Princess Caraboo (1994) Poster

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Well done and sometimes funny, based on fact
vchimpanzee1 September 2003
This story is set several hundred years ago. A mysterious girl who apparently speaks no English is found begging in the streets. The magistrate wants to put her in jail, but the wife of one of the prominent men of the city wants to take her home to stay with her. Several people are consulted to determine what language the girl speaks, including one language expert played by John Lithgow who is very funny (especially when he tries to speak various languages). The girl doesn't look Asian or Middle Eastern, but if she's faking it (as some suspect) she's doing a good job. She has a tattoo and strange religious customs that provide clues, though the language in which she writes is not known to anyone. It is decided that she is speaking a dialect from Asia.

When she does understand what is going on, she comes across as quite charming. Eventually, it is determined that she must be a princess, and her name seems to be Caraboo.

Phoebe Cates gave a performance worthy of an Oscar nomination. Whether her character did as well I won't say. You'll just have to watch.

I was worried when the movie wasn't funny at first, but the humor came in large doses after a while, and not the usual type of movie humor. This was quite a sophisticated film considering it often tried to be silly, and the costumes and the settings were very nice. The music was magnificent, whether highbrow classical or period music that sounded more like what ordinary people would enjoy.

Everything about this movie was well done, and while it's not normally the type of movie I would watch, I enjoyed it.
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10/10
Delicate, funny, intriguing, beautiful -- this film is a treasure on many levels. See it!
Rogue-1822 February 2004
"Princess Caraboo" is a rare breed of film these days -- aimed at adults, but highly respectful of the human soul and therefore safe for all ages. All viewers should find the historical angle fascinating, lovers of whimsical, offbeat humor will be delighted, "romantics" will be stirred by the powerful ending...and the ravishing color palette of the sets and costumes will enchant those who crave sheer visual beauty.

I personally thought the wonderful ending was handled very well -- it was particularly powerful for being beautifully understated, and did not "take away" from the effectiveness of the story. Because it had been foreshadowed (with great subtlety) throughout the movie, it did not arrive as a shock but rather as a fulfillment.

I must also put in a good word for the glorious music...another home run. See this film. As others have noted, it will stay with you long afterward.
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9/10
Lovely and imaginative!
Lady_Targaryen28 November 2005
Princess Caraboo is one of those films for all ages and with a superb cast.During the King George III's court,beggars and all kinds types of vagrancy were punished with death or prison. Many problems and farces were frequent,making people very suspicious about humble people in general and even foreigners.One day, a beautiful and exotic girl is found walking down the road by two farmers. She is dressed as a beggar, but since she has oriental and noble aspect/manners, and only speaks in a strange language,people stay confuse about her Ancestry, taking her to a judge, where they make the conclusion that her name is Caraboo and she is a princess from an exotic country who was kidnapped by pirates. Being the focus of so many curiosity by the English court and also by the King himself,Caraboo is analyzed by a language professor and the maids who think she is a impostor. Would be a real impostor or a true princess? Got to found out watching this film. :)
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8/10
I love this film.
jane-425 June 2001
Any film that brings Phoebe Cates 'out of retirement' is already great in my book. This woman is beautiful and talented and I wish she was in every film instead of Jennifer Anniston. Anyway, this is a delightful little fable that also features Jim Broadbent and Kevin Kline, both great comedians, supporting Phoebe Cates. Supposedly based on a true story, this little unseen gem is perfect for the whole family. Well done!
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10/10
Delightful
drkjedi1-218 June 2002
Wonderful piece and the best role Phoebe Cates has ever had. A sweet and sad tale based on true events, although how close this film is to the truth I do not know. But it is still one of my favorites, I even bought the DVD even though it wasn't in widescreen and had no extras, I just could resist owning this wonderful movie!
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8/10
For those who love a story
illusoryjane30 July 2004
"Princess Caraboo" is about the selfish and fashionable endeavors of the aristocracy of 19th century England, about the role of true charity and from whence it comes, and perhaps most of all it is about humankind's fascination with the story. Although we catch glimpses of, and come to care for, the true character of Caraboo (Cates), the movie's namesake serves mainly as a vessel through which the subject of the film can flow.

In this movie a young beggar who speaks no English is taken in by a well-to-do family, and before long they have determined that she is a queen of the Orient. In no time, she is the town's sensation, and if nothing else, living like royalty. Her story attracts the attention of a newspaper man (Mr. Gutch played by Stephen Rea) who, in determinedly trying to discover the truth about Caraboo, falls in love with her. He half hopes the legend is true, half hopes that she's remarkable enough to have made up a story and a language and a manner to fool the very class she'd always been taught to fear and respect.

