isn't thinking about it - so Eddie's entrance into her world is unexpected. Eddie learns many important characteristics from Paige and puts them forth in his own life, but most of all he learns respect and humility. The film makes us think about our own responsibilities, and what we ultimately have to sacrifice for true love - and whether it is worth it or not. Such important decisions can be demanding and crushing, even if they have their benefits - because when it comes down to it, we all need to be our own person. The film's point is clear though: love can change us all quite drastically, and usually for the better.

Certainly adding credibility to this are the two actors portraying Paige and Eddie - Julia Stiles and Luke Mably. The two really do have great chemistry together and are certainly believable as a pair, but each actor gets to shine on his and her own. Stiles, who truly is a great actress, is a perfect fit for Paige. Stiles channels the more-than-organized and overly ambitious Paige so easily and in a nonchalant manner. Stiles gradually breaks down her stone wall and lets Eddie into her life - and she does it just so perfectly. We see Stiles become exasperated by love, ponder her life and put the character's best qualities to fine use. Mably is equally as winning as the cocky prince who learns more than he expected about himself, and who also goes for a different transformation. Mably is sly and quite charming. Simply put, each actor nicely conveys the emotions that go with someone out of the blue touching and ultimately changing your life. On the supporting side, Ben Miller is quite good as Eddie's servant/assistant, and Miranda Richardson has a few scenes as Eddie's cold-at-first-but-warms-up mother.

Even though the film clocks in at nearly two hours, director Martha Coolidge has made a pretty lean film. She doesn't waste any time at all, and does an excellent job contrasting their two different worlds and similarities. The film is essentially divided into three parts: Paige and Eddie's iciness for one another, their budding romance and finally what their respective destinies hold for them and how they try to make things work to be together. Coolidge spends just enough time on each part, and she's not afraid to pack on symbolic imagery (the butterfly spreading its wings in glorious freedom!) or use motifs (the Shakespeare/King Lear thing does symbolize several things after all). Even though this is a fairy tale, she wisely grounds a lot of it in reality - and most certianly the characters.

With a movie like this though, some leaps of faith are required. I suppose the royal family has connections to get Eddie into college so quickly (or without even having him apply), and that they would only send along one person to look after him (nobody scouting the perimeters in secret even) - this man is supposed to be a future king and all. There's also the papparazzi going to extreme lengths to find their prey (which is never explained exactly, but doesn't really need to I suppose) and when something very important happens to Paige... I find it really odd that she doesn't even call home to tell her family the news. Hell, I find it really odd that she doesn't even call her parents right before she makes a big leap which leads to that very important event.

While even though the film has its charms and does so much right, I couldn't help but feel it's ultimately bland. Even though there's a lot to appreciate and like about the movie, the film doesn't really set out to do anything new or break any new ground whatsoever. There's nothing wrong with re-tread of similar stories - and certainly they provide a good escape - but the problem is that when you've seen one of these type of stories, you've seen them all. Not helping things either is the ending - it's what you'd expect, but in my opinion, it feels a bit underdeveloped, somewhat anti-climatic and rather underplayed.

"The Prince & Me" is romantic and has its share of drama and big speeches, but lacks excitement. The movie is probably not as dreadful as you might think, but if you're going in expecting a fun and fresh romance - then don't count on it. Still, I can't fault it for doing a lot of it right - things that I find to be pretty rare in the movies these days. The film's two main characters are always central to the story, and the story poses a lot of the right questions audience members can relate to in some way. If you're looking for a sweet love story to watch which is suitable for about anybody, then the film is definitely worth checking out.

 

Available in separate widescreen and full screen versions, the former release of "The Prince & Me" is presented in anamorphic widescreen with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. This is a great transfer that is sharp and captures the movie's striking, even contrasting looks - from the somewhat plain atmosphere of the University Of Wisconsin to the streets and royal locations of Denmark. The color scheme is pretty vibrant (even if contrast is a little bit high), with rich, well-saturated colors and fine-looking fleshtones. Detail is more than adequate and there is no edge enhancement either. However, there is some noise, edge halos and the print used has some blemishes and dirt pieces - but other than that it's really hard to find anything else wrong with the overall image quality.

 

Presented with an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track, the events of the film don't call for anything bombastic making the 5.1 track less than outstanding. Still, it's nothing bad at all. Dialogue is very clear and placed firmly, while the music sounds quite good through the channels - be it the songs you'd expect or Jennie's Muskett's rather light score. There is also a good use of surrounds - the more royal events definitely put you in a position as if you're there, the wedding at the start of the movie, the subtlety of a rainstorm, Eddie's drag race in the first few minutes, the subsequent lawnmower race and more come to life with the rears with a bit of power. Fidelity is pretty good as is the dynamic range, and the subwoofer even gets to get used a bit here and there. Perfectly on par given the movie's sound material. A French Dolby Digital 5.1 track and English Dolby Surround track are on the DVD as well, plus subtitles in English and Spanish and English closed captions.

