The Prince & Me
Directed by Martha Coolidge. Starring Julia Stiles, Luke Mably, Ben Miller, James Fox, Miranda Richardson, Alberta Watson, John Bourgeois. (2004, PG, 110 min.)
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., April 9, 2004
The trouble with retooling fairy tales to jibe with our more enlightened times is that too often the fun gets stripped along with the offensive parts. No glass slipper in this sourpuss spin on Cinderella, but rather sturdy work boots for Wisconsin farm girl Paige Morgan (Stiles), who has eyes only for admittance to medical school. Paige, in her last year at the University of Wisconsin, can’t be bothered with any romantic tomfoolery; on the other hand, sex is the only thing Danish exchange student Eddie Williams (Mably) has on his mind. Eddie is actually European playboy Edvard, the Crown Prince of Denmark; weary of the indefatigable paparazzi and his disapproving parents, Eddie decides to enroll incognito at the university. As reluctant lab partners, Paige and Eddie initially clash but eventually warm up to each other in a leisurely courtship that includes Shakespearean wooing and a riding-mower grand prix. Hackneyed to its core, The Prince & Me coasts on the chemistry between its leads, an uncharacteristically unstiff Stiles (who’s always had a bit of the princess about her, but modified by "ice") and the easy-on-the-eyes Mably. But then the big secret – of Eddie’s real background – is let out of the bag, and The Prince & Me fires up its engine like it’s just entered the plot-point lightning round. Breakups, make-ups, proposals, and the promise of becoming the next queen of Denmark unspool in laughably quick succession; less laughable is the beating the film’s sense of humor gets … and that’s where the dour moralizing comes in. As Paige blows out the door on her way to Denmark, her med school acceptance letter falls menacingly to the ground. According to the film’s killjoy logic, a decision will have to be made between the path she has always wanted, med school, and the path now thrust before her, the royal we. The film lectures, in short, that you can’t have your cake and eat it, too. (And yet: You’ve just been crowned the new queen of Denmark. Isn’t that exactly that type of situation in which one gets to eat it too?) The message – that no young woman should give up her dreams for the sake of a guy – is well-intentioned, but come on already: If the modern gal has anything up on Cinderella, it’s that she knows she can have it all and doesn’t have to make these silly either/or decisions. Ineffectually straddling feminism and the wish-fulfillment fantasy, The Prince & Me doesn’t do justice to either. Its target audience – and our sensible farm girl Paige – deserve better.