I liked this movie for many reasons. It must be said that it's decidedly predictable, but such is the case in movies that are not so much concerned with plot as with characters. The question is, are the characters worth making a movie about? They are. Cates is delightful as always, and in such a role in which she scarcely speaks, she has the opportunity to shine and to demonstrate (through action and manner) her ability to act the part. Stephen Rea is never to be outdone, and has a genuine ability to pull off passion in whatever role he plays. The British aristocracy is portrayed as largely grotesque and corrupt and mind-numbingly self-absorbed.

For my part, I always appreciate a movie that doesn't revolve around romance, and though this movie is touched with pieces of romanticism (definitely a chick-flick in certain ways), it's not about the romance. It is instead about how the story completes us, and how compelling the human imagination really is. Despite the moral values the film purports, Princess Caraboo is not didactic and short on sappiness.

I think "Princess Caraboo" is a delightful and beautiful tale, and I recommend it to those who prefer the story to the action, and who like to see the rich get theirs.
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10/10
One of my all time favorites!
indymom81026 January 2004
A true romance, twisted up in a mystery. Phoebe Cates is luminous and graceful, and the supporting cast is perfectly chosen. Kevin Klines "I speet in your soup" line never fails to crack me up. A perfect combination of romance, comedy, and mystery, all in one little known movie. This movie is a must see!
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7/10
Cute Girl & Story
ccthemovieman-122 April 2007
Phoebe Cates was very cute in the lead role of "Mary Baker/Princess Cariboo." The story was a nice one, too, with no complaints about inappropriate language or behavior.

Kevin Kline supplies many of the laughs, at least with me. I preferred him over John Lithgow or Jim Broadbent.

This is supposedly based on a true story but I am going to assume they took a lot of liberties with it. Nonetheless, it's a story and a decent for "the whole family," as the cliché goes. However, I think this is mostly appealing to females. I found it pleasant, but more of a "chick flick" than a guy's film. Thus, I doubt I would watch it again, especially knowing the surprise ending.

I definitely recommend this comedy-drama-romance for people who haven't seen it, and for most people who are not adult males.
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10/10
A Charming Fairy Tale For The Whole Family
katonahny12 September 2004
This film is a beauty to watch. The scenery, costumes and music are all superb. The acting led by Stephen Rhea and Phoebe Cates was convincing and the entire supporting cast was excellent. It had elements of "My Fair Lady" and Cinderella that made you think you knew where the story was going but the surprise ending was even better than what was hoped for. It is such a pleasure to see a film without violence or bad language. The script was well written and the locales in the west of England were just beautiful. The musical background for the ball scenes was well done and the dancing was charming. This certainly was a "Feel Good" movie and I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a romantic escape from the cares of living in the 21st century.
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7/10
Entertaining, though what's with the anti-aristocracy line?
Boris_G11 May 2008
Warning: Spoilers
First the obvious plus points. Phoebe Cates is charming, and the character actors (notably Kevin Kline and Jim Broadbent) are all splendid fun; plus there's excellent cinematography from Freddie Francis.

SPOILER ALERT: The film is based on a true story, in which early in the 19th century provincials around Bristol and the West Country in the UK were excited by the apparent appearance of a pretty, oriental princess who had allegedly been kidnapped by pirates and had made her escape to England, where she came under the protection of the Worralls (Mr Worrall being a magistrate - not a banker as portrayed in the film). Eventually, ten weeks later, she was revealed as a fraud - she was in fact a certain Mary Baker - yet Mrs Worrall, whose sympathy Mary kept even after being unmasked, arranged for her to sail to Philadelphia. The film implies that she had been facing the death penalty for her deception, and that she was to enjoy a new life in America. The truth, more prosaically, is that Mary Baker tired of life in the States after seven years and eventually returned to England in the 1820s, where she died in 1865. All this info can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Princess_Caraboo and at http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/hoax/Hoaxipedia/Princess_Caraboo/