 

One of the more packed releases from Paramount as of late (it's even one of their Special Collector's Editions), the film wasn't a royal smash but there is quite a bit to go into when it comes to the making of the film. Starting things off is an Audio Commentary with Director Martha Coolidge. Coolidge is one of the more noted female directors out there today who has had a long career (and has made some great movies). Despite a few silent spots here and there, Coolidge is on the ball here - she takes being a director and the movie quite seriously. Coolidge touches on all aspects of the production, goes into great depth with the story arc and characters and has good stories to share with her audience. But what I liked most about this track is Coolidge's discussion of approaching a film as a director and what she tries to entail (as far as setting the mood and tone, she does a great job). She definitely comes across as very insightful, intelligent and as a director with a vision - it seems she knows what she wants most - if not all - the time. I don't see many of the film's younger fans hearing her out, but if you are old enough to appreciate a good commentary (and pending if you liked the film), then do give this a listen.

A trio of featurettes are also included. The Lawnmower Race of The Prince & Me runs nearly seven minutes and focuses on one of the film's sequences. With a lot of behind-the-scenes footage and film clips, director Martha Coolidge explains the importance of the scene and introduces how it was accomplished. From there, we hear from "lawn tractor race coordinator" Ian McClintock who explains the more technical details of setting things up, and we also hear from actor Zachary Knighton and executive producer Cami Winikoff about the challenges and thrill of it all (editor Steven Cohen also chimes in about editing the scenes). This is a pretty fun featurette - we see how the scene was put together, but it's full of some interesting tidbits on such an obscure topic. Honestly, who knew there was an association from lawn mower racing? Someone forgot to tell me years ago.

The Look of The Prince & Me lasts about fourteen-and-a-half minutes and focuses on the production and technical design of the film. Naturally, the filmmakers wanted a specific royal look and this featurette talks about the challenges of creating just that. Coolidge talks a bit on the film's look (from production standpoints and visual - such as cinematographer Alex Nepomniaschy), but we hear a lot from production designer James Spencer who is more than articulate about his involvement with the movie. Also lending thoughts is costumer designer Magali Guidasci on her work, and actors Miranada Richardson and Ben Miller also get to share their impressions about the movie's design aspects. Of course there's film clips and a ton of on-the-set footage as well with this, making this a pretty nice watch.

Inside the Fairy Tale: The Prince & Me is a more standard look at the making of the film (and running thirteen minutes long). There's film clips and beind-the-scenes footage as in the two previous featurettes, but the focus here is on the story of the film, the characters and what it all means. The cast and crew give their thoughts, praise one another and that sort of thing. Contributing interviews from the set are Coolidge (who also contributes off the set as well), producer Mark Armin, Julia Stiles, Luke Mably, executive producer Cami Winkikoff, screenwriter Jack Amiel, screenwriter Michael Begler, Ben Miller, James Fox, Miranda Richardon, editor Steven Cohen and Katherine Fugate. Be careful though - the ending of the film is discussed toward the end and the decision to choose between the two shot endings. With that said, this is best left after you've seen the movie.

There are eight Deleted/Extended Scenes included, which features that alternate ending (and in total last about twelve minutes). The scenes are in terrific-looking non-anamorphic widescreen, are fully edited and are even presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. Surprisingly though, Coolidge doesn't offer any thoughts about her cuts and choices but most of these cuts seem pretty clear - repetitive information and pacing reasons. A Gag Reel in non-anamorphic widescreen and lasting two-and-a-half minutes is also included, which offers a few fun screw-ups.

Last but not least is the film's Theatrical Trailer in non-anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1 (this is worth avoiding since it spoils the entire film in two-and-a-half minutes - too bad I was subjected to this trailer at the theater a few times prior to the film's release) and previews for other Paramount titles aimed at the tween and teen set.

 

"The Prince & Me" doesn't break any new ground, but for girls (or maybe general audiences who like pretty clean movies) it's a pretty enjoyable picture. The DVD of the film is more than satisfying with a good presentation and some strong extras. The film wasn't much of a hit at the box office, but if you were interested in it then and missed it, it's a decent rental. Given the interest in movies for younger girls these days and the lack of new family films out there, I wouldn't be surprised if this movie became pretty successful on the home video market.