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1 item from 1994

'Princess Caraboo'

29 August 1994 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

MONTREAL -- The marketing people at TriStar will have their work cut out for them with this specialized and awkwardly titled British entry, but it won't be for any lack of quality on the film's part. Michael Austin's ''Princess Caraboo, '' which received its world premiere at the Montreal Film Festival, is the kind of witty, sophisticated comedy that is rarely made anymore.

Years ago, it would have starred Peter Sellers and Alec Guinness, and the film would have lived up to even their talents.

Based loosely on a true story, the picture has the quality of a fable. Set in the early 19th century in a small English village, the story's events are set in motion by the appearance of a mysterious and exotic beauty, speaking an indecipherable language. She is presumed to be an Oriental princess who has been rescued from a shipwreck, and is taken into the household of the kindly Mrs. Worrall (Wendy Hughes) and her boorish, financially scheming husband (Jim Broadbent).

Princess Caraboo (Phoebe Cates), as she comes to be called, is regarded with suspicion by the Greek servant Frixos (Kevin Kline) and by Gutch (Stephen Rea), a local journalist. Gutch even calls in a language expert, hilariously played by John Lithgow, in an effort to discredit her.

But Princess Caraboo defies all explication, and despite their best efforts, all the men are drawn into her spell. Ultimately, we learn the secret of Princess Caraboo, and the results are no less intriguing.

For much of the way, the film is witty and amusing, helped by the expert comic performances of Kline (working again in a broader mode) and Broadbent. ''Princess Caraboo'' is less compelling when it turns more serious about two-thirds of the way through, but it is ultimately a charming and moving tale.

The film looks gorgeous with its sumptuous period settings and costumes.

The performances are all fine, with Cates' dark beauty and Rea's rumpled charm used to excellent advantage.


A TriStar Release

Presented by TriStar Pictures and Beacon

A Longfellow Pictures & Artisan Films Production

Director Michael Austin

Screenplay Michael Austin, John Wells

Producers Andrew Karsch, Simon Bosanquet

Exec producers Armyan Bernstein, Tom Rosenberg, Marc Abraham

Director of photography Freddie Francis

Production designer Michael Howells

Film editor George Akers


Mr. Worrall Jim Broadbent

Princess Caraboo/Mary Phoebe Cates

Mrs. Worrall Wendy Hughes

Frixos Kevin Kline

Professor Wilkinson John Lithgow

Gutch Stephen Rea

Running time -- 97 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG

(c) The Hollywood Reporter


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