All this rather underlines that the film-makers have taken this curious story and given it a harder spin against the English 'establishment', notably the aristocracy (in the form of the prince regent who is purposely made to look ridiculous, a point underlined as 'Caraboo' is apparently faced with the choice of the noble Irish journalist and the foppish and ridiculously dressed up prince). There's no evidence that the historic Caraboo came within spitting distance of the aristocracy, though the British press of the time gleefully had a field day over the gullibility of the local upper classes of Bristol and the surrounding region. Also I'm afraid the contrast of noble/innocent Irishmen (one of Caraboo's fellow inmates is - surprise, surprise - an innocent Irishman) versus evil English power-that-be (the only sympathetic English person who isn't a servant is Mrs Worrall) is becoming a tired cliché. Pity, because otherwise this is quite an enjoyable film.
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10/10
Beautiful, funny and surprisingly thought-provoking
Lancelot-1621 October 1999
This is a real gem of a movie. The cast is wonderful. Phoebe Cates' performance is extraordinary -- both funny and moving. At all levels the movie is very well made. But the most surprising thing, for me, was how much I continued to think about the story for days and weeks after seeing the movie. I strongly recommend it.
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9/10
A delightful film based on a true story!
ncd20 September 1998
This film has been getting heavy airplay by Showtime for at least the past several weeks, which is a wonderful thing. (I was unable to see the film when it was released in theatres, and have been unable to find it in local video stores.) At any rate, this is a treat for anyone who enjoys the work of Kevin Kline, Jim Broadbent, Stephen Rea, and John Lithgow. Phoebe Cates is enchanting as the mysterious princess, her supporting cast is terrific, without exception, and Caraboo's story is hilarious, romantic, and poignant, all at once.
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8/10
That rarity - an excellent film for adults and children
ppazniokas26 September 1998
If you're looking for an evening of video watching with your family, you'll love being transported to another time and place with this film. The cast is phenomenal - Phoebe Cates is perfectly, and beautifully, mysterious. Is Kevin Kline capable of a bad performance? Lithgow's British accent is superb. When it was over, our kids wanted to talk about the movie. Then, after they went to bed, my wife and I found ourselves talking about it. What higher praise can I give a family film?
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8/10
Charming romantic comedy.
rcrusk9 November 2001
Phoebe Cates is irresistible as Princess Caraboo. Kevin Kline is great fun as Frixos and I liked Stephen Rea as Gutch. This was a delightful and refreshing film. It's not easy to find in video stores, but ask for it. Films that are fun for the whole family are rare, but this is one.
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8/10
Nice drama
sonofhades23 July 2001
I saw this film on a long bus trip on video and have to admit that it was a drama movie to my liking.

I would like to recommend this one to anyone who likes good quality, historical drama.
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7/10
Truly attractive cast
bluecrab229 February 2009
I am a straight guy. Not only was this a good story, but the women in this film are beautiful. If you're looking for explicit stuff, go elsewhere, but if you find hints of sexuality a turn-on, there's plenty here. There are some liberties taken with the actual story, but so what? What movie doesn't do that? Princess Caraboo is not a sugar-sweet and syrupy G-rated story, and those looking for fairytale family fare may be taken aback at times.

I am watching the movie for the second time (had to stop part way through last night) and it seems much different this time, as I know what's going to happen. The mystery may be gone, but there's some good laughs and of course, foxiness abounds. I started the reading the book on which this is based, but didn't finish it, at least not yet. Maybe I'll pick it up again, gotta have it around here somewhere.

Kevin Kline does well as a butler, as does Stephen Rea as a journalist. Worth checking out, and if you like early 19th century British period pieces - well, this one is less puffy and ponderous than some.
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8/10
Where we came from
roedyg2 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This is a fun story. It is best if you don't know ahead of time that Princess Caraboo is a fake, since they tease you back and forth trying to decide.

The movie is fun watching her effect on others, particularly the John Lithgow character. Everyone wants to spin their private fantasies around her, but of course deny everything. The deceit tickles.

Of course the fake Caraboo can act her part with a perfectly straight face. She is a professional actor, equally capable of playing Mary Baker or Princess Caraboo.

The law of the time was so harsh, unfair and arbitrary. It pretty well amounted to the whim of whomever had money. Beggars were jailed for three months or hanged. It intrudes harshly into the fizzy movie several times.

Princess Caraboo develops into a Scherezade-like character, who captivates with her stories. People want to believe her stories simply because they are beautiful. For the first part of the movie, Caraboo captivates the audience with her gentle mimes.
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good story
Aimee Natal21 April 2000
This film is a good story, and you do think more of it once it's ended than you might while watching it. One of the main points is that it is hard to be who you want to be. But it's also hard NOT to be who others think you are. Other than that, it's hard to talk about the actual story without influencing others viewing of it. I saw the film with no knowledge of it other than what was on the back of the video box. That's a good way to go into it. Mr. Gutch (Stephen Rea), the newspaper reporter, isn't who he wants to be. Mrs. Worral, the rich aristocrat who takes the Princess under her wing, isn't who she wants to be. The servants aren't allowed to be anything other than who they are supposed to be. Throughout the film, you see how the Princess inspires others- with jealousy, lust, greed, and also with admiration and love. Good story.
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7/10
somewhere between "Gremlins" and "The Anniversary Party"
lee_eisenberg25 October 2007
I have used some of my IMDb reviews to assert that we as movie audiences need to acknowledge certain actors/actresses - such as Dorothy Provine and Richard Benjamin - more than we presently do. Therefore, I will use my "Princess Caraboo" review to assert that we need to recognize Phoebe Cates more than we do. In case you aren't familiar with the name, she starred in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" and the "Gremlins" movies. But this movie constituted one of her most interesting roles. She somehow seems to exactly fit this role of a woman who may or may not be a princess from another part of the world. The whole movie creates an almost mystifying feeling.

Also starring is Cates's husband Kevin Kline (who turned 60 yesterday) as a butler; they later co-starred in 2001's "The Anniversary Party" with their son and daughter. There's also Jim Broadbent and John Lithgow.

Worth seeing.
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Engaging, very nice
turkeyb26 November 2004
I bought this movie after reading the reviews of Phoebe Cates' acting in it, that it was her best performance by far. I was not at all disappointed, but I thought her acting seemed qualitatively similar to that in "Drop Dead Fred", not especially different or better. This is probably the most charming, well-written movie she has starred in, perhaps she's being given some extra credit for that.

In any case, "Princess Caraboo" is an engaging and enjoyable movie. Kline is funny as always, as is Lithgow, though as another reviewer has mentioned, their character's accents are somewhat painful at times. They are both playing for a touch of comedy and farce, so I take it in stride.

Well worth picking up.
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Unexpected little treasure
Vibiana17 May 2003
I happened to find this on a previously-viewed rack the other day. I really admired Phoebe Cates when she was making movies in the 1980s, and was sorry to see her fresh young beauty exploited in cheap teen comedies (even though it was done pretty hilariously most of the time). I'd heard of this film but hadn't seen it yet.

My only comment on it is "superb," as I found the story fascinating and quite absorbing, with one exception. I did not like the obviously tacked-on "Hollywood happy ending." I felt the story would have been a lot more interesting, and Princess Caraboo a lot more compelling of a character, if she had continued to travel the world alone.
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A Wonderful Film with only one flaw
curtis-818 April 2000
"Princess Caraboo" is a wonderful, almost perfect film in the old-fashioned mode. It should have made Phoebe Cates a major star--but unfortunately (and mysteriously) she is still best known as the girl Judge Reinhold thinks about in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High".

The movie is based on the true story of a mysterious girl who convinced a bunch of 19th century upper British Class men she was an Oriental princess. I'll leave the question as to whether she actually is or not up for you to find out. The performances, writing and direction are uniformly first rate, even magical in that old movie way. Unfortunately, the filmmakers tacked on a completely unearned and unwarrented "romantic" ending that mars the film. Not only does the romantic pairing of two main characters stretch believability, it is also SO OBVIOUSLY tacked on after the fact that it disrupts the flow of the film, almost ruining what had come before. I can't tell you what the ending is without ruining what pleasure the film will bring you when you see it, but I can say that it doesn't even make sense.
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Delightful
*RoXy*28 June 1999
This movie is delightful. It plays around with the concept of fairytales being lived, in a way. This movie is realy cute and I recommend you see it.
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1/10
Charmless twaddle
Ripe Peach24 March 2001
Cates is insipid and unconvincing, Kline over-acts as always, as does Lithgow while butchering an English accent (at least, I assume that's what he's attempting), and the tone staggers uneasily between farcical and maudlin. As with most pet projects showcasing a celebrity couple, it's a relief when this shoddy piece grinds to it's forced and jarring conclusion.
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8/10
Nice one, thank you
konec7 June 2004
This was a nice period movie, although many Anschlussfehler (Sorry, don't know the word in English) once you are here, suddenly you are somewhere else with different decors. Nice film though. Didn't think it was real until i searched the net. Very beautiful lead actress! I really liked it! Nice to see good olde Eddie Tudor-Pole again! TENPOLE TUDOR RULES! Tudor as a twat, what a sight! Nice early 19th century decors with a nice story! It is hard to believe nowadays but I think in 19th Century Great Britain this was a story that could be easily believed if you wanted to, to give you some socially upward impetus. The Lady Worrel (or so) just wanted some recognition beside her husband, that looks like the typical landlord.
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